According to Ayurveda, Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet should be light, warm, and easy to digest. At the same time, one should practice strict discipline towards the types of foods, quantity and food timings.
It is hard to confirm IBS in initial stages as the symptoms may coincide with other disturbances in the digestive tract. Usually IBS Symptoms can be confirmed when the disease has progressed to medium or severe intensity stage.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be cured and managed by consistent changes in diet and lifestyle.
In this post you will learn about Irritable bowel syndrome diet, best foods for IBS, and foods that should be avoided when you are struggling with Irritable bowel.
Ayurveda states that to cure a health problem, we should first look into the root cause. And of course, once you know what is leading to your IBS symptoms, you will find it much easier to practice right diet to cure irritable bowel syndrome.
So, let’s begin by looking into IBS symptoms, causes and triggers from Ayurvedic perspective.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
IBS is a functional disorder related to an irregular bowel movement. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms are present in nearly 9% – 21% of the general population.
Hence, IBS is classified according to the primary symptoms that a patient faces: IBS with constipation (IBS-C), with diarrhea (IBS-D), Mixed IBS (IBS-M) with both constipation and diarrhea.
The symptoms of IBS vary with the intensity of the disorder and with the specific imbalances in the body of the patient. Here are the most common IBS Symptoms:
- Abdominal pain – A feeling of cramping and pain in the lower half of the belly. It is usually eased or partly eased after passing a bowel movement.
- Formation of excess gas or bloating in the stomach
- Diarrhea mostly with violent ones
- Constipation is sometimes alternating with painful episodes of diarrhea
- An occurrence of mucus in the stool. Stools may be harder or smoother, or ribbon-shaped
- Some people also suffer from urinary symptoms or sexual problems.
It is important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs of IBS.
What are the Causes and Triggers for IBS Symptoms?
IBS is not really a disease. It is actually a cluster of symptoms related to poor digestive system health. In Ayurveda, IBS is called “Grahani”. It is classified as a major health disorder of digestive system.
According to Ayurveda, accumulation of toxins in the digestive tract along with imbalance in the Dosha are the primary causes of IBS. Toxin build up leads to inflammation of the digestive tract and disturbs the normal functioning of the digestive system.
There are many things that worsen the symptoms of IBS like certain foods, medicines, poor eating habits, and mental stress. Therefore, the patient needs to know about the triggers and accordingly make changes in diet and lifestyle to avoid them cautiously.
1. Foods that trigger IBS
Many people suffer from IBS or their IBS symptoms get worsened by eating or drinking specific foods or beverages. For example, dairy products, wheat products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and carbonated drinks worsen the symptoms of IBS.
Many people go through severe symptoms right after the meals or after the consumption of meals rich in complex carbohydrates, caffeine, spices, lactose, fatty foods, or alcoholic drinks.
2. Hormonal Changes
In comparison to men, women are more susceptible to have IBS. In fact, women are twice as likely to have IBS symptoms during hormonal changes such as during Pregnancy, at Menarche, or in Perimenopause. Many women experience the signs and symptoms of IBS getting worse during or around their menstrual cycle.
Most of the time, people having IBS experience the signs and symptoms more when they are highly stressed. A lot of times psychosocial factors such as physical or mental abuse, bad experiences such as accidents, or loss of loved ones can lead one to stressful conditions and hence trigger IBS symptoms.
Most people with IBS find that the symptoms are worse or more frequent during periods of increased stress, such as final week or the first few weeks on a new job.
Antibiotics can worsen or trigger IBS as they impact our gut flora. Regular use or abuse of antibiotics can also be the cause of permanent alteration of gut biome and hence a condition as IBS.
5. Microbial or Viral Infections of the digestive system
Severe infection can be another cause of IBS. After a severe bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) due to bacteria or a virus, this problem can occur. IBS occurs due to bacterial overgrowth or a surplus of bacteria in the intestines.
6. Changes in bacteria in the Gut
Microflora, the “good” bacteria are found in the intestines and these play a key role in keeping us healthy. Research reveals that there are some differences between the microflora in people with IBS and healthy people.
7. Irregular Intestinal Contractions
There are layers of muscle present on the walls of the intestines which contract with the moving of food through the digestive tract.
When the contractions are stronger and continue for a longer time than normal can create gas, bloating and diarrhea.
On the other hand, weak intestinal contractions can reduce the flow of food passage and cause constipation and hard, dry stools.
8. Inflammation in the intestines
There is a much higher number of immune system cells present in the intestine of some people with IBS. These cells are responsible for causing pain and diarrhea.
Ayurvedic Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
According to Ayurveda, Vata Dosha is responsible for all motions inside the body including excretion. Hence, when Vata dosha is out of balance, one becomes prone to irregular bowel movement, pain, constipation, and bloating.
Similarly, when Kapha Dosha is out of balance, then there is toxin build-up or Ama formation in the body. Additionally, Pitta imbalance leads to heat and inflammation in the body.
However, when all three dosha get involved, then it leads to excessive pain and severity of the health symptoms.
Hence, one is advised to consult an Ayurvedic physician at the onset of the IBS symptoms to find relief as soon as possible.
Ayurvedic Treatment for IBS
Ayurvedic treatment of IBS involves following steps:
- Systematic detoxification of the digestive tract to clear out “Ama” and excess Pitta.
- Establish digestive fire or Agni, so that the patient starts to experience regular appetite and bowel movement.
- Practice yoga and pranayama to balance Vata Dosha, promote mental wellness, and relieve stress.
- Diet, Herbs, and Lifestyle that promote balance of Dosha and conserve the digestive fire. This will prevent onset of IBS in the future.
A short video on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet can be watched here.
Best Foods that relieve IBS Symptoms | Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet in Ayurveda involves consumption of light to digest, warm, and unctuous meals. Choose foods that are naturally sweet, lightly sour, and salty in taste.
Here’s a list of foods that are suitable for all Dosha while following an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet:
- Squashes – Sumer and Winter squashes
- Gourds – Winter melon, cucumber, snake gourd, Ridge gourd
- Carrots and Green Beans (limited amount)
- Ladies Finger – Okra (limited amount)
- Sweet and sour fruits such as grapes, apples, oranges, and banana
- Lightly cooked sprouts
- Soups, Porridge, Gruels, Khichadi
- Stir-fried vegetables
- Warm water (sip throughout the day)
- Herbal Teas
- Takra or Lassi (for dose of probiotics)
- Small Beans such as Mung Beans and Aduki Beans
- Whole grains (properly cooked)
- Ghee and pure oils
Foods to Avoid | Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet
As the symptoms of IBS vary from individual to another, so the allergens that trigger IBS may vary. It is important that you keep track and remove those foods that trigger digestive issues for you. Besides, here is a list of foods that should be avoided while following an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet:
- Avoid the consumption of processed foods. Processed foods contain allergens that would trigger inflammation and immune response leading to IBS symptoms.
- Red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat, and cow’s milk are some examples of foods that trigger IBS. If you want to get the same food value that provides the triggers, you can eat spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, yoghurt, tofu, sardines, salmon with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice and bread, etc.
- Fried and greasy foods lead to the production of cholecystokinin hormone that induces contractions in the colon and hence making the pain or symptoms of IBS worse.
- Avoid irritants such as caffeinated drinks – coffee and tea, Soda, Alcohol, and Nicotine.
- Avoid chewing gums, mint, and tobacco products that introduce excess air into the body through the digestive tract.
- One should stop Vata Dosha promoting foods. These include heavy, gaseous, and hard to digest foods such as beans, cabbage, dairy products, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Regular use of Ayurvedic Herbs (as per prescription from Ayurvedic Physician) can help to establish the digestive fire, clear out the toxins, and relieve the symptoms of IBS. Here’s a list of Ayurvedic herbs that support digestive system health:
- Licorice (not to be used in hypertension)
- Wood apple – Bael Fruit
- Aloe vera juice with lemon and honey (in limited amount)
- Cooling herbs and spices such as coriander, mint, lemongrass, and fennel (in case of inflammation and heat – high Pitta Dosha)
Dietary Habits to Adopt | Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet
- Avoid untimely meals – One should eat at a fixed time and in a fixed quantity. Following a routine helps to bring the Vata Dosha in balance.
- Eat foods and drinks that can help to flush toxins out such as juices, unctuous and hydrating fruits, and vegetables.
- Consume soft and easy to digest foods such as khichari and porridge.
- Sip warm/hot teas such as cumin tea, fennel tea, and ginger tea.
- Consume flax seed and psyllium husk in the night.
- Stop smoking.
- Hydrate with water and natural drinks such as coconut water.
- Avoid large meals and start with small 4-5 meals instead of 3 big ones. More often than not large meals cause cramps and burden the digestive system.
- Limit the intake of milk or other dairy products.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle to manage IBS Symptoms
- Include daily work out regime, preferably in the form of brisk walks or swimming. Do not carry out strenuous physical activity, as it will aggravate Vata, instead follow calm, relaxing, and toning activities in nature.
- Increase physical activity such as yoga to strengthen abdominal muscles. Stronger muscles are able to handle cramps and gas much better.
- Management of stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, music, and massage.
- Reduce and manage stress. Avoid stressful situations and triggers.
- Practice mindfulness, read books, listen to music and pursue healthy lifestyle habits.
- Disconnect from the internet and social media and spend time with loved ones.
- Spend time in open and natural spaces.
How long does IBS last?
IBS can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle and productivity. Mainly these conditions occur in people of age group between late teens to the early 40s. It is a chronic condition with very high chances of relapse with variations in the degree of severity.
While IBS does not cause any permanent harm to intestines or to any chronic health disorder, it is highly uncomfortable due to malfunctioning of intestinal muscles and can trigger a lot of mental and physical stress.
Modern lifestyle has taken its toll even on the young population and Irritable Bowel Syndrome has become very common. Persistent stress, pollution, untimely eating, and incompatible foods are some of the reasons that are either the triggers or primary causes behind IBS symptoms.
What happens if IBS goes untreated?
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS is often diagnosed based on symptoms, as there is no specific test to diagnose the condition. While IBS can be unpleasant and disruptive, it is not generally considered a serious condition. However, if left untreated, IBS can lead to some serious complications.
Untreated IBS can increase the risk for gastrointestinal infections, as well as other conditions such as anxiety and depression. IBS can also lead to malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. In severe cases, IBS can even cause intestinal blockages. While these complications are rare, they highlight the importance of seeking treatment for IBS. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available for this condition. With the help of a qualified healthcare provider, individuals with IBS can manage their symptoms and enjoy a healthy life.
How do doctors test for IBS?
Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine with a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating illness. According to Ayurveda, IBS is caused by imbalances in the digestive system. To test for IBS, a doctor will first take a medical history and conduct a physical examination. They may also order tests to rule out other conditions, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Once IBS has been diagnosed, the doctor will create a treatment plan based on the patient’s individual needs. This may include lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, as well as herbal supplements and medicated enemas. By restoring balance to the digestive system, Ayurvedic medicine can effectively treat the symptoms of IBS.