Whether you have been clinically diagnosed with IBS, or you just suffer from IBS like tendencies such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, there are many helpful tips for minimizing IBS symptoms that can help. If you cook a good bit at home, then you’re already ahead of the game since you have complete control over what goes in your food and how it is prepared. If you eat out a good bit at restaurants, or worse, eat take out, it’s much harder to find ways to minimize IBS. The best way to reduce your symptoms immediately is through your cooking. It’s also important to eat in a calm environment that isn’t stressful, since that may upset your IBS symptoms as well. You should also be sure to avoid eating when you’re stressed to minimize symptoms. Other than that, follow these cooking tips for minimizing IBS symptoms, and you’ll see a huge improvement in just weeks.
1. Protein and Starch Separate
One of the most helpful things in minimizing IBS symptoms is to keep sources of proteins and starches separate during your meals. Why? Well, they both digest at very different rates in the stomach, and when eaten together, people with sensitive digestive systems have a very hard time processing them both together. Gas, bloating, pain, and indigestion can all occur. When you eat a protein and starch together, it can take as long as 6-8 hours for them to completely digest, versus 3-4 when eaten alone, or when either are eaten with green vegetables and fat. Starches include potatoes, grains, winter squash, flours, processed carbohydrates, and bananas. Beans and legumes are both a starch and protein in one food, so it is best to avoid them altogether. Proteins and starches can each be eaten with vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but be sure to consume proteins and starches at separate meals for the best effects on digestion. Avocados digest as a starch or a protein, so you can use them as your starch or protein source during your meals as well. If you follow this tip, you’ll notice less pain after your meals, extremely reduced amounts of gas and bloating, and a more positive digestion experience overall.
2. Focus on Soluble Fiber
Fiber is important to consume for anyone, but especially those with IBS. Yet, what you should know before you start loading up on fiber is to pick the right kind. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The best ways to ensure you don’t suffer IBS symptoms are to pick soluble fiber at all your meals to cook with. Luckily, soluble fiber is often found in some of the best tasting foods. Winter squash, pumpkin, wild rice, artichokes, oatmeal, applesauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, chia seeds, hemp seeds or hemp protein, quinoa, and avocados are all fantastic sources of soluble fiber. These foods can help keep your bowels regular, yet they are very soothing to the stomach, and less harsh than insoluble fiber found in beans, legumes, nuts, most seeds, wheat, bran, cruciferous vegetables, and most fruits.
3. Go Oil-free
Healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, and flax oil are all wonderful to consume, but when you’re cooking, it’s best to go oil free if you have IBS symptoms regularly. Oil can cause the colon to become spastic, and it also slows down digestion. Both are extremely bad for anyone with IBS symptoms. Instead of cooking with oil, steam your vegetables, dry bake your meats, and use nonstick spray instead of oil to cook with on the stove top.
4. Don’t Overcrowd Your Plate
Small meals that have a good source of protein or starch, vegetables, and a little fat from a whole food (not an oil) are best for those with IBS or IBS symptoms. It’s okay if you have to eat smaller meals than everyone else, but do be sure you eat enough, and snack if you need to. Avoid overeating anytime you cook, or cooking extremely dense, fatty foods, which will sit in your stomach much longer, causing issues. Smaller meals can help your body absorb nutrients better, and enhance the speed of digestion, eliminating symptoms.
5. Bake, Don’t Fry
Along with going oil free, also make sure you bake all your foods, roast them, or dry saute them. Whatever you do, don’t fry anything, especially fatty foods like eggs or meat, which can be a nightmare for anyone with IBS. Eliminating the oil in your diet and not frying your food will make a huge difference in your IBS symptoms overall.
6. Make Meals Simpler
You should also aim to make your meals simpler when you cook. It can be fun to throw a lot of delicious ingredients into one meal, but it’s best to keep things simple. Remember, the simpler the meal, the easier digestion will be.
7. Choose Herbs, Not Hot Spices
I love to add flavor to my meals, but usually use herbs instead of spices. Herbs like oregano, fennel, basil, parsley, sage, mint, thyme, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves are all excellent to cook with, but avoid hot spices such as cayenne, paprika, and chili powder. All of these can exacerbate IBS symptoms pretty quickly, and are best avoided. You should avoid hot sauce or other condiments with spicy ingredients as well. Usually mustard is tolerated fine, however ketchup and hot sauce may not be.
8. Avoid Sugar
Sugar is one of the most harmful foods anyone can eat, but for those with IBS, it can be a nightmare of pain. Sugar causes fermentation in the gut, which immediately leads to gas, diarrhea, bloating, pain, and even constipation. It’s also terrible for you anyway, so just avoid it whenever possible. You’ll also need to avoid healthier sources of sugar like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, and all artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Stevia should be safe since it is a natural, calorie-free sweetener from an herb, and it has no sugar whatsoever. Just be sure to choose the liquid form, along with powdered forms that have no additives. I like NuNaturals brand and Sweetleaf by Wisdom Naturals.
9. Choose Whole Foods
The absolute best tip I could give anyone wanting to cook healthier and manage IBS symptoms at the same time is to just choose whole foods instead of processed foods. This one step can help IBS symptoms incredibly, along with change your health for life.
If you have IBS or IBS symptoms, you know that eating can be a challenge most of the time. Luckily, by preparing most of your own meals, you can take matters into your own hands, and still enjoy the delicious benefits of cooking in your own home. Do you have a cooking tip for managing IBS? I’d love to hear it!