Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diet: Dietary Fiber – Both a Blessing and a Curse
Dietary experts often praise dietary fiber – also known as plant fibers or roughage – as a natural remedy for digestive issues. They emphasize its health benefits, like its ability to bind bile acids, cholesterol, and toxins, aiding their removal from the body.
When wet, fiber expands, which can help move food more quickly through the intestines and positively influence gut bacteria. It's an essential part of a healthy diet and should be considered in meal planning. However, there are considerations for those with IBS.
The Versatility of Fiber
Fibers like flaxseed or bran can absorb a lot of water, potentially helping with diarrhea. But they also increase stool volume. Since our bodies don't digest these fibers, they're broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. This process is similar to carbohydrate intolerance.
For many, the benefits of plant fibers can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Increased stool volume might make IBS worse, and the gas produced can intensify pain and discomfort.
Is a Fiber-rich IBS Diet Advisable?
Researchon whether increasing or decreasing fiber intake benefits IBS patients has been inconclusive. The disease varies greatly, and so do patients' experiences. Many
underestimate the severity of IBS symptoms and challenges. Traditional treatments
If you mainly suffer from constipation, increasing fiber might be beneficial. But for those with more diarrheal symptoms, the approach may differ. And if you primarily experience pain, a high-fiber diet might make things worse. No one-size-fits-all diet exists for IBS, so it's essential to determine what works best for you.
For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid, Lactobacillus johnsonii enhances the skin's natural UV protection, and Lactobacillus reuteri helps alleviate blemishes.
Tips for Introducing Fiber in an IBS Diet
Introducing fiber should be gradual over 4-8 weeks to avoid unwanted side effects like diarrhea and gas. Start with limited fiber-rich foods like potatoes, whole grain bread, brown rice, and lettuce, and gradually add more.
The modern diet includes about 15-20g of fiber daily, but ideally, it should be at least 30g. For context, people consumed 80-100g of fiber daily a century ago. Fiber-rich foods include veggies (e.g., celery, carrots, asparagus), salads, fruits, whole grains, and seeds (e.g., oats, flaxseed, rice, barley). Since fibers need water to expand, drink at least 2 liters of fluid daily.
This helps with digestion. Reducing meat and increasing plant-based foods will naturally increase your daily fiber intake. Be cautious with very fibrous foods like cabbage, onions, and legumes.
Seeds, like flaxseed, can be more tolerable. Always take fiber with plenty of fluids to prevent blockages in the digestive tract. Oats, flaxseed, and psyllium husk cause little gas and can be mixed into yogurt, juice, or soup.
Avoid "bad" fibers like lactose, fructose, and sugar substitutes .