Having tummy trouble? If you're prone to abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation, you could have irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a group of co-existing digestive symptoms that develop because of changes in the way your gastrointestinal tract works. It's estimated to affect up to 20 percent of the population and about twice as many women as men. Take heart -- certain foods may help minimize or prevent flareups. For severe or long-lasting symptoms, it's best for you to seek medical guidance.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide valuable amounts of fiber and water, both of which prevent constipation. Fiber also improves the way intestines function. Gradually increase your fruit and vegetable intake to allow your digestive system time to adjust, and avoid fiber-rich varieties when diarrhea sets in to prevent worsened symptoms. Otherwise, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables routinely. Berries, pears, peas, artichokes and cooked, leafy greens are particularly high in fiber.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir, a yogurt-like beverage, provide probiotics, or healthy bacteria that promote normal digestion function. Probiotics may help relieve IBS symptoms, including gas, abdominal pain and constipation. For best results, choose yogurt and kefir that list live active cultures, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium, as ingredients. For added fiber, top yogurt with fresh fruit.
Cold-water fish are top sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that reduce inflammation in your body. Fish also provides a lean alternative to saturated fat-rich foods, which tend to exacerbate IBS symptoms. To prevent added saturated fat, prepare fish using healthy cooking methods, such as baking, broiling and poaching. Fish particularly high in omega-3s include salmon, halibut, mackerel, albacore tuna and sardines.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain valuable vitamin, mineral, protein and fiber content during processing. A diet rich in whole grains can help restore normal bowel function in IBS sufferers and help ease constipation. Nutritious whole grain foods include quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, pearled barley and air-popped popcorn. During bouts of diarrhea, stick to lower-fiber grain products, such as long-grain white rice.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com