A Diet for IBS With Constipation (IBS-C)

If you have IBS-C, you may be concerned about what to eat. You need to keep a balanced diet while you avoid foods that trigger symptoms for you. Try a few simple tips to make your diet work better for you.

Keep a Symptom Journal

An IBS symptom journal can help you and your doctor figure out which foods may trigger your symptoms. Make a habit of writing down any symptoms you might have, along with what and how much you ate beforehand. If you see a pattern with certain foods, see if you feel better when you don't eat them, or cut back on how much of them you eat. But cut foods one at a time. If you cut several foods at the same time, you won't know for sure which one may be causing your symptoms.

Build a Diet That Works for You

These tips can help you come up with your own healthy new meal plan:



Limit highly refined foods. These foods lose some important nutrients in the process of making them. They fill you up but don't give you the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need. Think twice before you eat:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Chips
  • Cookies and pastries

Boost fiber. Fiber makes stool easier to pass. It helps many people with IBS-C symptoms, but not everyone.

Too little roughage in your diet can make it hard to have a bowel movement. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 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).

You can get fiber in foods such as:

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

Although  meeting your daily fiber needs is best accomplished by eating the right foods, taking a fiber supplement can also help. Examples include psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, and calcium polycarbophil.

Don't shock your system with a sudden increase of fiber, though. Your body will need time to get used to it, so add a little each day. Too much at once may make you feel worse.

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Try increasing your intake by 2 grams to 3 grams per day. For example, if you normally eat 5 grams of fiber, try getting 8 grams on your first day and go from there. If it helps, stick with it until you're getting as much as experts recommend.

Try prunes and liquids. Some fruity foods that are higher in the sugar sorbitol, such as prunes, dried plums (another name for prunes), and prune juice, can loosen bowels. But again, too much can cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea.



Some people find ground flaxseed helps ease their IBS-C symptoms. You can sprinkle it on salads, cooked vegetables, and cereals.

Keeping yourself well-hydrated can help, too. Drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. But coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol can dehydrate you and make your IBS-C symptoms worse.

Keep some carbs. Be mindful of low-carb diets. A high-protein and low-carb diet can cause constipation. You need protein, but don't cut out the carbs from fruits and vegetables. They'll help keep your digestive track working.

Change the Way You Eat

Some simple changes may help you gain control of your IBS-C symptoms.

Eat smaller meals more often. Some people with IBS-C find it helps to eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones.

Don't skip breakfast. This meal, more than any other, can get your colon active.

Dine at leisure. Too often we eat on the run or at our desks. But eating in a rush can trigger IBS-C symptoms. Try not to do other things while you're eating, such as drive or sit in front of the computer. The stress of multitasking may trigger symptoms, and if you eat quickly and swallow air, it can cause gas or bloating.

Relax and enjoy your food.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on May 08, 2016

Sources

SOURCES: 

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, nutrition consultant. 

Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome;"  "What I need to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome;" and "Constipation." 

J. Patrick Waring, MD, Digestive Healthcare of Georgia.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

University of California at Berkeley Wellness Guide to Dietary Supplements.

Harvard Health Publications: "Understanding and treating an irritable bowel."

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: "IBS Diet: What to Do and What to Avoid."

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