Cheat Sheet

IBS Cookbook For Dummies

From IBS Cookbook For Dummies by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, L. Christine Wheeler, MA

Decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by cooking and eating the right foods. Living with IBS-C or -D can be a challenge, but you’re not resigned to accepting flare-ups. You can treat and even prevent those IBS attacks by knowing what’s in your food, recognizing and avoiding your personal IBS triggers, and stocking and cooking IBS-friendly (and even therapeutic) foods.

Fighting IBS by Reading Food Labels

Checking ingredient lists on food labels for everything you buy and eat is crucial to controlling IBS; the label can help identify possible IBS trigger foods. Look for simple ingredient lists — the fewer ingredients, the better.

Keep an eye out for the items on the following list that may trigger your IBS. Be especially careful of ingredients that appear in brackets; they usually contain sub-ingredients that you want to examine, too.

  • Any specific item you know triggers your symptoms: IBS is an individual disease, so ingredients that may be benign to others can set off alarm bells for you.

  • Chemicals such as propylene glycol alginate, artificial coloring, BVO, BHT, BHA, artificial flavoring, mycoprotein (processed mold), neotame, olestra, and sulfites: Each of these chemicals and concoctions has potential bowel-irritating and allergic side effects that can affect different people in different ways.

  • MSG, or glutamate, yeast, and textured protein, which may also contain MSG: MSG is a neurotoxin; if you have an irritated gut, it may absorb MSG faster.

  • Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and sorbitol can cause such wide variety of side effects that all of them can’t be listed here. Note that items labeled “sugar-free” usually contain artificial sweeteners.

  • Trans fats: Trans fats can cause diarrhea and high cholesterol. Items labeled “low-fat” are often high in sugar to make up for the flavor lost from the reduced fat content and therefore feed intestinal yeast and bacteria leading to gas and bloating.

  • High fructose corn syrup: It feeds yeast in the gut adding to gas and bloating.

  • Any sugar in the –ose family (such as fructose, sucrose, maltose, and glucose): These, too, feed yeast causing gas and bloating.

Substituting Common IBS Trigger Foods

Finding IBS-friendly substitutions for favorite foods that trigger your symptoms is often a high priority when you’re eating with IBS. Never fear: The following list helps you substitute some of the most common IBS triggers with alternatives that are less likely to cause your symptoms to flare:

  • Milk: Substitute with rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and soy milk that hasn’t been genetically modified

  • Cheese: Substitute with goat cheese and soy cheese, rice cheese

  • Sugar: Substitute with stevia, Just Like Sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, and brown rice syrup

  • Wheat: Substitute with rice, kamut, millet, quinoa, amaranth

Foods that May Relieve IBS Symptoms

Some foods can provide relief from IBS-C and IBS-D attacks. Use your intuition and what you know about your personal condition to decide which of the following food remedies make the most sense to try.

In a pinch, just remember the acronym BRATTY (bread, rice, apples, toast, tea, and yogurt). These foods are all currently recommended by doctors for soothing the symptoms of an IBS-D.

  • Peppermint tea: Relieves painful cramps and diarrhea.

  • Apple cider vinegar: 1 teaspoon in water before meals three times a day relieves diarrhea.

  • Fennel tea: Relieves gas and bloating.

  • Ginger tea: Relieves nausea and indigestion.

  • Prune juice: Relieves constipation.

  • Licorice tea: Relieves indigestion.

  • Carob powder: 1 teaspoon dissolved in a cup of warm water relieves diarrhea.

  • Ripe bananas: Relieve diarrhea.

  • Unripe bananas: Relieve constipation.

  • Cooked carrots: Relieve diarrhea, nausea, and digestive upset.

  • Peaches (with or without the skin depending on your sensitivity): Relieve constipation.

Cooking Basics: IBS-Friendly Foods to Keep in Stock

Having IBS often means you’re doing more cooking — but some days you just want some fuss-free food. Keep your pantry well-stocked with IBS-friendly staples — basic ingredients for cooking and ready-to-go timesavers that may be a little safer for your system than the versions you’re used to:

  • Safer flours: Brown rice, almond, coconut, millet, and potato flour

  • Safer (non-wheat) grains: Buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and amaranth

  • Safer snacks: Rice cakes, baked organic corn chips, baked potato chips, soaked nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts), and fruit (especially applesauce and bananas)

  • Safer drinks: Homemade smoothies, and broths (chicken, vegetable, and beef)

  • Safer breakfast cereals: Oats and oatmeal, rice puffs, millet puffs and kamut puffs

  • Safer lunch items: Gluten- and dairy-free frozen meals and low-mercury canned (in water) or pouched (without added oil) tuna

  • Safer dinner options: Home-cooked dishes that include protein (lean ground beef and turkey, chicken breasts, canned salmon, tofu, and fish) and carbohydrates from your safe food list (grains, beans, and vegetables such as peas and carrots)

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