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A Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) With Constipation

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation, you may feel too uncomfortable to eat anything. Yet it is very important to maintain a balanced diet for good health.

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Guide to Better Digestion, suggests enjoying all foods in moderation, and adding high-fiber foods to your diet gradually to help relieve IBS.

"The goal is not to be unnecessarily restrictive," Bonci says, pointing out that some people with IBS give up certain foods altogether to avoid constipation. "We don't want someone to become overly fatigued because they're not getting enough calories."

This is why it's a good idea to keep an IBS symptom journal. If you regularly write down the types of foods you eat, when and where you ate them, the amount, and the symptoms associated with the food, it may help you and your doctor figure out which foods and situations trigger your IBS symptoms.

"People can really come up with their own nutrition prescription," says Bonci.

A person with IBS may feel fine with two pieces of an apple, for instance, but the whole apple may send them over the edge.

There are particular foods that are known to help relieve or aggravate symptoms of constipation.
 

Boost Fiber for IBS

Fiber makes stool easier to pass in those with IBS. Too little of the roughage can make it hard to have a bowel movement. The ADA recommends 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams for men each day.  People over age 50 may need a little less fiber (21 grams for women and 30 grams for men). Fiber can be found in:

  • Whole-grain bread and cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans

Don't shock your system, though, with a sudden increase of fiber or fiber supplements in your IBS diet. Add a little fiber each day to give your body some time to get used to it. Fiber helps many people with IBS symptoms, but the some people may actually feel worse, warns J. Patrick Waring, MD, a gastroenterologist at Digestive Healthcare of Georgia.

Bonci proposes increasing fiber intake by 2 grams to 3 grams per day. For example, if you have IBS and normally consume 5 grams of fiber, try taking in 8 grams on your first day of increasing fiber.
 

Try Prunes and Liquids for IBS

Some fruity foods that are higher in the sugar sorbitol, such as dried plums (prunes) and prune juice, can also loosen bowels if you have IBS. But people with IBS should take care not to consume too much sorbitol. It can cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea.

Also, try ground flaxseed to ease IBS constipation symptoms, says Bonci. It can be sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetables, and cereals.

Another way to encourage bowel movements is to drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. 

On the other hand, fluids such as coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol have a dehydrating effect. Those drinks can actually make your IBS constipation worse.
 

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