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IBS Diet - more available at www.IBSTreatmentCenter.com

The Challenges in Finding the Best IBS Diet
How to Determine if a Food is Triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Introduction - Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet

If you’ve done much reading about irritable bowel syndrome diets, then you’ve seen advice urging you to decrease carbohydrates, decrease fats, increase fiber, cut back on sugar, drink more water, avoid lactose, avoid dairy, avoid bread, cut back on yeast, reduce spicy foods, eliminate chocolate, eliminate caffeine, etc, etc. You may be wondering if you can really eat any foods at all without triggering your symptoms.

You’re probably thinking, why are there so many different approaches to an IBS diet? Why are their so many people out there telling you to do different things? Why do these dietary changes help some people and not others? Do you really need to cut out all of these foods? What is the best irritable bowel diet?

The truth is that there are many different foods that can cause irritable bowel syndrome, and that the best IBS diet for you may not be the best diet for someone else. Certainly there are some people who have been helped by avoiding one or more of the foods listed above. You may be one of those people, but then maybe you aren’t. How do you know what to eat and what not to eat?

Ideally, to create an optimal IBS diet, all you’d have to do is avoid a certain food or food group and then you’d be able to discover which food(s) are triggering your IBS. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. There are several difficulties with this approach to an IBS diet and it takes a great deal of time, persistence and education to do it properly.


The Challenges in Finding the Best IBS Diet

Elimination Diets

If you’ve eliminated a food or stopped eating and then felt better, then you know that your diet is involved. You may have gone on a fast, or a cleansing diet, or simply avoided food for a day or two and discovered that your IBS was much better. Essentially these are each forms of an elimination diet. Of course, eventually you have to eat, and the trick is figuring out exactly what you can eat.

Some elimination diets are undertaken while eating foods that are supposedly hypoallergenic, such as lamb, pears, or rice. Unfortunately, selecting foods that you can eat during an elimination diet is often more complicated than this, since you can be intolerant to any food including lamb, pear, or even rice.

Reactions to Multiple Foods

You may have more than one food reaction: If you only avoid one food group at a time you may feel a little better, but still not have the complete solution to your IBS diet problem. The majority of people with irritable bowel syndrome are sensitive to more than one food or food group. Therefore you may need to simultaneously eliminate virtually everything that you currently eat in order to find out if diet is really the answer to your problem. This means that during the elimination diet you can only eat foods that you do not currently eat.

Alternating constipation and diarrhea is another example of reactions to multiple foods. In many people these alternating symptoms are due to two different reactions to two different foods. One food reaction is causing constipation, while the other is causing diarrhea. For most people, these two foods are probably eaten fairly regularly and often simultaneously, making the symptoms very difficult to correlate with the ingestion of the food.


Food Groups Much More Difficult to Avoid than You Think

Did you know that wheat, barley, and rye are all related and can cause the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome? Did you know that wheat is found in nearly all bread products and all pastas, including white bread? Do you know what gluten is? Gluten is a highly intolerant protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is also found in any food using any of these three grains, including most breakfast cereals, virtually all bread products, cookies, cakes, soy sauce, pancakes, waffles, many soups, and many, many, other foods. Gluten is a major cause of IBS in patients intolerant of gluten.

Did you know that if you are allergic to dairy you may not be able to eat any dairy products, including milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream, yogurt, lactose, whey, and casein? Did you know that this includes many baked goods such as muffins, breads, and cookies as well as many cream soups, some salad dressings and even milk chocolate? Did you know that margarine contains dairy? Do you know what the words whey, casein, and lactalbumin mean? (Whey, casein, and lactalbumin are each forms of dairy and are found in many foods.) Dairy is another major cause of irritable bowel syndrome in patients intolerant of dairy products.

Did you know that lactose intolerance is much different than a dairy allergy? If you have a dairy allergy, then taking Lactaid, lactase powder, or eating lactose free products may help your symptoms a little, but they will not actually cure your allergy to dairy and you will continue to suffer from it.

These are just three examples of how complicated it can be to assess the dietary trigger of your symptoms and develop a good IBS diet. There are many other foods and food groups just as complicated. If you only remove one part of a food group from your diet, then you won’t really know if it actually causes your symptoms. If you are not highly educated about the food that you eat then you may never put together all of the pieces necessary to understand what foods trigger your symptoms.


Time Needed for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms To Improve

Food often has to be eliminated for several days or even weeks before symptoms resolve.Elimination diets require extended periods of time in order to work. You must avoid all common foods in your diet for at least two weeks before reintroducing foods into your diet. You should only reintroduce one new food every 3 days, because food reactions may not show up for one to two days after ingestion. If you add too many foods at once, then you will not know which one triggered your symptoms.

Quantity of Food vs. Severity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Don’t overestimate the amount of food required to trigger your IBS. If your body is intolerant to a particular food, then it usually doesn’t take much. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny speck of food to trigger symptoms. For example, don’t think that just because you cut out that glass of milk that you can determine whether or not dairy is the cause of your problem. Unless you’ve eliminated every dairy product from your IBS diet, you’ll never really know.


How To Determine if a Food Is Triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Elimination diets have their place and are effective in certain cases. If you feel qualified to undertake one you may very well find the answer to your problem. You may even be fortunate enough to discover the problematic food without knowing much about food. However, if you don’t feel qualified or would otherwise like to save yourself a lot of time and hassle, then there is an excellent alternative.

If you have an allergy to gluten, or dairy, anything else, then this can be detected by running a simple blood test. The ELISA Food Allergy Panel is the most accurate method known for determining food allergies. (This test is much more effective than skin testing.) This test assesses the level of antibodies, if any, produced by your immune system against all of the common foods (approximately 100) in the diet. The test is based on standard knowledge of immunology and is a truly scientific way to determine food allergies.

Performing the ELISA Food Allergy Panel can save you a great deal of time and effort in discovering the cause of your symptoms, and help you develop an IBS diet. It takes all of the guesswork out of knowing whether or not you’re eliminating the right foods and the right food groups, and eliminates the need to be highly educated about everything that you eat. And if this test happens to be negative, then you can quickly move on to other potential causes of your problem without wasting valuable time on an elimination diet and then wondering if you actually did it correctly.

To have this test run, contact the IBS Treatment Center at 206-264-1111 for an appointment or send an email to info@IBSTreatmentCenter.com.

There is no single IBS diet that is best for everyone. The best irritable bowel syndrome diet for you depends on your food allergy profile and other health conditions.

Click on the links below for more information.

Information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

How Irritable Bowel Syndrome Develops

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment

Dr. Stephen Wangen
IBS Treatment Center and Center for Food Allergies
Email: info@IBSTreatmentCenter.com
11300 Roosevelt Way NE Suite 100 Seattle, WA 98125 • 206-264-1111

Food Allergies • Food Intolerance • Gluten Intolerance • Wheat Allergy
Milk Allergy • Peanut Allergy • Lactose Intolerance • Allergy Testing
Elimination Diet • Allergy Products • Supplements