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A diet for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation, you may feel too uncomfortable to eat anything. Yet it is very important to maintain a balanced diet for good health.

Experts suggest enjoying all foods in moderation, and adding high-fibre foods to your diet gradually to help relieve IBS.

Some people with IBS give up certain foods altogether to avoid constipation, however there is a risk of fatigue because of a lack of calories.

This is why it's a good idea to keep an IBS symptom journal. If you regularly write down the types of foods you eat, when and where you ate them, the amount, and the symptoms associated with the food, it may help you and your doctor work out what foods and situations trigger your IBS symptoms.

A person with IBS may feel fine with two pieces of apple, for instance, but the whole apple may really affect them badly.

There are particular foods that are known to help relieve or aggravate symptoms of constipation.

Boost fibre for IBS

Fibre makes stools easier to pass in those with IBS. Too little of the roughage can make it hard to have a bowel movement. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that fibre intake should be adjusted according to its effect and reduced if necessary. If you do increase your fibre intake, do so gradually, because any sudden increase may make symptoms worse.

Fibre is usually found in:

  • Wholemeal bread and cereals
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans

If you have IBS and normally consume five grams of fibre, try taking in eight grams on your first day of increasing fibre.

Try prunes and liquids for IBS

Some fruity foods that are higher in the sugar sorbitol, such as dried plums (prunes), and prune juice can also loosen bowels if you have IBS. But people with IBS should take care not to consume too much sorbitol. It can cause wind, bloating, cramping, and diarrhoea.

Also consider ground flaxseed to ease IBS constipation symptoms. It can be sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetables and cereals.

Another way to encourage bowel movements is to drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. Health experts recommend eight glasses daily for good hydration.

On the other hand, fluids such as coffee, fizzy drinks, and alcohol have a dehydrating effect. Those drinks can actually make your IBS constipation worse.

Limit highly refined foods if you have IBS

Highly refined foods fill you up without providing the fibre and nutrients you need. People with IBS should avoid eating too many refined foods such as:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Certain cereals without fibre
  • Crisps
  • Biscuits.

Also, a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can worsen your constipation. You need protein, of course, but don't cut out carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables. Constipation is a common side effect of some popular low-carbohydrate diets.

Eat slowly if you have IBS

Whether you have IBS or not, too often we eat on the run or at our desks. Eating in such a rush reduces the pleasure you get from a meal, and can actually prompt IBS symptoms.

So while you're eating, try not to do other things, such as drive or sit in front of the computer. The stress from traffic or work may trigger symptoms. It may also make you eat more quickly and swallow more air, causing wind or bloating.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 22, 2012

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