Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn't a pleasant diagnosis, but it can be a relief to finally know what is wrong if you have been dealing with the stomach upset and pain associated with this condition. If you have recently been diagnosed with IBS and you are a vegetarian, you may be wondering what dietary changes you will need to make. The following guide can help.
Understanding the diagnosis
First, it is important to understand what IBS is and isn't. There is no consensus on a single cause of IBS flareups. Instead, it is a condition that can be brought on by any number of things. These can include the following:
digestive tract sensitivity
This means there is no one-size-fits-all diet to treat IBS. As a vegetarian, this is good news since it means you can likely find options that will help relieve your symptoms without having to eat meat.
Recognizing common food triggers
Many foods associated with IBS flare-ups are those that are either hard to digest or that are known to produce gas. For example, broccoli, cauliflower, and other vegetables in the cabbage family are considered "gassy" vegetables, as are many legumes. For the same reason, dairy items can also be a trigger food.
Fat can be a trigger for some IBS sufferers, but isn't usually a problem for vegetarians unless you consume a lot of vegetable or seed oils. Another common trigger is carbohydrate-heavy foods, especially low-fiber simple carbs like white bread. You may need to cut back on carbs if you consume these heavily.
Learn your safe foods
High fiber vegetables, on the other hand, including carrots, root vegetables, and leafy greens, can lead to a healthier digestive system and fewer flare-ups because they don't tend to rush through the system nor do they "clog" it up. Fruit can also be a safe food, unless sugar triggers your symptoms. If you are a fish-and-dairy only vegetarian, non-fatty fish and shellfish may be a safe food. For some, cheese is also okay, especially lower-fat varieties. This is because the process of making the cheese breaks down the lactose, which is the main gas-producing agent in dairy.
Whole grains can be another safe food for vegetarians. Much like high-fiber vegetables, whole grains tend to move through the digestive system without causing upset. You may need to experiment with different grains to find those that will work best for you.
Talk with a doctor that specializes in IBS about your dietary concerns. They can help you come up with a plan to discover which foods you should eliminate for the best digestive health.