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Diet for IBS

Eating the Right Foods Helped Me


jar of chili powder
  I find it helpful to go easy on spicy foods.


Nutrition Tips

Here are the tips I found helpful for getting rid of my bloating and gas. I believe that everyone is different and has different dietary requirements, but these are the actions I personally found helpful. (They overlap somewhat with my fibromyalgia diet tips, so you may want to read that section, too.)

The diet tips that worked for me to help with IBS were:

  • Cut back on sugar.

  • Cut back on foods with yeast, especially yeast breads.

  • Take probiotics when needed.

  • Cut back on dairy products, especially milk. Limited amounts of yogurt with active cultures and without sugar are okay.

  • Emphasize soup with meat, beans and non-starchy vegetables.

  • Go easy on spicy foods.

  • Avoid grains, corn and rice, especially whole grains.

  • Avoid raw vegetables and fruit unless eaten with an acidic or active culture dressing such as Ranch made with buttermilk. It is interesting to note that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, cooked foods tend to be favored. I suspect this was because cooking kills most harmful microorganisms and makes food easier to digest. This was likely an important health consideration in the days before refrigeration, when the TCM guiding principles were being developed.

  • Keep a diet diary - most important!

1. I cut back on sugar as much as possible. This is the number one thing that had helped me to not have as many stomach problems. My family also has a lot less colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, etc. when we don't have much sugar in our diets. Evidently, pathogenic yeast and bacteria thrive on pure sugar.

2. I took probiotics (see bacteria page) to restore the proper flora in my GI tract. I've noticed that if I take too much probiotic supplements I put on weight and develop heartburn. In this case I probably have too much stomach acid and may be digesting my foods too well. So I just take probiotics on occasion when I have any kinds of signs of a yeast infection or digestive upset. Or, as an alternative to probiotic supplements, I eat yogurt with active cultures. Currently I buy a big contain of Mountain High brand yogurt each week and keep it in the fridge. I have a little bit each day, and an extra dose if I feel my stomach getting upset.

I've put on weight these days since I changed my diet, and now I have to diet and exercise just like everyone else when I want to lose weight. But I've never wanted to lose weight bad enough to go back to my old high carb diet and have my old health problems return along with the yeast overgrowth.

pudding in a red bowl
  I love the taste of pudding, but since it is mainly sugar and milk, I'm better off avoiding it.

3. I cut back on dairy products, except for yogurt with active cultures. Some cheese now and then seems to work out okay, and it seems better if the cheese is in something cooked like a casserole or taco. But low fat dairy products, especially cold dairy products like low fat milk really seem to cause digestive upsets for me. I grew up drinking low fat milk with Carnation instant breakfast mix every morning. The breakfast mix has a lot of sugar in it, so looking back I think this may have been a real yeast feeding diet for me when I was younger.

In case you are wondering if I get enough calcium, the answer is that I do. I had a nutritional deficiency test and an osteoporosis test done last year and my bone strength and calcium levels are fine, even though I'm in my forties and have many high risk factors for osteoporosis. (See my section on osteoporosis diet for more information on this.) Leafy green vegetables are great sources of calcium.

In Ayurveda (traditional Indian) medicine, it is usually recommended to only drink boiled milk with spices. I suspect this tradition arose in order to kill any fungus and bacteria in the milk. Boiling is known for killing microorganism, and many spices have antibacterial properties.

5. I eat a lot of cooked soup with some meat and assorted nonstarchy vegetables. Soup has turned out to be a sort of a miracle food for me lately. It's easy to digest and filled with nutrients. The more I eat the better I feel. My husband also has a touchy stomach, and we both noticed that soup made us feel good, but oddly salads never had the same impact. Initially I didn't know why, but now I think this may be in part because the long cooking process in making soup makes them easier to digest and kills most, if not all, of the fungus or bacteria on the foods. With salads we always wash the vegetables before we eat them, but washing just doesn't have the same bacteria killing effectiveness as boiling and simmering food for an hour or two. Salads seemed to work okay for us occasionally if we eat them with highly acidic dressings (see tip #8 below).

I know that according to many health advocates, raw foods are the best for you and easiest to digest. I personally don't think raw foods are easiest to digest. If they were, then that is what people would feed to babies. I believe baby food is the easiest thing to digest and baby food is well cooked and mushy just like soup. Plus, numerous studies show that people often lose weight on raw food diets. If raw foods were easy to digest, then presumably people would gain weight rather than lose weight on them.

6. I have to go easy on spicy foods. Many spices, such as ginger, and cinnamon and cayenne pepper, contain antibacterial and antifungal properties. As such, they have been traditionally been used in hot climates to help keep food from spoiling. They are also used in many herbal medicine for conditions like sinus infections and athlete's foot to kill bacteria and fungus.

I've noticed that if I have too many foods with spices like these, I'll get an upset stomach, similar to what happens when I have to take a lot of antibiotics. My theory on why spicy foods cause upset stomachs in some people like me is that the antibacterial properties work like prescription antibiotics to kill stomach bacteria - both the pathogenic bacteria and yeast along with the helpful bacteria like acidophilus. So without the helpful bacteria killed by the spices, I have a hard time digesting my food.

7. I stopped eating most grains and rice, especially whole grain foods. I still have to serve some grains at home because my kids like traditional kid foods like macaroni and cheese and pizza. However, I personally cut back on grains as much as possible. I used to think that the people who advocated no grain diets were a bit extreme, but the less grain I eat these days the better I seem to feel. I think whole grain foods probably have too much fiber for somebody like me.

Many alternative health authors are also discouraging people from eating grains because the long storage process leads to a high mold content. At first this concept seemed kind of crazy to me -- grains are so ubiquitous in our everyday diets it seemed hard to believe they could be a cause of health problems. Yet, the more I read on the subject the more sense it makes, and the more I experiment with my own family's diet we do undeniably feel better without a lot of grains. I do remember growing up in the Midwest and seeing silos everywhere, and looking back now I can see that food stored for months like in a high humidity climate that probably would develop a lot of mold and fungus spores.

8. I stopped eating raw fruits and vegetables unless I had them with an acidic, low sugar salad dressing. I noticed that my IBS symptoms would get worse whenever I ate raw fruits and vegetables. At one time I had athlete's foot fungus on my feet, and whenever I ate raw produce I could literally feel my feet itch more. I think this is because uncooked produce naturally comes with a lot of bacteria and fungus. It's probably not a problem for most people, but if your body has an overload of unhealthy bacteria and yeast to begin with it can become problematic. I noticed from my diet diary (see below) that I didn't have a lot of itching if I consumed these raw foods with a highly acidic dressing. I think this is because the acid in the dressing may kill the mold and fungus on the produce, and I suspect it is the conventional wisdom behind why historically salads are usually eaten with an acid containing dressing like vinegar, lemon juice or buttermilk (which contains acid producing bacteria).

9. I saved the best tip for last. I kept a diet diary. We have solved innumerable healthy problems in my family by keeping logs of what we eat and then recording how we feel. The diet listed here that ended up helping me is one I just created on my own and isn't based completely on any established diet that I'm aware of. It's a combo of low carb, anti-yeast and an Ayurvedic kapha balancing diet. I usually start out trying different diets like the common anti-yeast diets, but I always take whatever the authors say with a grain of salt, and just use trial and analysis to see what really works best for me.

IBS and Fungus

My IBS symptoms went away when I started experimenting with anti-Candida (anti-yeast) type diets. Since I've changed my diet I noticed that there is a lot of overlap between diets often recommended to prevent yeast overgrowth and diets recommended for people with IBS. I think it is more than a coincidence. It has made me wonder if other people besides myself with IBS symptoms may also have intestinal yeast or bacterial overgrowth as a causative factor in their digestive upsets, too. Eldon Hass has a good article on the subject of a nutritional program for yeast syndrome. The diet he recommends is different than mine, but it was one of the article I read as a basis for my diet.

Many of the conditions covered in this web site such as migraines, mitral valve prolapse, fibromyalgia and related conditions have been linked to both irritable bowel syndrome and to Candidiasis (or related yeast-type infections). I believe there are logical reasons why these conditions often all tend to occur together. At least in my case, I think an overgrowth of putrefactive yeast and bacteria in my GI tract caused poor digestion which lead to nutritional deficiencies and tiredness. The tiredness lead me to crave carbohydrates for energy boosts. The carbs worked to boost energy in the short run, but in the long run they just contributed to more yeast overgrowth, causing imbalanced intestinal flora in my GI tract, thereby creating a vicious cycle as illustrated below:

High carbohydrate diet
Feeds yeast in the GI tract, which crowds out good bacteria
Causes poor digestion which in turn causes
Nutritional deficiencies which in turn cause
Tiredness, insomnia which in turn cause
Carb cravings for energy boost
Cycle repeats

This illustrates my version of the
IBS - Fungus Infection Link

Here a couple of web sites I highly recommend that address the connections between IBS and yeast or bacteria overgrowths:

Fermentation May Be At Root Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome - A paper published in the Lancet by researchers in Cambridge, England involved a study of twelve women, six with irritable bowel syndrome and six without. The women were all put on a standard diet for one week, and then a special diet common for IBS patients the second week. When the IBS sufferers were on the standard diet, they produced more gas and hydrogen than the controls, which the researchers viewed as a measure of increased fermentation. Under the IBS diet, the women with the irritable bowels had less symptoms than on the standard diet.

The special diet the IBS sufferers were on that seemed to help limited the following foods:

  • Dairy products
  • Beef
  • All cereals except rice
  • Any foods with yeast
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beverages with caffeine
  • Tap water

I like the taste of filtered instead of tap water. However, the problem is most water filters filter out important minerals such as magnesium along with the impurities. I have not found a good alternative other than tap water for this reason. Otherwise, if you have IBS, the diet the Cambridge researchers used might be worth a try.

See also: Is There an Anxiety IBS Link?





Related sections of interest:

Allergic to mold? Diet changes might help.

Beneficial Bacteria

Diet Tips for Irritable Bowel

Read my Section on Sinus Infections

Itchy Skin / Sensitive Skin

MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)

Natural Therapies for Morgellons - The cause of this disorder is controversial and not clearly understood. My family had some similar symptoms so I wrote up what we found helpful.


Selected Links:

Gas and Flatulence Prevention Diet - has a list of foods that contribute to gas production.

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