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General Medical Questions
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Question : I was recently diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I exercise to manage stress but don't want to lose any more weight. How can I build a dietary plan?
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The Trusted Source
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Kathy McManus, M.S., R.D., is the director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Simmons College, completed her Dietetic Internship at Brigham and Women Hospital, and received a Master of Science degree in nutrition from Framingham State College.

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March 02, 2011
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A:

Simple dietary changes can often help manage IBS symptoms. Eating a well balanced diet full of whole foods (rather than processed foods) can help manage your symptoms and prevent further weight loss.

Small, frequent meals throughout the day will help you better tolerate your food and maintain a healthy weight. Include these foods in your diet:

  • Lean proteins (from fish, chicken, eggs, tofu)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Non-wheat fiber sources (such as oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley)
  • Healthy fats (from olives, avocados, nuts and seeds)

Be sure to add high fiber foods to your diet slowly. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, peanuts and more) and whole grains. They are an important part of a healthy diet, but they can cause bloating and discomfort at first. Try adding a little extra fiber every few days and back off a bit if you are uncomfortable.

Try these tips. They can help you better digest these foods and reduce discomfort:

  • Pre-soak beans and legumes
  • Lightly cook vegetables (especially those that produce gas, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, etc)
  • Remove the skins of fruits (such as apples)

Also, avoid trigger foods to reduce flair-ups and discomfort. Triggers can include alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, wheat, spicy foods, high fat foods, concentrated fruit juices, and "artificial" sweeteners.

If you follow these suggestions and still have IBS symptoms, you may want to try cutting out dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream). Dairy products can sometimes trigger IBS symptoms. But you still need calcium, protein, and other nutrients found in dairy. First, try replacing milk and cheese with yogurt, which is easier to digest. If you need to completely cut dairy from your diet, replace it with Lactaid milk or other fortified milk substitutes (such as soy milk, rice milk, almond milk) or low-fat, lactose free cheeses.

Finally, eat slowly, chew well, and avoid drinking from straws and chewing gum. These can all help reduce the production of gas and bloating.

And it is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially with your fiber.

Sample menu

Breakfast
Oatmeal w/ ¼ cup sliced almonds
Banana
Hard boiled egg
Decaffeinated or herbal tea

Snack
Rice cake with 1 Tbs. peanut butter

Lunch
3 oz sliced turkey, tomatoes, with few avocado slices on a wheat free wrap
1 cup grapes
½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt*

Snack
1 cup melon
String cheese stick*

Dinner
4 oz broiled salmon and baked chicken
2/3 cup brown rice
1 cup stir fry/steamed vegetable mix (i.e. peppers, broccoli, mushrooms)

*If avoiding dairy, have an alternative such as 1 oz lactose free Cabot cheese, handful of nuts, hard boiled egg

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