What foods to avoid if you have irritable bowel

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional digestive disorder in the world.

Fortunately, in most cases modifying your diet can reduce the impact of your symptoms. Here we tell you what foods you should avoid.

IBS is a group of digestive symptoms, including colic, abdominal pain and bloating, constipation and / or diarrhea, and gas.

These complaints can occur for a long time (in some cases years) with periods of exacerbation or improvement.

The causes of this disorder are not entirely clear. In some cases, it can occur after a bacterial or parasite intestinal infection (yardiasis). This is called postinfectious IBS.

However, there are also other types of triggers, such as stress at an early age, changes in the intestinal microbiota, alterations in the nerves of the digestive system, or muscle contractions in the intestine.

IBS can occur at any age, but it usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood, being twice as common in women as in men.

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Its prevalence varies according to the different regions of the world. For example, in the US it is estimated that it affects between 10 and 15% of the population, in Europe between 5 and 15%, in Mexico around 20%, while in the rest of Latin America it ranges between 10 and 20%.

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What foods to avoid

In 2005 a group of researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, published the term FODMAP, which is derived from fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols).

These are short-chain carbohydrates and related alcohols, which, not being properly absorbed in the small intestine, can cause digestive discomfort.

According to the researchers, a low-FODMAP diet can help decrease the symptoms of IBS, as well as those of other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

These are examples of foods rich in FODMAP, and which you should avoid if you have IBS:

  • Oligosaccharides: garlic, artichoke, barley, onion, rye, nuts, such as cashews or pistachios, fennel, legumes, such as chickpeas or lentils, beets, leeks or wheat.
  • Disaccharides: milk, ice cream, or yogurt.
  • Monosaccharides: asparagus, cherries, mango, apple, honey and high fructose corn syrup, pear or watermelon.
  • Polyols: apricot, mint or sugar-free candies, cherries, plums, cauliflower, apple, peach, pear, watermelon or mushrooms.

Although there are different studies that confirm that restricting the FODMAPs in the diet helps to control digestive symptoms in the short term in people with IBS, they warn that this type of diet can be harmful if carried out for long periods, mainly because it affects the intestinal flora and nutrient intake.

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For this reason, it is essential that it be performed only under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional.
To alleviate the symptoms of IBS, it is also advised to limit or avoid:

  • Alcohol and caffeine.
  • Gluten-free foods, such as barley, rye, and wheat.
  • Foods that cause bloating and gas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or legumes.
  • Very spicy food.
  • Fats
  • Ultra-processed products.
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Other tips

The burden of daily responsibilities can cause or exacerbate IBS symptoms. Therefore, professionals advise controlling stress to reduce its impact on the body.

Among the most used options to treat this problem are:

  • Hypnotherapy: directed to the intestine.
  • Relaxation techniques: designed to help combat stress and relax the abdominal muscles.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy– Focused on helping change thought and behavior patterns to improve IBS symptoms.

It is also advisable to carry out exercise regularly, about 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity. However, any activity is useful to start with, even light walks.

Finally, another aspect that should not be neglected is sleep patterns. Many times the vicious cycle of poor sleep leads to being anxious, stressed, and making poor food choices.

All this can exacerbate the symptoms of IBS, so it is advisable to establish regular sleep schedules and try to sleep between 7 and 8 hours a day.

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When to see the doctor

Only a small percentage of people affected by IBS have serious signs or symptoms. Generally, by modifying diet, lifestyle, and managing stress, the impact of this digestive disorder can be reduced.

You should consult a healthcare professional if IBS symptoms are accompanied by:

  • Anemia.
  • Nocturnal diarrhea
  • Difficulty to swallow.
  • Persistent pain when passing gas or having a bowel movement.
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • To remind:

    Until there is significant scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.

    Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

    Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

    Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine .

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