Why Restricted Diets for IBS Need Nutritional Guidance

With all the dietary advice given on the internet, it may seem like restricted diets aren’t that big a deal. But any time you restrict foods from your diet, especially if it substantially alters your choices from certain food groups, there’s a danger that you may be altering the balance of your diet that will set you up for nutritional deficiencies.

To prevent that from happening, it’s important to receive guidance from a qualified nutrition professional who can make sure that you aren’t creating problems in an effort to manage your IBS. Here’s some examples I commonly see…

The nutritional consequence of restricting dairy

The main problem with restricting dairy is that dairy products are the best natural food source of calcium, which is essential for strong and healthy bones. Insufficient calcium intake can weaken your bones across your life. You won’t see the effect of dietary calcium insufficiency immediately though – it won’t be until later in life when you may be more prone to bone fractures after falls due to osteoporosis or osteopenia.

Of course if dairy is a problem for your IBS, due to lactose or dairy protein, then there are alternatives for replacing the calcium. But since calcium needs change at different stages of life, it’s important that a nutrition professional guides you on your specific needs.

The nutritional consequence of restricting wheat

Like dairy, some people find that foods containing wheat can trigger their IBS symptoms. But again, if these products are removed without replacing them with suitable substitutes, you may have some problems.

Wheat is major source of fiber for many people, with most people eating bread and pasta on a regular basis. When you cut wheat and other high fiber grains out of your diet, you can end up with less fiber intake than recommended. Fiber is essential for the proper formation of bowel movements and insufficient fiber can lead to constipation. Not a good trick for someone with IBS who is already having problems with bowel movements.

But that doesn’t mean you have to eat wheat to get enough fiber. There are other grains available that are high in fiber, plus you can get fiber from fruits and vegetables. Working out the best choices for you will require assessing your entire day’s food choices.

The nutritional consequence of restricting FODMAPs

A low FODMAP diet, while very helpful for managing IBS, is even more restrictive and can lead to nutritional deficiencies if you’re not careful. A low FODMAP diet requires you to restrict foods across all five of the core food groups. In some ways this is good because it means you still have access to alternatives in each food group. The problem though is that many of the alternative foods aren’t ones that people are used to cooking with and so don’t naturally choose as replacements.

While a low FODMAP diet doesn’t require you to restrict dairy, it does require you to restrict lactose. There are however still plenty of calcium-rich low-lactose dairy products available. Similarly, a low FODMAP diet doesn’t require you to fully remove wheat or gluten, but many people do and so need to know how to choose appropriate alternatives.

The low FODMAP diet goes a step further though, since many high fiber fruits and vegetables are restricted since they are high in FODMAPs. For this reason, extra guidance is often necessary to prevent constipation from becoming a major problem while following a low FODMAP diet.

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