The Rice Trick: How I Learned to Adapt a Meal to Make It More IBS-Friendly

Recently, I wrote about the sadness of losing another staple. After all these decades of dealing with IBS, I have a fairly clear idea about what foods tend to act as triggers and what foods are relatively "safe" for me to eat without instigating my IBS. Still, the rules blur sometimes. If I am feeling sick to my stomach, almost anything can trigger my IBS, even the so-called safer foods. So, I tend to take all of my IBS wisdom with a grain of salt, understanding that living with a chronic medical condition is mercurial.

When safe foods become an IBS trigger

So when a safe food does trigger an IBS flare, I don't freak out immediately that it means I have to give it up completely. I will steer clear from that food for a few days or even a couple of weeks and modestly introduce it back into my diet. Usually, it's doesn't bother me again (at least for a long while), and I know it had more to do with whatever was going on internally in my body than the food itself.

However, once in a while, a food that usually didn't bother me in the past will begin to and it's clear there's a pattern that means it's transformed from a safe staple to a trigger. Then I have to make the difficult choice: give it up, or still consume it and suffer the consequences. Sometimes I am stubborn for a while and keep consuming that food. I eventually give it up, though, because I value being flare-free as much as possible, more than the minutes-long enjoyment of some food or drink.

Food alternatives for IBS

One thing I do try is to do before sacrificing a staple is adapt the food or make modifications in some way that may make it less of a trigger, so I can keep it in my diet. Or I may demote it from a daily or weekly staple to something I eat only once in a great while and under very specific circumstances.

I recently gave up herbal coffee after finding it was bothering me and causing IBS issues. I tried to adapt it: first steeping the coffee for a shorter duration in the hot water and using less coconut creamer and then switching to a lower-fat creamer and using a modest amount of that. Though it helped a bit, the problem persisted. So, I am on a long hiatus with that staple. A few months from now I may try it again, but it's clear it bothers my tummy troubles for now so I am steering clear.

Even more recently, I got sick a few times after eating Indian food. I LOVE Indian and tend to have it for dinner once a week. It usually doesn't bother me. I am already vegetarian and I always order my meal to be "extremely mild" since spicy foods can aggravate my IBS. My partner and I split an entree so I am not over-eating myself, which can be another IBS trigger (for IBS smaller meals tend to be better). I do avoid Indian food when I am feeling like I may flare or if I am close to or on my period. Otherwise, it's relatively safe to eat once a week. But then I got sick two weeks in a row on it and was worried I would again have to give up a beloved food staple.

IBS-friendly modifications

But here's what I decided to do: After taking a break from eating it for a couple of weeks, I decided next time I had Indian food, I would double up on the white rice and eat a little less of the creamy topping portion. I would also avoid chickpeas (which I know bother me). My partner agreed he was fine eating less rice and more of the creamy topping and all of the chickpeas. I also would eat some of the rice first before even touching the rest of the meal.

White rice is full of soluble fiber and fairly binding, so it's a pretty safe food for those who are prone to IBS-D like I am. I found this trick has worked well as I've since eaten at our favorite Indian restaurant three times in the past month, with no new IBS outbreak. So, I am glad I found a way to continue enjoying a meal I love with some slight modifications to make it more "IBS safe."

Have you ever had a particular meal or food begin to bother you and learn to modify it so you could continue enjoying it despite your IBS? Or the opposite, are there foods that no longer appeal to you because of IBS? Please share your experiences and tips with us!

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