Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or feel like you may have IBS? If so, you may be curious about what foods trigger IBS.
Understanding how diet affects IBS symptoms can help you regulate your abdominal discomfort and your overall health!
Trust me, I know that IBS can be an extremely frustrating and overwhelming condition. The symptoms can start to greatly impact your quality of life and time with friends and family.
In today’s article, I will be diving into the basics of IBS, including symptoms and diagnosis criteria. Then, I will share my best tips for treating and managing IBS as a specialized dietitian.
Are you dealing with prediabetes or high blood sugar on top of gut health issues? If so, then make sure to check out my latest blog on how to reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise!
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes altered bowel states and abdominal discomfort or pain.
IBS affects approximately 20% of the general population, with women being twice as likely to report symptoms.
There are four different subtypes of IBS, depending on your symptoms:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
- IBS with a combination of constipation and diarrhea
- Unclassified IBS
While IBS can significantly affect the quality of one’s life, the causes are still widely unknown. However, a large amount of research supports the connection between diet, mental health, lifestyle, and environmental factors with IBS.
As you can see, there’s absolutely hope for you and your management of the condition!
What are the Symptoms of IBS?
This is a tricky question because everyone has different experiences and discomforts with IBS. Symptoms of IBS can vary per individual, so efficient care is a very personalized approach!
Common symptoms of IBS can include but aren’t limited to:
- Abdominal pain & cramping
- Altered GI function
- Both constipation and diarrhea
- An urgent need to defecate
How is IBS Diagnosed?
There is no test to give a definitive diagnosis for IBS.
However, doctors will review symptoms and past medical history and complete a physical exam to ensure you don’t have Celiac disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which both have similar symptoms.
If your tests come back negative for Celiac Disease or IBD, you will then likely be assessed for IBS criteria to determine a diagnosis.
- Rome Criteria
- Belly pain and discomfort at least once a week within the last three months
- The pain and discomfort follow with defecation, a change in frequency of defecation, and/or a change in stool consistency.
- Type of IBS
- IBS-C (constipation)
- IBS-D (diarrhea)
- Both constipation and diarrhea IBS
- Unclassified IBS
You may need to continue to receive additional testing and bloodwork before coming to a definitive diagnosis.
What Role Does the Gut-Brain Connection Play In IBS?
In order to understand IBS and truly get to the root of the problem, understanding key physiology features is very helpful.
One key component of IBS is the connection between your gut and brain, called the gut-brain axis.
Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for involuntary processes like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration (breathing), digestion, bodily fluid production, and more. The ANS has three subgroups: parasympathetic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system, and enteric nervous system.
I want to focus on the enteric nervous system (ENS) since it plays such a vital role in digestion and intestinal function. The ENS contains a whole network of neurons that line the entire GI tract, extending all the way up to the esophagus and down to the anus.
Did you know the ENS is known as the “Second Brain” or the “Brain of the Gut”?
IBS is classified as a gut-brain interaction disorder because messages constantly go to and from the brain.
If any miscommunications are potentially due to anxiety or stress, your IBS symptoms can begin or worsen!
Now that you’re more of an expert on the symptoms and causes of IBS, let’s talk about how we can treat IBS and have a healthy and happy gut.
Treatment of IBS
Dietary changes are commonly made in order to reduce symptoms of IBS.
Since food triggers vary from person to person with IBS, identifying personal food triggers can be a series of trial and error.
How to identify your triggers:
- Keep a food journal! Write down what you eat during each meal, with a note on how you felt after. This can allow you to find common denominators and eliminate your triggers!
- Be aware of common triggers so you are better prepared to make connections through your food journal. Remember that depending on which subtype of IBS you have been diagnosed with, different foods will trigger you.
What Foods Trigger IBS?
Next, I will be discussing what foods trigger IBS.
It is always best to work with an IBS dietitian before completing any type of elimination protocol on your own!
Common Triggers for IBS-C (constipation-predominant)
- Breads and cereals made with refined grains
- Processed foods like cookies and cakes
- Coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks
- Dairy products
If you have IBS-C, you should instead focus on INCREASING:
- Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains can help reduce gas and bloating and increase bowel motility.
- Water: Drink plenty of water! If your body recognizes it is dehydrated, it will try to retain as much water as possible, and thus, your stool will have a much harder consistency.
- Prune Juice: Trust me when I say that prune juice is your best friend during constipation! Prune juice is high in sorbitol and fiber, making it a natural laxative.
Common Triggers for IBS-D (diarrhea predominant)
- Too much fiber can cause diarrhea. There is fiber in the external skin of fruits like apples, prunes, kiwis, etc. Monitor how much your body can handle fiber since this is very individualized!
- Coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, any caffeinated drinks
- Fried and fatty foods
- Dairy products, especially for lactose-intolerant folks
- Foods with wheat, especially for people who are gluten-sensitive
If you have IBS-D, you should instead focus on :
- Eat a moderate amount of fiber. Soluble fiber is better for IBS-D symptoms. Soluble fiber options include oats, peas, beans, citrus fruits, etc.
- Try to drink water an hour before and an hour after your meals instead of during your meals.
- Stick to lean proteins like chicken or eggs
- Noodles, rice, and potatoes are a great option for neutral and diarrhea-safe foods!
Common IBS treatment options or strategies for most IBS patients include:
- Reduce Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and collard greens. Cruciferous vegetables are high in sulfur and thus can increase IBS symptoms by increasing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Try reducing very spicy foods. Some people are spice-sensitive and may have flare-ups as a result.
- Try to eat slower and more mindfully. Give your body the opportunity to digest at an adequate pace.
- Get more exercise to reduce stress, improve bowel function, and reduce bloating.
- Increase Omega-3 Fats: Omega-3s are great for brain health, which, as you now know, correlates with the gut! Foods rich in Omega-3s include fish, seafood, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts.
- Quality stress management – Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Had “butterflies” in your stomach? Felt nauseous from a situation? These emotionally driven physical feelings are due to the brain’s direct effect on the stomach and intestines. It is also scientifically proven that the gut and brain connection is a two-way street, meaning a stressed gut can send signals to the brain and vice versa. Since the GI system and the brain are so intimately connected, stress-induced stimulation can cause symptom flare-ups in IBS!
Stress-management techniques like the ones listed below help maintain a healthy relationship between the gut and brain.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Adequate sleep
- Guided imagery exercises
- Do something fun as often as possible – read, hang out with friends, paint, color, shop, etc.
Should You Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet?
A low-FODMAP diet is another treatment option that is available for IBS patients.
“FODMAP” stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyphenols. Some people are highly sensitive to high-FODMAP foods.
These short-chained carbohydrates don’t absorb well in the intestine and thus could potentially cause bloating and abdominal pain.
High-FODMAP Foods Include:
- Canned fruit
- Fruits such as apples, apricots, pears, plums, cherries, mangoes, watermelon
- Large consumption of fruit juices at one time
- Wheat and rye products
- Dairy products
- Honey and foods high in high-fructose corn syrup
- Cruciferous vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, beans, garlic, mushrooms, onion, snow peas
What Foods Trigger IBS: The Takeaways
I know this can be a lot to take in, as IBS is a very personalized diagnosis. Just know that the more you understand yourself and your triggers, the more you can regulate the discomfort.
Here you go for those wanting a summary of the key points we discussed!
There are four different subtypes of IBS, depending on your symptoms:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
- IBS with a combination of constipation and diarrhea
- Unclassified IBS
Many individuals with IBS link their symptoms to dietary factors, making diet the central area of concern for symptom reduction. Identifying your food triggers is the first step. Next, eliminating triggers will alleviate the pain or discomfort.
How to identify your triggers:
- Keep a food journal!
- Be aware of common triggers so you are better prepared to make connections through your food journal.
Some dietitian-approved treatment options or strategies for most IBS patients include:
- Reduce Cruciferous Vegetables
- Try reducing very spicy foods
- Eat slower
- Get more exercise
- Try following a low FODMAP diet
- Increase Omega-3 Fats
- Quality stress-management
Looking for additional guidance and support with nutrition and IBS? Head over to my services page to learn more about my 1:1 premium nutrition counseling services. There is no better time to take charge of your IBS than now!
Do you find yourself asking, can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise?
The levels of people getting diagnosed with prediabetes are climbing every year. Eventually, a good portion of those people will progress to type 2 diabetes.
That, as you may know, can have serious health consequences. So before prediabetes progresses further, it is essential to use an early intervention of diet and lifestyle strategies.
You can beat prediabetes and reverse it for good! With the right tools and strategies in your toolbelt, your blood sugar levels will drop, and your unwanted symptoms will be gone.
In today’s article, I will be going over what pre-diabetes is, common risk factors, and the signs and symptoms to look out for. I will also give you three tips for using diet and exercise to reverse prediabetes.
So, let’s get started!
Did you know working with a specialized registered dietitian can support your prediabetes health journey? And guess what- you may be able to use insurance coverage for your session! Head over to this page to learn more.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a health condition in which blood sugar levels are very high, reaching 100 to 125 mg/dL or 5.7-6.4% A1C, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, in addition to other devastating health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
For your reference:
Blood Glucose Levels Include:
- Normal: 70-99 mg/dL
- Prediabetic: 100-125 mg/dL
- Diabetic: 125+ mg/dL
Your Primary Care Doctor Might Test A1C Status:
*This test provides an average blood sugar level over the past 3 months.
- Normal: Below 5.7%
- Prediabetic: Between 5.7 and 6.4%
- Diabetic: 6.4% or higher
What Causes Prediabetes?
Blood sugar levels can rise due to a hormone called insulin not processing glucose properly in the body.
Insulin, made by the pancreas, transfers blood sugar to cells to use as energy later on and thus helps monitor blood glucose levels appropriately.
If you have prediabetes, your body is not responding normally to insulin, and as a result, the pancreas will continue to produce more and more insulin until even the pancreas itself cannot keep up.
Blood glucose levels will continue to rise, leading to prediabetes, then potentially type 2 diabetes.
If your blood glucose levels eventually reach type 2 diabetes status, it indicates insulin resistance occurring, where your body doesn’t recognize the presence of insulin.
Signs and Symptoms of Prediabetes
It is important to note that you could have prediabetes and not even know it. In fact, one in every two people is unaware they have the condition!
You may not experience any specific signs or symptoms until serious health concerns (like type 2 diabetes) occur.
Feeling down and not like yourself recently? It is important to be aware of the signs of prediabetes so you can get your levels tested by your primary care doctor before it’s too late!
Here are a few signs and symptoms of prediabetes to look out for:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Weight gain
- And more!
Risk Factors of Prediabetes
Additionally, there are risk factors for prediabetes that are important to understand.
These put you are a higher risk for developing prediabetes, meaning you will want to keep a closer eye on your blood sugar levels and diet and lifestyle habits.
These risks include:
- If you are 45 years +
- If you have had gestational diabetes
- If your mother, father, or siblings have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
- BMI > 25 kg/m2: Overweight – Obese BMI Status
- If you are a chronic smoker
- If you are physically inactive less than three times a week: sedentary activity status
- Having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
*There are genetic research trends for prediabetes as well, showcasing other uncontrollable risk factors. It is currently still not fully understood why, but 17.1 million more men were diagnosed with diabetes in 2017 than women.
In addition, ethnic and racial groups, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans, are at a higher risk for developing diabetes.
Can I Reverse my Prediabetes Diagnosis?
Yes, absolutely! Prediabetes is, in fact, a reversible condition.
Lifestyle and dietary changes can ultimately reverse your prediabetes status and reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. They should be the first-line approach for reversal.
Your second question is probably wondering, can I reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise?
Weight and physical activity status are two lifestyle intervention factors targeted to stop the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.
Since physical activity increases ‘insulin sensitivity,’ the body will begin to recognize the presence of insulin, allowing the blood glucose to decrease and move to muscle cells for energy use.
When it comes to your diet, the sugars inside your food get broken down and can raise your blood sugar in varying amounts depending on what and how much you eat.
3 Dietitian-Approved Tips to Reverse Prediabetes
Now I will share three tips you can start doing today to reverse your prediabetes!
Tip #1: Increase physical activity levels to 3-5 days a week, 30 minutes + each.
- HIIT workouts are extremely efficient in helping control glucose, lower abdominal fat, and thus decrease weight status
- Find what workouts work best for you and are the most enjoyable for you
- Find friends who have similar fitness goals to you to surround yourself with
Tip #2: Consume low glycemic index foods to reduce blood-sugar rollercoasters
A plethora of research studies have found a nutritious diet rich in low-glycemic index foods and fiber, partnered with less consumption of sugar-containing beverages, will decrease the risk of diabetes by 18-40%!
The glycemic index (GI) indicates how quickly a particular food causes our blood sugar to rise. The lower the glycemic index, the gentler the food will be on raising glucose levels.
Consuming low glycemic index foods are a great choice for prediabetics as they help control blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of blood glucose spikes.
Blood sugar spikes can ultimately cause further health complications and increase cardiovascular health.
Example list of low GI foods:
- Greens: spinach, kale, collards, beet
- Fruits: apples, peaches, strawberries, oranges, cherries, coconuts, blueberries, pears, plums, grapefruit
- Vegetables: raw carrots, snow peas, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, bok choy, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, cabbage, mushrooms
- Low GI Grains: Barley, All-Brand & Fiber One Cereals, Oat bran, whole-grain pasta, sourdough bread
- Dairy: skim, low-fat, whole milk
- Legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, tofu, and soy-based products
- Nuts: Peanut + almond butters
It is important to note that the glycemic index is only ONE way to classify food.
A low GI index score doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy or not healthy! It will just be a great gauge for those hoping to maintain adequate blood glucose levels.
Tip #3: Increase your fiber and protein intake using whole foods.
Increasing both your protein and fiber intake can help you reverse prediabetes and lower your blood sugar levels.
Protein and fiber both increase satiety more than quick-digesting simple carbohydrates by slowing your digestion and allowing you to stay fuller longer. This also reduces how fast your blood sugar spikes after eating a meal.
Because of this, protein and fiber support long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain. Losing weight (in a healthy and sustainable way, of course) will help reverse prediabetes.
It is also a good idea to prioritize more whole foods and less processed foods.
Processed foods tend to be high in added sugars and refined carbohydrates that can contribute to high blood sugar levels.
Add plenty of fresh produce, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains into your day to promote a balanced diet.
Reversing Prediabetes with Diet and Exercise: The Takeaways
I know prediabetes may be a daunting diagnosis. But lucky for you, there are lifestyle and diet interventions that can help reduce the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes!
All in all, here are my 3 dietitian-approved tips for reversing prediabetes:
- Increase physical activity levels to 3-5 days a week, 30 minutes + each.
- Consume low glycemic index foods to reduce blood-sugar rollercoasters!
- Prioritize less processed products, whole fruits and vegetables, and foods high in protein and fiber and lower in sugar.
There is hope! If you are reading this, you are already making steps forward to a better lifestyle and a happier you.
Looking for additional guidance and support with nutrition and blood sugar levels? I know this all can be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, I got you!
Head over to my services page to learn more about my 1:1 premium nutrition counseling services. There is no better time to take charge of your prediabetes and use diet and exercise to reverse it for good!
Did you know there are over 50 DIFFERENT names for added sugar ? Now, that is KRAZY with a capital K!
And let’s be crystal clear – I am NOT talking about the type that naturally occurs in fruits, veggies, whole-grain products as well as in dairy. We are talking about the sugar that is added to food during processing to enhance flavor, texture and shelf life.
Added sugar is typically composed of the either glucose, fructose and/or sucrose. Unfortunately, many food manufacturers are sneaky and hide the total amount by listing it under several different names on a package’s ingredient list.
As if reading labels wasn’t hard enough to begin with!
Any look familiar?
However, sadly the list does not end here my friends. Check out this quick article from Healthline to learn about the 56 (yes, you read that correctly!) other names that sugar goes by.
Talk about an unsavory alias!
Do any of these surprise you?
Raise your hand if you thought agave was a better choice than white sugar?
Surprised to hear that coconut sugar is a “no-go”?
That leads us to the next important question.
How much added sugar are you allowed per day?
But let’s not sweat the small things. Whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole-grains and dairy products naturally contain small amounts of sugar. However, they are also nutrient powerhouses brimming with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. With these added features, whole foods are processed differently and don’t have the same detrimental effects of added sugars.
Therefore, the most effective way to reduce your added sugar intake is to J.E.R.F. – just eat real food. Plain and simple.
However, if you do decide to buy packaged foods, don’t be a slave to label. Be an informed consumer and stick to your daily quota.
Got questions on added sugars? Hit us up in the comments below. We understand this topic can in fact be tricky and we are happy to help!
Hugs & High Fives,
Snacks – Open Those French Doors When you Get the Munchies
I confess. I am a snacker at ♥. I know some people just don’t eat snacks. They eat their 2-3 main meals per day and nothing in between. I my friends am NOT that girl.
Often I prefer to have snacks rather than meals. But not just one or two snacks. More like a personal ‘buffet’ of all things snacky. You see, my husband is not a snacker. Because well, tough guys don’t snack. Hee Hee! SO any and all snacks in the house are for me, myself and I.
A little guac, some hummus, a couple bites of scrumptious cheese, some raw veggies and maybe even a couple spoonfuls of full-fat Greek yogurt. That sort of stuff just makes my heart smile. It is like a party – but I am the only one there. After all, snacks are delicious. Right? I am just sayin’.
Trader Joe’s Guiltless Guacamole – one of my all time favorite snacks
Therefore, as a Registered Dietitian you probably don’t find it odd that I get tons of questions about snacks. I was trying to think if I could come up with a universal guideline when it comes to snacks. Then it hit me – mid ‘buffet’ line at my very own house: snack from the fridge NOT your cabinets.
Get Your Snack On
Fruit, veggies, yogurt, single-serving hummus & guacamole, cheese, and even leftovers are all super-duper healthy snack-a-roonies that all live in your refrigerator. Compare them with the snacks like chips, crackers, sweets and treats that typically reside in your kitchen cupboards. Therefore, looking to your your fridge when you get the munchies should be a no-brainer!
Set yourself up to succeed with healthy snacking by being proactive. Stock your refrigerator with healthy (and delicious!) options and make a solid effort to prep them ahead.
Wash and slice fruits and veggies BEFORE you even put them away when you return from the supermarket. Rock your Instapot to hard boil a half a dozen eggs. Can I say game changer! Or if you are super lazy grab some precooked hard boiled eggs from Traders. And no – they are not as sketchy as you might think. Stash leftovers in single-serving clear containers (so there is no guessing what is in them!). No leftovers? Pick up a ¼ pound of chicken or tuna salad from the deli. Both make for delicious snacks. Buy single servings of cheese like Baby Bels, mozzarella sticks and Laughing Cow. Then arrange your refrigerator so the healthier foods are front and center, making it more likely that they’ll be the first thing you reach for when you’re hungry.
Easy peasy! Now sit down and high five yourself. You worked hard. No get yo’self a snack.
Hugs & High Fives,
P.S. Never. Ever. Ever. Grocery shop when you are hungry! Here is actual footage of my cart at Trader Joe’s last week.
I kid you not! There is pretty much about $150 worth of snacks in that cart 🙂 At least I bought bananas, right? Even dietitians have less than stellar days!
Today’s nutrition tip is brought to you by the acronym J.E.R.F. – Just Eat Real Food. There are a million ways to spin off of this word (and the relative term real) but the direction I am going to is with ‘pseudo’ foods. Bare with me … I promise you don’t need to eat cauliflower to feel the love.
Last week I posted this silly quote on social media:
And while it definitely made my chuckle – it also made me realize just how many foods we come across on a day-day basis are foods that have turned into things they really are not:
- Cauliflower pizza
- Cauliflower tots
- Cauliflower rice
- Mashed cauliflower
- Noodles made from zucchini, carrots, butternut squash
- Coconut ice cream
- Riced broccoli
- Impossible burgers– non-meat burgers that ‘bleed’ beet juice
- You get my point here 🙂
Cauliflower pizza IS NOT pizza.
And truth be told most versions don’t even remotely come close to the real deal pizza. In all honesty, most cauliflower pizza is not EVEN that much healthier. The crust is generally made with cheese, eggs and more cheese. I have nothing against cheese or eggs– but when you spec it out most can clock in just as high in calories as regular pizza depending on the toppings.
I love zoodles every. once. in and a while.
Of course they are a vegetable high in fiber, nutrients and vitamins and minerals. But what is wrong with having real pasta every once and a while? Yes – I know the carbs. But say you really love pasta why not just have the real deal occasionally in small amounts?
Riced broccoli — first of all have you tried it? It tastes just like broccoli! But are you surprised. Likely not because it IS broccoli.
Anything vegan trying to resemble meat – my only question is a big fat WHY?
Why not just eat real meat if that is the flavor, texture profile you are going for. I can only get away with saying that because I was a vegetarian for 10 years, a vegan for 2 years and a raw vegan for 1 year. I also used to have long dread locks and lived in Costa Rica – so go figure! Now I eat meat – love it – and often I am embarrassed to tell you that I used to eat something called “tuno.” No that is not an expensive Italian tuna in a high grade olive oil. Tuno was a ‘fake’ vegetarian based “tuna” that came in a can and smelled like tuna. Wicked gross.
My point here is don’t eat foods because you feel like you have to. If you love riced broccoli then … rock on with your bad self! But don’t feel like you have to love it and convince yourself it tastes like rice. Because it certainly doesn’t! Also remember – you don’t have to be anyone or anything you don’t want to be. So why should your food be any different?
You don’t have to eat cauliflower pizza and ‘pretend’ it is delicious. Why not just head down to Modern Pizza once a month and tear it up? (When you do might I suggest the Veggie Bomb with hot cherry peppers!)
Furthermore, you don’t have to kill yourself and do a Whole-30 and deprive yourself of dairy when you love cheese. What are you going to do after you the 30 days? Will you never. ever. ever. return to eating your favorite food group? Survey says – I think not my friend! So why torture yourself and take something out of your diet you love. We have to be realistic with our food choices. If not then behavior change becomes unsustainable and we crash and burn every single time.
You see pizza, tater tots, rice and pasta are NOT the enemy. It is the way we abuse these foods and our relationship with them that makes them unhealthy.
Love yourself enough to eat the real deal
Do you think eating pizza or cheese for that matter will completely derail all your hard work? Hardly. Eating them every day – highly likely! But occasionally eating the foods you love — you know the ones that puts a smile on your face — should be part of your lifestyle These foods are not something you should try to replace. Because you and I both know there is absolutely no replacement for great REAL high quality food.
See part of the cool thing about the food we put into our bodies is that for many of us it is one the few things in life we can control. So why not make a pack to yourself that you are no longer going to eat something just because you feel like you should. You are no longer going to feel bad because you just don’t love spaghetti squash. Instead you are going to have a small serving of the real deal with some awesome sauce and homemade meatballs and call a night. You are not going to feel bad. You are not going to feel like you failed. Instead, you are going to be proud that you made a conscious decision to eat real food that made your little heart sing.
I wanted to leave you with some parting words 🙂