Crackers, apple, and eggs form a pattern

Snacking and Small Portions Improved My IBS Symptoms

Last updated: November 2022

Folks, for years, I have done battle with my large intestine. It usually fires the first shot. A warning gurgle, a gas pain, a distending abdomen. Or a bloated feeling so severe that I swear my gut will burst through my skin as the baby xenomorph ripped through John Hurt’s chest in ALIEN (1979). They are calls to action that I must heed or else take the dire consequences. So I take up arms and go straight to the front lines.

My IBS arsenal

My armory contains Imodium, Miralax, stool softeners, Dulcolax, and Senna tea. Saccharomyces boulardii, peppermint gel capsules, Beano, adult diapers. You will not find a probiotic such as Culturelle or any other product with strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that are "specially formulated to treat IBS symptoms." Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. Smoked it, peed on it, set it on fire, and threw it in the dumpster. Enough. They don't do squat for me. End of story.

Trigger foods

And let's not forget the FODMAP diet sheets. Way back in 2016, when I was diagnosed with IBS, I was handed the low and high lists of foods and told to try an elimination diet to identify trigger foods. Stop dairy first to see if I am lactose-sensitive. I AM NOT. I CAN be sensitive to cruciferous veggies, those high-fiber, gassy little devils such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. But I can tolerate them quite well, too. So—NO TRIGGER FOODS THAT I NEED TO AVOID. Hmm.

Symptoms just kept coming back

My symptoms never go into remission. Ever. I see-saw between constipation and diarrhea. I used to treat them with laxatives and antidiarrheals. But the effects could be too dramatic, so I stopped treating them and let them take their course. This has worked well for the most part. When I am constipated, it usually only lasts a day or 2, and my bowel moves on its own the next day, so no need for intervention. I might take stool softeners so the first poo doesn’t aggravate my hemorrhoids. And if I have diarrhea, it is usually followed by constipation. Again, no need to treat it. Less is more.

My IBS symptom management

This brings us to the present. Taking a minimalist approach to symptom management helped me better avoid explosive diarrhea from laxatives, but it wasn’t quite enough. While switching to a diet regimen to lose weight, I discovered one simple thing that turned out to be a game changer: eating small amounts of food several times a day.

Snacks for IBS control

I no longer eat what we think of as a meal: a vegetable, a starch, and an entrée of meat or fish. Instead, I snack.

Small snacks include:

  • A palmful of nuts
  • 6 Ritz crackers with butter
  • 1 deviled egg
  • Small celery sticks dipped in hummus
  • An apple

Larger snacks are:

  • 1 cup of steamed broccoli with spices and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  • Half of an English muffin topped with avocado, salsa, jalapeno, cucumber, tomato, and cheese.
  • A spinach salad is topped with bacon bits, sauteed onions, Brussels sprouts leaves, and shredded cheese.

Snacking is an IBS game-changer

The largest meal I can tolerate would be a whole English muffin with toppings. But that is a LOT of food all at once, so I keep it to smaller portions.

Eating small amounts has made a world of difference. My abdomen doesn't distend if I keep my portions small. I don’t feel bloated, either. And there are days when my bowel movements seem almost normal. I still have IBS. On the days that I cheat by eating a small frozen pizza, that will set off all the symptoms again.

By the way, I have lost 11 pounds, too. A double win for me.

Have you found a game-changer that improves your IBS symptoms? I would love to hear about it!

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