4 Essential Tips for IBS-C
If you have IBS-C, (irritable bowel syndrome – constipation) you know how frustrating irregular bowel movements can be. You may have been told different strategies that simply don’t work for you — a glass of prune juice left you gassier than ever, or a jumbo bowl of salad that brought you to a 9-months pregnant look.
For those with hypersensitive guts or motility issues causing chronic constipation, the traditional remedies for bowel regularity may not address the root cause and may aggravate symptoms even more.
Below here are some of the less-obvious nuances to managing constipation with diet:
Whether you are recently experiencing chronic constipation or you’ve long struggled with it, consider these tips to help ease the situation ...all puns intended!
Fiber: strike a balance
Ok, this is the oldest tip in the gastrointestinal book, and maybe you’re thinking “been there, done that.” Your doctor told you to increase fiber, so you started eating more fruits and vegetables, and you still feel bloated and gassy. However, consider that there are multiple types of fiber, and it may not be obvious if you have struck the right balance in your diet!
Are you getting enough soluble fiber? Are you getting enough insoluble fiber? Both types are helpful for pooping, and it can be easy to get too much or not enough of one. Soluble fiber is the kind that absorbs water and gels in your colon – think of foods like oatmeal, chia seeds, beans, apples, oranges, and sweet potatoes.
This fiber helps to “glue” everything together to make nice, consolidated stools. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, adds the “bulk” to the stool, and it’s rich in foods like fruit and veggie skins, seeds, whole grains, blueberries, celery, and carrots. It’s all the fibrous matter that doesn’t get completely broken down (ie, you might see it in the toilet sometimes!) so it creates rough volume that moves quickly through your digestive tract.
The tricky part is that you can actually have a well-rounded diet with plenty of plant-based food that is still relatively low in fiber (for example, plain bread with peanut butter!) Or, you can have a very fiber-rich diet, but one that lacks enough insoluble fiber to get things really moving. For example, maybe you eat plenty of oatmeal and vegetable juices, but you need some roughage like nuts and skins in there, too.
FODMAPs: test your tolerance
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides And Polyols, which are gas-producing carbohydrates that are not easily digested by the body.
As exemplified by fiber content, not all carbohydrates are created equal, nor are they digested in the same way in the body. Some are more fermentable than others, and this can be dependent on the person!
Foods high in FODMAP can contribute to bloating and constipation. The FODMAP diet is a tool to use to see what foods might help. Not all foods need to be restricted. When I work with clients, we don’t always eliminate all the FODMAPs, sometimes we may just start with one food group and go from there. It should be individualized.
Fluids: fiber’s best friend
Fiber needs fluid to absorb water to consolidate and pass. A diet with adequate fiber can help you avoid crampy and hard-to-pass stools. Your digestive system is plumbing!
Fats: keep you lubricated
It is important to have enough healthy fats in your diet to ease things along!
Monounsaturated fats are best for your heart, so increase those when keeping your gastrointestinal tract lubricated. Olive oil, olives, nuts/seeds, and their oils, avocado, fatty fish and fish oil, and algae oil are all examples. Lubricate your stool with a moderate amount of healthy fats every day.
Make sure you strike a balance with all 4: fiber, FODMAPs, fluids, and fats are essential for IBS-C. Give your diet a careful look and see where you need to make adjustments. Keep in mind it’s all diet, daily exercise will help too!
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?