We have read a number of sufferers complain that diet plays no role in their IBS. While this may be the case for conditions such as Crohn’s, which comes on through no fault of the sufferer, we sincerely believe that diet will assist the large majority of sufferers.
Before we qualify this statement further, we must say that what we are not saying is that diet in isolation will improve the symptoms of IBS, especially for long term sufferers, what it will do is assist.
So in this article we will simply make a case for the importance of diet in the treatment of IBS, for those who have tried and failed with amendments to their diet.
For those who doubt the effect of diet upon IBS, we suggest you start by looking at known IBS trigger foods. These range from acidic fruits, through to foods high in insoluble fibre (IBS-d only) and caffeine. If most IBS-d sufferers tried to live on a diet rich in those foods, it would be a shock if they did not make their symptoms far worse. By the same token an IBS-c sufferer would worsen their condition by living on processed, fibre free food.
We have seen little evidence of sufferers being unaffected by trigger foods, which immediately points to the fact that diet plays a role. If you avoid those foods, it is highly likely that you will see an improvement in your condition. That is not to say that you will be cured, or that your IBS will simply go away by avoiding those foods, all it does is indicate that the role of diet in IBS is quite pivotal.
So while it is clear that IBS can be worsened by diet, how do we then make the claim that it can be improved ? As we stated earlier, for those wishing food to be the panacea , we admit that by and large you will be disappointed. Diet alone is rarely enough to improve your condition, however it does play a major role.
If we look at the effect the Low FODMAP diet has already had on thousands of sufferers, we see further evidence of the role of diet on IBS. While the Low FODMAP diet does not work for all, it certainly has highlighted the role of FODMAPs, in the IBS of many.
For severe IBS-d sufferers the process of recovery is often long and slow and this is where we feel that many lose patience with diet. Making changes to your diet will not bring overnight success, and severe sufferers must be aware that they clearly have severe issues which will take time to fix. Having been in that situation ourselves we can totally understand the urgency with which IBS sufferers wish to deal with their condition, we simply urge them to be patient in regards to diet.
While you can make arguments for IBD it is harder to make arguments against diet for IBS. The only time, that we would see diet as being redundant, would be where the sufferer is taking strong pain medication such as Ibruprofen, antibiotics, or where the sufferer is drinking excess alcohol or caffeine. In those instances it would be hard for any diet to rectify the damage being done to the digestive system.
For many the key will be a thorough elimination diet. By stripping your diet to basics, such as boiled chicken and rice (not the most exciting we know), you will soon be able to recognise your own personal trigger food, before you make a plan of attack for future dieting purposes. Conducted well, and elimination diet can be a wonderful tool in the fight against IBS, and more importantly it can be fascinating and illuminating from your own perspective.
Not every single IBS sufferer will find that diet works, however it would seem strange that a what is a digestive disorder had no relationship to diet.