The new year is a common time to re-evaluate your situation and develop goals that you would like to achieve within the year. One of those goals may be improving your IBS symptoms! We’re here to help encourage and guide you to either begin or continue to take steps to improve your gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as your overall health. Below we have gathered some tips that are targeted at those with IBS, as well as some that can be used long-term by anyone to improve their overall well-being.
Unfortunately, we often see people following a very strict low FODMAP diet, who are only sticking to a small number of foods that they feel safe eating. While this may be helping in the short term, the lack of food group varieties may have a negative effect on nutritional status in the long run.
“Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day” – this is taken directly from the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. It is important because choosing a wide variety of foods means we are also getting a variety of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), which are essential for all our bodily functions. By over-limiting your food choices you may not be getting the right amounts of micronutrients. This is why it is important to re-challenge and test your tolerance to various FODMAP-containing foods over time to see if there are more foods you can tolerate.
Another benefit to rechallenging FODMAP-containing foods is increasing your prebiotic intake. Many of the high FODMAP foods we avoid are naturally high in prebiotics, which are fibres that feed our good gut bacteria. To increase your prebiotic intake, you can challenge yourself with amber serves of high prebiotic foods like artichoke hearts, chickpeas, snow peas, sweetcorn and savoy cabbage, while using the Monash FODMAP app to help guide you. You can also find a list of ‘green’ prebiotic foods in this previous blog post, which you could aim to include in your diet more regularly: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/dietary-fibre-series-prebiotic-fibre/
Remember, a low FODMAP diet is not for life – it is imperative you test your tolerance to find your threshold. For help with reintroduction, we strongly recommend seeking the guidance of a FODMAP-trained dietitian. Click here to see our full directory of dietitians.
There are many health benefits associated with including fibre in your diet. These include, but are not limited to
Within IBS, particularly IBS-C, consuming low FODMAP fibre-filled foods may assist with regulating gut transit.
To ensure you are eating enough fibre daily, check out our blog with high-fibre, low-FODMAP foods: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/getting-enough-fibre/. For Australian adults, it is recommended to aim for 25-30g per day.
If you find that you’re not eating enough fibre, make sure your carbohydrate choices are mostly wholegrain and try to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
Preparing a low FODMAP diet does not have to be tiring or tedious, and we have plenty of creative ideas to back you up. Don’t avoid going out and don’t let yourself go hungry, instead try some meal planning: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/low-fodmap-meal-planning/
Also stock your fridge, pantry and bag with nutritious low FODMAP snacks so you know that if you may not have access to any other suitable options, you won’t go hungry.
This tip is for everyone, IBS or not, as only 6.1% of Australian adults meet the recommended serves for fruit and vegetables per day.
Aim for 2 serves of fruit per day: for those with IBS, there are a variety of Low FODMAP options - try adding some to your breakfast or have a piece for morning tea!
Aim for 5 serves of vegetables: include vegetables as your mid-meal snacks and serve an extra side of salad or vegetables with your dinner.
For more information on serve sizes and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating head to: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/
All of the chemical reactions that occur in our body require water, so being properly hydrated is a great way to ensure we are performing at our best!
Within IBS, fluids are important for many symptoms. For IBS-C sufferers, inadequate hydration may contribute to constipation, and for IBS-D sufferers there can be high amounts of fluid lost through watery stools, so replacing your fluids is important.
Whilst drinking water is the simplest way to stay hydrated, we understand that not everyone enjoys drinking plain water. You can always try tea, some fruit or herbs in your water, milk (dairy or lactose-free where needed) or even low-FODMAP broths!
Exercise is not only great for our heart and lung health but might also improve gastrointestinal symptoms in those with IBS.
Whilst many people commit to exercising more at the start of a new year, it is not uncommon for this new passion to fade quickly, as many people try too much too soon. We often go from unsustainable high-intensity workouts every day, to nothing.
The government recommendations (AUS and US) are for ~2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise (e.g. brisk walking and some muscle strengthening) each week. However, if you find it hard to get out for planned exercise, the key message is “Some Activity is Better than None”. This means that you should try and break up long sitting periods and get yourself moving, even just within the house. This could include some vacuuming, pushing the lawn mower along or even putting on your favourite song and dancing! The key is to at least get your heart and breathing rates up a bit.
Turning these 6 changes into habits can take a while, so start small and work your way up for long-term health benefits!