It can seem like your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms stay with you no matter where you are or what time of the day. With that sentiment in mind, what if we told you one of the (potentially) best ways to quell IBS symptoms was following a high-fiber diet? Given how severe your IBS symptoms can get, you might fear the proposition of a high-fiber diet due to its stimulating effect on digestion.
You’re right to be hesitant about what you put in your body when you have irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, we suggest speaking to one of the Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists at Top Nutrition Coaching before starting a new diet.
The nutritional therapists in our network possess the specialized expertise to match their guidance and care with an individual’s unique needs. They personalize solutions instead of cutting and pasting a template.
Still, the idea of mixing high-fiber and sensitive bowels might seem disastrous. But you’ll find that a fiber-forward approach to nutrition can make tremendous inroads into regulating and improving your gastrointestinal (GI) system.
Below, we’ll detail the advantages (and potential pitfalls) of following a high-fiber diet if you have IBS.
Better Food Choices May Alleviate Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
Various foods can trigger IBS symptoms, such as those high in caffeine, fat, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonation. Interestingly, the same goes for foods with too much fiber, depending on your type of IBS.
While knowing what foods to avoid can significantly help prevent and alleviate IBS flare-ups, knowing what you should eat is just as crucial. Knowing the best foods for IBS can drastically improve your gut health and digestion. Even people who haven't been diagnosed with IBS but have sensitive stomachs might do better if they follow the same dietary advice.
This preamble brings us to the topic of following a high-fiber diet for IBS. The notion of eating lots of fiber if you have an irregular bowel could seem counterintuitive. Yet, many nutritional experts will speak to the benefits of consuming the appropriate amounts of gut-friendly fiber to regulate and enhance your GI function.
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12 Ways To Combat IBS Symptoms With A High-Fiber Diet
Most nutritionists will tell you that fiber is your friend, especially if you have IBS.
Alternatively, eating loads of fiber without second thought won’t necessarily be conducive to long-term positive results. There’s a need for knowledge of the suitable types of fiber for specific IBS symptoms. Plus, there are various practical methods of incorporating fiber into your daily nutritional intake, which we’ll detail below.
1. Ensure You’re Getting Enough Soluble Fiber
- Soluble fiber attracts water, meaning it removes excess fluid and can help offset diarrhea and similar IBS-D symptoms.
- Foods high in soluble fiber are readily available. Options include oranges, apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, peas, sweet potatoes, avocados, oats, turnips, and carrots.
- Bran, beans, and barley are also reliable soluble fiber sources.
- Too much fiber can cause bloating, gas, and other IBS symptoms.
- Not all soluble fibers are good for IBS symptoms (which we’ll examine later).
- Loading up on soluble fibers isn’t ideal for those with IBS-C.
The Bottom Line: Those with IBS-D will do themselves plenty of favors by prioritizing foods high in soluble fiber. Still, moderation should always remain top of mind. Be sure to consume the appropriate amounts of soluble fiber to maximize the positive impact and minimize the negatives.
Also, avoid eating too many soluble fibers if you have IBS-C.
2. Be Careful When Consuming Insoluble Fiber
- Insoluble fiber is often recommended for IBS-C patients who deal with constipation.
- Since insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, it remains intact while traveling through your digestive system.
- Therefore, insoluble fibers can help alleviate constipation because of the bulk it adds to stool. This initiates movement in your GI system, providing a laxative effect.
- Many foods contain insoluble fiber, such as zucchini, broccoli, leafy greens, and cabbage.
- The uses for insoluble fiber in IBS patients mainly apply to those dealing with constipation.
- Those with diarrhea and similar symptoms could have their IBS symptoms significantly worsened by a diet rich in insoluble fiber.
The Bottom Line: IBS comes in different forms—one of those forms is frequent constipation. In this case, you may need to turn to insoluble fiber.
3. Figure Out If You Have IBS-C Or IBS-D
- Irritable bowel syndrome typically has two types–IBS-C and IBS-D. Knowing the IBS-type afflicting you is the first step toward alleviating, managing, and potentially eliminating your symptoms.
- IBS-C patients deal with constipation symptoms and benefit from insoluble fiber.
- IBS-D patients have more diarrhea-focused symptoms that respond favorably to soluble fiber.
- IBS (both ‘C’ and ‘D’) are notoriously challenging to diagnose, calling for lots of guesswork.
- Lots of guesswork means a likelier potential of eating the wrong thing and dealing with symptom flare-ups.
The Bottom Line: If you know what type of IBS you have, you'll know what kind of fiber you should eat most of the time. Unfortunately, you may have to try different fibers until you find the one that works best, which could temporarily make your symptoms worse.
4. It May Help To Supplement Your Fiber With Psyllium
- Fiber supplements, namely psyllium, can provide a gentle laxative effect.
- Since psyllium contains soluble fiber, it aids more in regular bowel movements than other more aggressive laxatives that tend to cause diarrhea. This benefit can prove crucial for IBS patients with both frequent and infrequent bowel activity.
- Fiber supplements can never replace the value of whole foods rich in fiber.
- Always use fiber supplements cautiously because too much can cause many adverse GI symptoms, including constipation, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Psyllium, more often than not, is a temporary solution.
The Bottom Line: In times of stress, taking psyllium fiber supplements can help a lot with regular, healthy bowel movements. They likely shouldn’t be taken with too much frequency, though.
5. Avoid High-FODMAP Soluble Fibers
- Since specific types of short-chain soluble fibers (known as FODMAPS) often ferment when digested, they can cause bloating and gas.
- Avoiding these foods can help stave off IBS symptoms for a short period.
- Not eating FODMAPs for a time can help you identify IBS-related food sensitivities.
- Not eating FODMAPs isn’t the most sustainable solution and is typically suggested as a short-term strategy.
- Pregnant women and children shouldn’t avoid these foods.
The Bottom Line: Cutting out high-FODMAP foods like beans, high-lactose dairy, wheat, soy, apples, stone fruits, canned fruit, and watermelon can help identify IBS symptom triggers. However, it’s a temporary approach you can’t sustain for longer than a few months. Many high-FODMAP foods have the nutrients you may need to maintain your long-term health.
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6. Prioritize Low-FODMAP Soluble Fiber
- Long-chain soluble fibers low in FODMAPs, like chia and flax seeds, may help alleviate aggressive IBS symptoms. They’re not likely to cause gas and bloating.
- Potatoes, green beans, canned chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and summer squash are also low enough in FODMAPs to consume when following this diet.
- Much like avoiding high-FODMAP foods, only eating low-FODMAP soluble fiber isn’t sustainable. It’s a short-term solution to alleviate severe IBS symptoms.
- Pregnant women and children should not follow this approach, even when displaying IBS symptoms.
The Bottom Line: Eating only long-chain soluble fibers for a short period of time can give you the relief you need from your IBS symptoms. At some point, you'll need to eat high-FODMAP soluble fibers again to find out what might be causing your IBS and get the nutrition you need.
7. Determine How Much Fiber Your Need In Your Daily Diet
- Knowing how much fiber you need daily may help enhance your GI system’s functionality, alleviating your IBS symptoms.
- The general rule is to eat between 20 to 35 grams of daily fiber, a reachable amount to incorporate into your meals and snacks.
- People dealing with IBS might need more or less daily fiber than what’s generally recommended.
- IBS symptoms make determining the appropriate amount of daily fiber a challenging task. You need to weigh many factors, including your symptoms' severity and specific nature.
The Bottom Line: The question of how much fiber you should consume can be hard to answer for those with IBS, given the unique nature of your symptoms. Speak with a doctor or qualified nutrition therapist about optimizing your daily fiber intake.
8. Embrace The Power Of The Potato
- As a low-FODMAP menu item, potatoes–in many shapes and forms–are highly nutritious and chock full of vitamin C, protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
- Potatoes contain soluble and insoluble fiber, making them a well-rounded choice for those with IBS-C and IBS-D.
- Potatoes are high in carbohydrates.
- They’re also classified as a high glycemic index food. They can trigger the rapid release of glucose into your blood, spiking your blood sugar. This is particularly detrimental to those with diabetes and IBS.
The Bottom Line: Potatoes are low-FODMAP and a versatile culinary treasure you can enjoy in various forms. However, potatoes are high on the glycemic index and, when consumed in significant quantities, can negatively impact your overall health and digestion.
9. There’s A Reason For Optimism With Okra
- Okra is another food that contains soluble and insoluble fibers, helping alleviate constipation and diarrhea depending on the quantity eaten.
- Additionally, okra is packed with vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and a host of other nutrients.
- It’s worth noting that okra can potentially prevent cancer, help manage diabetes, and contribute to improved bone strength.
- Lastly, okra feeds the good gut bacteria in your GI system.
- Okra is high in fructans, which can trigger your IBS symptoms in certain situations.
The Bottom Line: Eating okra is typically a net positive for your gut health, but it can trigger IBS symptoms if you eat over a half cup. Also, note that okra digests best when it’s well-cooked.
10. Bolster Your IBS-Friendly Nutrition With Avocados
- Avocados contain soluble fiber and can be easily integrated into many foods, including salads, sandwiches, and smoothies.
- There’s a low enough FODMAP count in avocados if you limit your intake to 1/8th of a whole avocado.
- In its oil form, avocado tends to be more friendly to IBS patients since avocado oil is free of carbohydrates and FODMAPs.
- There is a belief among experts that avocados–even in small amounts–can trigger IBS symptoms.
- Avocados contain sorbitol, which is known to trigger IBS-related symptoms.
The Bottom Line: Avocados may enhance your gut and overall health (given their high levels of soluble fiber and healthy fats). Yet, IBS patients should proceed cautiously with eating these high-FODMAP fruits and consider avocado oil as an alternative.
11. Having An IBS Attack? Consider Eating Blueberries
- Blueberries are a fruit that’s friendly to IBS due to their low FODMAP nature.
- Moreover, experts suggest eating blueberries during an IBS attack to immediately offset and alleviate the flare-up.
- Blueberries retain lots of their nutritional value even when frozen.
- Blueberries can cause issues for people who are sensitive to fructans.
- While blueberries are a healthy food, they’re high in natural sugar. Like most nutritious foods, they should be consumed in moderation.
The Bottom Line: Implementing blueberries into your diet can help manage and prevent your IBS symptoms. Also, these tasty fruits can calm your GI system during a flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome. Those with fructan sensitivities should consume no more than a quarter cup of blueberries.
12. Bananas Can Help You Better Manage Your IBS
- Bananas are affordable, easily accessible, and high in soluble fiber.
- You can slice bananas into your cereal, mash them into smoothies, or simply peel one and eat it on its own between meals.
- Bananas increase in FODMAP levels the riper they get. The FODMAP associated with bananas is called oligofructose.
- Provided you dislike unripe bananas, you might want to avoid them altogether if you have IBS.
The Bottom Line: Bananas contain plenty of soluble fiber that may help IBS sufferers manage long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, fans of mushy, ripened bananas who suffer from IBS might be disheartened to hear that the riper the banana, the higher the FODMAP count.
How Can Top Nutrition Coaching Help You Optimize A High-Fiber Diet For Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
The Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists at Top Nutrition Coaching have helped us formulate a network of the highest-performing specialists in the health and wellness industry.
Every member of our team has received academic accreditation from premier institutions with immaculate reputations. They’ve completed dietetic internships and externships and have amassed a wealth of on-the-job experience in multiple healthcare settings.
Therefore, each client who works with Top Nutrition Coaching can count on being paired with a skilled counselor with vast knowledge of their unique nutritional needs. As such, our platform includes a wide range of GI and gut health nutritionist who’ve spent years providing care to irritable bowel syndrome patients.
When you work with Top Nutrition Coaching, you’ll benefit from the vast wisdom of a nutrition specialist who doesn’t just have the present in mind. Yes, they want to help you now–but every piece of advice or guidance they offer will also focus on long-term solutions that will help you for decades to come.
Your IBS symptoms can be overcome by making the necessary changes to your lifestyle and approaches to nutrition.
With Top Nutrition Coaching, you can receive expert guidance to help you better manage your IBS and prevent symptoms. What’s more, we can help you without you leaving the comfort of your living room since we provide our services on our highly-secured virtual platform.
Take the nutritionist matching quiz today and start easing your IBS symptoms
Frequently Asked Questions
Read on as we provide answers to questions we’re regularly asked about high-fiber diets and their impact on irritable bowel syndrome:
Won’t adding more fiber to my diet make my IBS symptoms worse?
Depending on the type of fiber you consume and the type of IBS you have, it can help or hinder IBS symptoms.
Those dealing with IBS-C often benefit from insoluble fiber. At the same time, those with IBS-D typically react best to low-FODMAP soluble fiber. But these are generalized rules and might play out differently case by case.
Can adding a supplement like Metamucil help me better control my IBS symptoms?
The natural fiber you get from whole foods is always superior to supplementation. However, the synthetic psyllium fiber you can receive from Metamucil might be helpful if you aren’t receiving enough fiber in your daily nutritional intake.
Is constipation a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome?
Suffering from constipation doesn’t mean you have IBS, but it could be a sign of IBS-C. Most often, it’s a sign that you aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet. Speak with a healthcare professional if you have frequent constipation bouts.
Will following a low-FODMAP diet cure my IBS?
There is no known cure for IBS.
It’s entirely possible to successfully manage symptoms to the point they’re almost non-existent. Still, the potential for flare-ups remains, depending on your eating and lifestyle. Also, a low-FODMAP diet is meant as a temporary measure to identify high-FODMAP foods that trigger IBS symptoms.