For many who suffer from IBS, a plant-based diet can be scary. Many plant-based foods that provide good sources of protein and carbohydrates are perceived as ‘triggers’ and removed from the IBS diet.
In fact, a common protocol for alleviating IBS symptoms is the low FODMAP diet, which is a short term elimination diet that takes away many staple plant-based foods and leaves those following plant-based diets confused about which foods they can safely eat.
Can A Plant-based Diet Work For IBS?
Definitely! Although there are some plant-based foods that can cause symptoms for those with IBS, there are certainly lots of foods that can be safely included. Let’s break down some of the safe staples that can be part of a plant-based diet for IBS.
Protein Do’s and Don’ts
Getting enough protein may be your biggest concern while following a plant-based diet. Many plant-based proteins, such as beans, legumes, and lentils, may trigger IBS symptoms.
Small amounts of these foods may be tolerated, but those small quantities are often not enough to meet daily protein needs. So where do you get their protein from?
- Soy is a great choice for IBS in many forms, but not all.
- DO include firm tofu that has been fully drained, edamame beans, tempeh and textured vegetable protein (TVP).
- DO try to reduce most processed soy proteins, such as packaged soy-based burgers, sausages, and hot dogs, as they tend to have other fillers that can cause symptoms.
- BE CAREFUL with soy milk, yogurts, and some soy-based protein powders. Some are high and some are low in FODMAPS.
- DO keep beans, legumes, and lentils to smaller portions, as they can lead to increased symptoms
- DO use high protein, gluten-free grain sources such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and teff.
- If having a small portion of beans, DO balance your meals with a higher protein grain to increase your total protein intake.
- If you’re not set on being 100% plant-based, consider including lactose-free dairy or eggs for good protein sources.
Be Mindful of Your Fiber Intake
Fiber is something that we normally praise, but with IBS it is something you need to find a happy balance with. For some higher fiber can be helpful, while for others, too much can lead to painful symptoms.
Aside from the quantity, the specific type of fiber is also important.
For example, those who suffer from constipation (IBS-C) should look to include both soluble and insoluble fiber. Those with diarrhea (IBS-D) should look more for soluble sources.
Check out the table below for plant-based foods high in insoluble or soluble fiber.
|High in Insoluble Fiber||High in Soluble Fiber|
|Greens: Kale, collards, spinach, arugula||Starchy Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, summer and winter squash, parsnips, beets|
|Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts||Carrots|
|Green beans, snap peas, peas||Potatoes|
|Flavoring Vegetables: Onions, garlic, and leeks||Oatmeal and oat bran|
|Whole Grains: Bread, brown rice, wheat bran||Chia seeds, flax meal, psyllium husk|
|Nuts and seeds||Fruits: Citrus, apples, pears, berries|
A plant-based diet for IBS should include fibrous foods, but be careful not to surpass your tolerance. This will be a balancing act when you only eat plant foods. Be mindful of which foods are high in fiber. Incorporate those in moderation with foods that have less fiber if you find you are eating too much. As an example, if you want beans for dinner, pair it with a less fibrous starch and vegetable, such as white rice and carrots.
Raw May Not Be Best
The benefits of “cooked versus raw” is a concept that is often overlooked. If you have a sensitive digestive system, striking a balance between the two can make a huge positive difference. Cooking fibrous vegetables begins the breakdown process and makes them easier for the body to digest, and less likely to cause IBS symptoms. Keep in mind that ‘cooking’ doesn’t always have to mean using heat. You can use other ingredients to speed up the breakdown process.
Here are some tips to find your balance:
- Try keeping raw vegetables to 1 meal per day and having the rest cooked
- Massage tougher greens like kale with vinegar to help make them easier to digest.
- Try fermented vegetables to help ease digestion and for a tangy and sour note to your meal
Variety May Not Be The Spice Of Life
Sometimes less is more when it comes to varieties of foods and keeping IBS symptoms at bay. The greater the variety, the more work your body has to do to break your food down. Help your body out; instead of having 10 different vegetables in a stir fry, cut it down to your top 3 favorites.
See A Registered Dietitian to Find What Works Best For You
Finding your balance can be tricky. Having someone who specializes in IBS can help. Working with an RD you can figure out what your major food triggers are and create a plant-based irritable bowel syndrome diet that provides all of your nutrients and manages your symptoms.
Finding a plant-based diet for IBS may require a bit of patience and creativity. Finding good alternatives to foods that cause symptoms may take time, but it is not impossible. Be sure to stay mindful of how certain foods and food combinations make you feel to find the best plan for you and reduce your symptoms as much as possible.
Do you suffer from IBS? What is one food staple that makes you feel good?
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