Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Have You Tried An Elimination Diet?

The digestive tract is an intense environment. Acids are churning, muscles are contracting, and bacteria are feasting. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the intestines can become an all out warzone. Gas, cramping, and bloating are just the tip of the iceberg!

These IBS symptoms can be set off by a variety of factors, but one of the most common triggers is food. Surprisingly, food triggers are different for every IBS patient. What causes severe symptoms in one patient may not cause any symptoms in another patient.

So how can you determine exactly which food triggers are affecting you? Doctors and IBS experts say that a systematic approach is best. If you’ve tried other dietary treatments without success, you may want to try an elimination diet. This may sound a bit scary at first, but if you give it a try, you may be able to make major progress in relieving your IBS symptoms.

What Is An Elimination Diet?

This is not a “diet” in the sense that you’re trying to lose weight. This “diet” is simply an eating plan that focuses on avoiding the foods that are most likely to cause IBS symptoms. The general process goes like this: you eliminate potentially offending foods and add them back into your diet one at a time. This way, you can immediately correlate your symptoms with the recently added trigger food.

How Does An IBS Elimination Diet Work?

If you’re suffering from IBS, you shouldn’t undergo an elimination diet without speaking with your doctor first. Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead, you can begin the diet by keeping a food journal for two or three weeks. Don’t change what you’re eating during this time—just methodically record what you’re eating and any symptoms you’re feeling. You may also want to write down any medications you’re taking or any stress, anxiety, or depression that you’re feeling.

After you have a complete food diary, study it and try to find relationships between the food and your symptoms. If certain foods stand out, you should add those triggers to your elimination list. If you don’t see any clear-cut offending foods, start your elimination list with the most common IBS dietary triggers: dairy, wheat/gluten, high fructose corn syrup, eggs, excessive fiber, sorbitol, chocolate, coffee, caffeine, and nuts.

Once you have your list of potential triggers, there are a few different ways to go forward. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) suggests eliminating the foods one at a time for 12 weeks. For example, if you believe coffee is causing your symptoms, stop drinking it for 12 weeks and keep everything else about your diet the same. If your symptoms disappear over the course of 12 weeks, you know that coffee is one of your IBS triggers. If your symptoms are still raging, try eliminating another food for 12 weeks. Keep going until your symptoms are alleviated.

Other experts recommend eliminating all potential triggers for a period of two weeks. After that, you can add foods back into your diet one at a time. For example, if you believe both coffee and wheat were causing your IBS problems, you should stop eating both for two weeks. Then, on day 15, you will drink coffee again for one day. Wait 48 hours and see if you have any symptoms. If you do, that means that coffee is a trigger. If you don’t have symptoms, eat wheat for one day and wait 48 hours to see if any symptoms develop. You will continue adding foods back to your diet until you felt symptoms. When you do feel symptoms, the most recently added food is the culprit.

This Sounds Really Unfair!

The elimination diet isn’t easy and it is unfortunate that you have to deprive yourself of some types of foods. However, sticking with the diet for two weeks or more could really improve your health. It may be difficult now, but staying committed for just 14 days could mean a lifetime of lessened IBS symptoms.

Enjoyed this article?  Try reading these as well . . .
Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Does Your Bowel Need A Towel?
Don’t Be a Victim of Your Symptoms: Talking to Your Doctor about IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome study

Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Protenium Clinical Research

You’re dealing with abdominal pain and cramping. Maybe you have constipation or maybe you have diarrhea. You sometimes experience heartburn, nausea, and fatigue. What is going on in your body?! It could be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The symptoms of IBS vary greatly among affected individuals and often seem to have no pattern. Because of this, IBS is not easy to diagnose. Doctors often confuse the condition with celiac disease, endometriosis, bowel cancer, and Crohn’s disease. Many IBS patients undergo a large battery of tests and examinations before they are finally given a correct diagnosis.

However, in the past few years, the medical profession has made great strides in diagnosing IBS. They are beginning to see patterns in IBS symptoms and are improving the way they test for bowel irregularities.

If you think you may have IBS, be sure that your gastroenterologist is up-to-date with the most recent research and diagnostic methods concerning the condition. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), a properly trained doctor will be able to diagnosis IBS by evaluating at your symptoms, doing a physical exam, and running a few tests.

Evaluating the symptoms                   

Gastrointestinal specialists have created a specific set of specifications for IBS symptoms called the “Rome Criteria.” Since 1990, they’ve revised this criteria three times and now have a very detailed list of physical symptoms associated with the condition:

  • IBS patients have reoccurring abdominal pain during at least three days of each month for a period of three months or longer. With this pain, IBS patients will experience two or three of these other symptoms:
    • The pain improves when the patient empties the bowels.
    • When the pain starts, there was a change in the frequency of bowel movements.
    • When the pain starts, there was a change in the way the stool was formed (i.e. diarrhea or hard stool)

On the other hand, there are some gastrointestinal symptoms that are not usually related to IBS. These symptoms often signal a different health condition:

  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Symptoms that start after the age of 50
  • Family history of gastrointestinal diseases


After speaking with you about your symptoms, your doctor will want to run some medical tests. A few tests are necessary to diagnose IBS and rule out other conditions. But remember, your doctor shouldn’t be running every gastrointestinal test that exists!

  • Blood tests: These simple tests can make sure that you are otherwise healthy. The results will show if you have anemia, an infection, or excessive inflammation. A blood test may also be used to diagnose celiac disease.
  • Stool test: The lab will check your stool for signs of infection, parasites, or blood.
  • Colonoscopy: This test is done by inserting a scope internally and viewing the entire colon. The doctor will look at the inside of your intestines to look for signs of cancer, ulcers, or bleeding. Alternatively, the doctor may choose to perform a sigmoidoscopy, which is only looks at the lower part of the colon.

This revised method of diagnosing IBS is so much simpler than the old routine. It takes less time. It’s less taxing on the patient. It is less expensive for everyone. And, most importantly, it means that you can get the right treatment as soon as possible.

Enjoyed this article?  Try reading these as well . . .
Don’t Be a Victim of Your Symptoms: Talking to Your Doctor about IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Does Your Bowel Need A Towel?

 Irritable bowel syndrome study

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Does Your Bowel Need A Towel?


The sun is shining, the birds are singing and you’re in a great mood but your bowels?  Not so much.  Irritable Bowel System (IBS) affects roughly 20% of the population.  IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that does not harm the gastric system but does cause discomfort and embarrassment.

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with IBS.  Unfortunately, the causes of IBS are somewhat murky.  A combination of mental and physical factors can lead to IBS but it’s impossible to predict.

For many, diet is a critical component in the trigger and relief of IBS symptoms.  Food allergies account for a significant amount of IBS-related discomfort.  Keeping a food diary can help you figure out what foods are problematic.

In general, IBS sufferers should avoid or moderate intake of greasy food, dairy, whole grains, raw fruit, vegetables, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, alcohol, spicy food, nuts, seeds and chocolate.  While many of these items are part of a balanced diet, they tend to be harder on the gastrointestinal tract.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman,

A landmark paper, was recently published in the prestigious British medical journal Gut that found eliminating foods identified through delayed food allergy testing (IgG antibodies) resulted in dramatic improvements in IBS symptoms. Another article, an editorial in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, stated clearly that we must respect and recognize the role of food allergies and inflammation in IBS.”

Food allergies aside, what can you eat safely?

Fruits such as bananas, honeydew melon, mandarin oranges, raspberries and strawberries are easily digestible.

Focus on vegetables like bell peppers, bok choy, corn, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and carrots.  These options are less fibrous than some of their counterparts and are therefore easier to digest.

Whole grains can trigger (or worsen) IBS symptoms.  Stick to gluten-free products or oats.

Fiber is an essential part of every diet but it’s especially important for IBS sufferers in order to keep “things moving.”  The trick is consume sources of fiber that are gastrointestinal-friendly.

If you are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, talk with your doctor about the relationship between food allergies and IBS.  A few lifestyle changes may help your irritable bowels become a little less… well, irritable.

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Don’t Be a Victim of Your Symptoms: Talking to Your Doctor about IBS

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The clock is ticking and you’re nearly finished with your doctor appointment.  You’ve covered the usual topics but you’ve failed to mention the one thing that’s nearly overtaken your life recently – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  IBS symptoms are decidedly NOT sexy and at best incredibly embarrassing.

However, you have to start somewhere.  If you think you’re suffering from IBS, use the following as a guide to initiate discussions with your physician.

  • What is causing my IBS?
  • How does diet affect IBS symptoms?
  • Is my fiber intake appropriate to control IBS?
  • Do I need prescription medication?
  • Are laxatives safe to use with IBS?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to alleviate my IBS symptoms?
  • Is this a long-term condition?
  • Do menstrual cycles affect IBS?
  • Should I supplement my diet with probiotics?
  • How does stress affect IBS?  How do psychological issues impact IBS?
  • Should I be tested for gluten intolerance or allergies?
  • Is exercise harmful or helpful for IBS symptoms?
  • What is the outcome for people with IBS?
  • Are clinical trials an option?

Diagnosing IBS is a complicated process.  Rather than simply treating the symptoms, it’s important to discern what’s actually causing your discomfort.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman . . .

Emerging research has helped identify the underlying causes. For over 15 years I have been successfully treating irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions using a very simple methodology based on functional medicine that helps identify and remove the underlying causes and restores normal digestive function and health.”

IBS is most common in women, people under the age of 50 and those with a history of IBS in the family.  It is commonly defined as a group of symptoms like bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation.

Although IBS is termed “functional” (it does not harm the GI system), it can be extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient.  Not feeling in control of your bowels is both distressing and upsetting.  Your doctor is there to help you manage your symptoms and put you back in the driver’s seat.

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