8 Top Tips to manage your IBS and keep food interesting

A guest expert post by Nutritional Therapist Ian Craig – @ian_fsn

Reader Question: “I’m always on the hunt for ideas to manage my diet: I have IBS and tend, if anything, to lose weight rather easily so eating is not about control or restriction for reasons of weight loss. It’s more about keeping me interested in a rather restricted diet and maintaining health & strength.”

Answer: IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a term used to say that you have a nondescript imbalance in your gut function – it’s often the ‘diagnosis’ used when the doctor doesn’t really know what’s wrong with you…. In my clinic, I see IBS sufferers on an almost daily basis and when they are willing to engage in some significant eating and lifestyle changes, I almost always see great improvements in gut health.


Here are eight top tips for interesting eating that should alleviate IBS symptoms:

  • Food sensitivities – the first thing I do when someone presents with IBS is to find out which foods are irritating their gut. I either use a IgG food sensitivity test or I do a food elimination-challenge test. Try this: remove all wheat, dairy, sugar and alcohol from your diet for 2 weeks. Then, taking 2 days per food, consume that food at least 3 times per day and simply take a note of your symptoms. This should give you a good sense of intestinal irritants.
  • Food replacements – now you’ve identified some foods to avoid, you’ll be looking for alternatives. For wheat, the obvious suggestion is to go gluten free, but I often find that that isn’t completely necessary. Try a 100% rye sourdough bread instead of wheat bread; try oat cakes instead of wheat crackers; try pasta made of vegetables or quinoa instead of wheat. For dairy, I tend to go for sugar-free nut milks and rice milks…. or proper fermented milks.
  • Embrace fermenting – fermenting is not only an old method of preserving food. It uses healthy bacteria and yeasts to break down the hard-to-digest proteins and sugars in foods, plus it provides your gut with these healthy microorganisms. For example, proper probiotic yoghurt and kefir are much easier to digest than milk. Even people with dairy ‘sensitivities’ may be fine with these. Try some sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) – this really is the ‘new’ probiotic supplement and tastes great with a salad.
  • The power of fresh – fresh fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that help you to digest foods. Pineapple and papaya are particular favourites, but also just try to include a small salad with most meals. Additionally, when you are steaming green vegetables, you will maintain some of their raw values by pulling them off the heat the moment they begin to soften.
  • Stocks are king – If you’ve just had a roast chicken, put the carcass plus the gelatine in a slow cooker, add water and 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, and cook for 2 days. Then freeze small containers of the stock and each time you make a soup, stew, curry etc, add in a portion. Stocks are high in collagen, gelatine, minerals and various nutrients that are nourishing to your gut lining – this is an age-old practice for improving gut health. Also, buy bones and joints from an organic butcher for making other kinds of stocks.
  • Prebiotic fibre – prebiotics feed our probiotics (good bacteria). They are very simply a certain type of fibre, found in common foods. eg. a slightly under-ripe banana, Jerusalem artichokes, cooked cooled potato or rice (eg. potato or rice salad). One of my favourites is stewed apple with cinnamon. The pectin in apples is very restorative to gut health, especially when it has been cooked.
  • Anti-microbial foods – nature contains foods that fight the microbes that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. For example, coconut contains caprillic acid, which is effective against Candida; oregano and thyme, typical of Italian cooking, contain strong anti-parasitic properties; and garlic is pretty much effective against any microorganism. By including these herbs and foods in our diets on a daily basis, we should rarely need the antithesis of nature: antibiotics.
  • Pack in the protein – I noted in your question that you were having problems maintaining body weight. By including a lot of the suggestions above and improving your overall gut health, this should make a big difference. In addition, aim to include protein in your diet on a regular basis. Stocks are a great way of getting this in. It might also be worth you making a smoothie once/day with a whey isolate or brown rice or hemp protein powder – it also gives you the opportunity to include some healthy fruit and fermented milk product like yoghurt or kefir.


Ian current

Ian Craig MSc (Ex Phys) BSc (Nut Ther) DipCNE INLPTA is an exercise physiologist, nutritional therapist, NLPpractitioner and an endurance coach. He was a British competitive middle-distance runner for 20 years and is now a more leisurely runner and cyclist. Ian specialises in Functional Sports Nutrition, a fast evolving discipline that considers both health and performance of an athlete from an integrative health perspective. Ian is the editor of the UK magazines, Functional Sports Nutrition and Total Sports Nutrition, he leads the Middlesex University Personalised Sports Nutrition postgraduate course and the new Functional Sports Nutrition Academy. In South Africa, he is a consultant for genetics company DNAlysis Biotechnology and runs a private exercise & nutrition practice at the Morningside Sports Medicine clinic in Johannesburg. 

To have a skype session with Ian go to his website here.


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