• Kellie Blake RDN,LD,IFNCP

Nutrition Therapy For Irritable Bowel Syndrome



April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) awareness month. It seems like so many of us suffer from the symptoms of this illness, but conventional medical treatment doesn't offer any true answers or options for healing. News flash: If you've been diagnosed with this disorder, it's just a symptom of some other malfunction in your body. Once you address the dysfunction, these symptoms go away and you can get back to feeling great!


Things to consider when IBS symptoms are present include:

  1. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) - bacteria have migrated from the colon to the small intestine

  2. Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) - yeast is flourishing in the small intestine

  3. Impaired digestive motility - food is moving too slowly through your system

  4. Poor digestive function - lack of adequate digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid to break food into absorbable units

  5. Medications that disrupt the gut lining - narcotics, NSAIDs, anti-depressants, PPI's, antibiotics

  6. Unmanaged stress

  7. Food allergies or sensitivities

IBS affects up to 11 percent of the world population and is more common in females than in males. It can be sporadic, meaning symptoms occur with no obvious cause, or it can develop after a bout of gastroenteritis. While there is no one root cause, IBS is probably related to genetics, nutrition, an altered gut microbiome, and/or inflammation.


When it comes to IBS, there is really no definitive testing, so people who have any gastrointestinal symptoms with no obvious cause are often diagnosed as having IBS. The symptoms can be debilitating for some people and can include bloating, gas, indigestion, cramping, abdominal pain and discomfort, constipation, and mucus in the stool. The lack of effective treatment can make daily life difficult for those with IBS and people often have to rearrange their lives to accommodate the disease symptoms. For example, I have patients who have to plan meals around their bathroom trips or have to stop their favorite activities due to diarrhea.




According to a 2019 review in Nutrients, the gut microbiome is altered in IBS patients and this alteration is thought to be a significant contributor to both the gastrointestinal and psychiatric symptoms (like depression) in those with IBS. Since nutrition has the biggest impact on the composition of the gut microbiome, it only makes sense that nutrition and lifestyle are the way to reverse the symptoms of IBS. Simply changing the type of food provided to the gut microbes makes a huge impact on symptoms.


Depending on the situation, initial nutrition-related changes for IBS may include:

  1. Eating routine meals

  2. Avoiding binge-drinking

  3. Avoiding spicy and high fat foods

  4. Increasing fiber intake

  5. Limiting caffeine consumption

If symptoms don't improve pretty quickly, a full elimination diet or a short-term Low FODMAP diet are both great options. There are many ways to improve IBS symptoms, but the plan must be personalized based on your lifestyle and current nutrition habits. If you've been struggling with IBS symptoms and haven't been able to pin-point the cause or get significant relief, contact us for a free 15-minute discovery call. I have patients who experience complete relief within a week after implementing nutrition and lifestyle medicine.


Source: Catassi, G., Lionetti, E., Gatti, S, and Catassi, C. 2017 The Low FODMAP Diet: Many Question Marks for a Catchy Acronym. Nutrients. 2017 M; 9(3): 292 https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9030292



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