Identifying Foods that Trigger IBS: An Easier Way
There are plenty of complicated systems designed to track what you eat. There are plenty of detailed diets to work on eliminating foods and slowly introducing foods to identify what triggers IBS flares. Much of it seems time-consuming, and it can be frustrating for someone who is busy, traveling, or does not wish to adhere to a restrictive diet. Let me simplify it for you. There is an easier way.
Keep a simple list
Instead of taking the time to track fats, carbohydrates, fiber, or any other nutritional fact, just write down what you eat when you eat it. It’s that simple. Did you have scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast? Jot it down on a piece of paper or enter into your phone as a note. Did you have a turkey sandwich on wheat for lunch and spaghetti for dinner? Write it down. Be sure to include snacks in your list. Whatever you eat or drink, just write it down.
Do not worry about listing ingredients. You do not need to look up nutritional facts. All you need to do is keep a running list of everything you consume each day. Just keep writing it all down. Is it really that simple? Sort of. The next step is the most complicated part of it all.
Track your symptoms
If you have a flare, write it down. Add in details. If you experience bloating, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or any other symptom, write it down. Keep doing that every single day. After a few weeks, you should have a good bit of data without putting in too much work or time each day. Once you have enough data, then you must analyze it all. Do not worry. It sounds much more complicated than it is.
Look over your lists. Take note of what you ate on the days when you had flares. Did you have flares every day that you ate chocolate? Did you have terrible bloating and cramping on days when you ate raw vegetables? Maybe spicy foods sent you running to the bathroom some days. Look for common culprits. If you ate a certain food several times and had flares each time, it is safe to say that food is a trigger. If foods prepared in a similar way, such as fried, caused stomach upset, then fried foods are a trigger.
Looking for clues
Some triggers will be obvious. Others will not. Consider the ingredients to determine the culprit. Did some dishes contain similar spices? Were the same vegetables used in various dishes? Perhaps the foods all contained dairy, citrus, or the same spices. If you find dishes you ate on days when you had flares contained cheese, then cheese is a possible trigger. Make a note of all your triggers and possible triggers. Keep an eye on possible triggers in the future to determine if it is a food you should limit or avoid.
After you have identified foods that send you into a flare, you can also identify foods that are safe. Note foods you ate on flare-free days. Did you eat those foods on several occasions without any problems? That may be one of your safe foods. Keep a list of potential safe foods, too.
Simple, but not perfect
This is not a perfect plan for identifying triggers and safe foods, but it is an easy way to keep an eye on how your body reacts to certain foods and meals. If you are short on time, this can be helpful. It has helped me save time and frustration.
Maybe you will find it useful, and maybe you will not. Regardless, it will not take much of your time. I hope this helps someone else who is too busy to deal with more complicated methods. If you have other time-saving methods for tracking foods, I would love to hear about them.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?