Fiber as an IBS Trigger Food - dummies

Fiber as an IBS Trigger Food

By Carolyn Dean, L. Christine Wheeler

Dietary fiber includes those parts of edible plants that your body can’t digest or absorb. You need to digest protein, fats, and carbohydrates to build and run your body, but you also need fiber that remains undigested in order to act like a broom sweeping through the colon.

Fiber helps keep you regular. It also keeps colonic bacteria and yeast under control, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar, and decreases the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Soluble fiber can actually decrease the risk and symptoms of IBS, which is why this section focuses primarily on its less-friendly sibling, insoluble fiber.

There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It forms a gel-like substance that is best exemplified by psyllium powder in its pure form. You can take psyllium powder for either IBS-D or IBS-C. Better-tasting soluble fiber foods are peas, carrots, beans, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and barley.

  • Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It creates bulk that helps promote the movement of matter through your GI tract. The main insoluble fibers are whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, a variety of vegetables, and the skins of some fruits.

The amount of each type of fiber varies in different plant foods.

Insoluble fiber and IBS

Insoluble fiber can be an irritant for people with IBS because the rough edges of the fibers don’t soften up in water and may irritate sensitive intestines. To help soothe fiber-triggered IBS symptoms, you may eat some form of soluble fiber with every meal to help soften the intestinal contents, or you may avoid consuming insoluble fiber altogether by peeling tomatoes and apples before eating them, for example.

In terms of insoluble fiber as a trigger of IBS symptoms, beans may cause you a cacophony of gas if you have trouble digesting them. Soaking the beans well before cooking removes the indigestible complex sugar flatus factors, cleans the beans off well, and rehydrates them to allow them to cook faster.

Nuts and seeds contain insoluble fiber that may cause some intestinal scraping and digestion issues. You can overcome this problem by grinding and blending these foods into butters and pâtés that are more soothing to the intestines.

Journaling fiber foods

It’s impossible to eliminate all fiber foods in order to perform a fiber challenge to identify whether fiber is a trigger for your IBS. Instead, you should pay close attention to your food diary to help determine which of the fiber foods may be causing some intestinal upset.

The connection between fiber foods and IBS symptoms is very individual and personal. You may find that certain soluble fiber foods aren’t your friends and certain insoluble fiber foods are. And a person with IBS-diarrhea may determine that his symptoms are triggered by the same type of food that causes constipation in his friend who has IBS-constipation.