For someone with irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, or IBS, the sudden urge to go to the bathroom can be uncomfortable and embarrassing; it's enough to make a person shun certain foods and situations.
The good news is that there are often dietary changes people with IBS can make to ease the rage of the runs. And you needn't completely give up any foods.
I've had the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome -- a gastrointestinal disorder -- for my whole life, but when I was younger, I didn't realize anything was wrong. My parents thought my cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea were normal because they had similar symptoms. So I thought it was normal, too. As I grew up, I pretty much just coped with it. It was inconvenient, but I did my best.
But three years ago, when I was 27, after having some minor surgery done, I had the worst symptoms ever...
"Moderation is important," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Guide to Better Digestion. It's important to maintain a balanced diet for good health when you have IBS. So never completely avoid certain groups of foods or you may be deprived of nutrients your body needs.
"People need to be able to take the time to experiment a little bit to find out what works for them," says Bonci. "People could be selective with what they have, saying, 'OK, I'm no good with apples, but I'm alright with a pear. Or grapes don't work for me, but I'm OK with having a little bit of a banana.'"
Keep an IBS symptom journal to track which foods and which amounts cause bouts of diarrhea. It's the best way to figure out which foods cause problems. Remember, different foods have different effects on each person. Also consider an elimination diet -- eliminate certain foods from your diet one at a time and see how you feel.
Get the Right Type of Fiber for IBS Relief
Whether you have IBS or not, there are certain elements in foods that are known to quicken bowel movement. Fiber is one of them, which is why fiber helps relieve constipation. Don't avoid fiber if you have diarrhea. It helps protect your body against heart disease and possibly cancer, so you need it.
Instead, Bonci suggests people with IBS eat more soluble fiber rather than insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber stays in the gut longer, adding bulk to the colon, which helps the colon work normally.
You find soluble fiber in:
Dried or canned beans
The flesh of fruits such as apples and oranges
Vegetables such as carrots
For comparison, insoluble fiber is found in the skins of fruits and root vegetables, in whole-wheat products, wheat and corn bran, and in vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans.