• Yasmin Norazharuddin

A practical diet for IBS

If you just found out that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you are not the only one. In fact, approximately 11% of the worldwide population understands you. If you are a young woman and gas and bloating embarrass you, here is an interesting fact. Females are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to have this condition as opposed to men, and this condition affects the younger population more ageing 20-30 years old (1,2).

Apart from the discomfort, there is a raise of burden in terms of cost and quality of life, too. A study has shown participants from the UK recording 51.5% loss in work productivity due to IBS, compared to 27.7% for participants from Spain (3). Since IBS is an inter-related condition where the gut-brain interactions are disturbed, IBS patients have to balance both mental and physical aspects in life (4). So many things to have on one little plate!

Living with IBS during this era is a blessing with all the research and guides available with a tap of the finger. However, there are challenges that come alongside personal challenges to the environment. IBS can be time-consuming as you have to be particular about your food because you know.. a lot of foods trigger you. Well, that's what 84% of IBS patients have reported anyway (4) So long, 2-minute microwave meals.

While most people can get away with their tight schedule with the blessing of takeaways and ready meals, this modern-day diet is not for you anymore. Processed food and take-aways, especially fast food can be loaded with fat and sodium. While not many patients with IBS are sensitive to sodium, the high-fat content can cause loose stools, abdominal discomfort, bloating and increased gas (5,6,7).

According to a study, there is a strong correlation between gastrointestinal disorders and the consumption of ultra-processed foods. Participants who were in the top quartile had a higher risk for IBS. 10.5% out of the large pool of participants reported IBS with an underlying driver to functional dyspepsia (8) The continuous trend of eating foods high in refined sugar, saturated fat and artificial flavourings can alter our gut sensitivity and viscerality (11,12). Another interesting fact? Adults in the UK consume at least 79 million ready meals and 22 million fast-food being consumed weekly (13)

It’s time to quit feeding your gut the wrong things and take control of your life. Here are the 5 easy steps to start relieving those nasty IBS symptoms:

1. Collect menu and recipes

When you have a collection of recipes, especially ones categorising them by time to prepare and level, you will feel more confident in the kitchen and more organised. A clear mind is a happy mind and a happy mind = a happy gut!

2. Plan your meals and prep!

As a Registered Associate Nutritionist, I can’t say enough how much a big deal it is to meal prep. Prepping meals have shown a strong association with having a healthier diet (9,10) No matter what your goal is, prepping things beforehand will keep you on track.

3. Drink a lot of water

Because water is everything and especially if you are adding fibre to your diet. Increasing water intake should follow a diet that incorporates fibre as fibre absorbs water.

4. Read the ingredients list

If you used to be a grab and go shopper, it's time to take a few steps slower. Start reading the ingredients list to avoid any accidents. Choose a list that has 3 ingredients or less. The more ingredients it has and the complex it looks, the higher chances of you feeding the wrong thing to your gut.


  1. Card, T., Canavan, C., & West, J. (2014). The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical Epidemiology, 71.

  2. Introduction | Irritable bowel syndrome in adults: diagnosis and management | Guidance | NICE

  3. Tack, J., Stanghellini, V., Mearin, F., Yiannakou, Y., Layer, P., & Coffin, B. et al. (2019). Economic burden of moderate to severe irritable bowel syndrome with constipation in six European countries. BMC Gastroenterology, 19(1).

  4. Algera, J., Colomier, E., & Simrén, M. (2019). The Dietary Management of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Narrative Review of the Existing and Emerging Evidence. Nutrients, 11(9), 2162.

  5. Passos, M. C., Serra, J., Azpiroz, F., Tremolaterra, F., & Malagelada, J. R. (2005). Impaired reflex control of intestinal gas transit in patients with abdominal bloating. Gut, 54(3), 344–348.

  6. Simrén, M., Agerforz, P., Björnsson, E. S., & Abrahamsson, H. (2007). Nutrient-dependent enhancement of rectal sensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Neurogastroenterology and motility: the official journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society, 19(1), 20–29.

  7. Böhn, L., Störsrud, S., Törnblom, H., Bengtsson, U., & Simrén, M. (2013). Self-reported food-related gastrointestinal symptoms in IBS are common and associated with more severe symptoms and reduced quality of life. The American journal of gastroenterology, 108(5), 634–641.

  8. Schnabel, Laure MPH1,2; Buscail, Camille MD1,2; Sabate, Jean-Marc MD, PhD3,4; Bouchoucha, Michel MD3; Kesse-Guyot, Emmanuelle PhD1; Allès, Benjamin PhD1; Touvier, Mathilde PhD1; Monteiro, Carlos A. MD, PhD5; Hercberg, Serge MD, PhD1,2; Benamouzig, Robert MD, PhD3; Julia, Chantal MD, PhD1,2 Association Between Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Results From the French NutriNet-Santé Cohort, American Journal of Gastroenterology: August 2018 - Volume 113 - Issue 8 - p 1217-1228 doi: 10.1038/s41395-018-0137-1

  9. Wolfson, J., & Bleich, S. (2015). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition, 18(8), 1397-1406. doi:10.1017/S1368980014001943

  10. Mills, S., White, M., Brown, H., Wrieden, W., Kwasnicka, D., & Halligan, J. et al. (2017). Health and social determinants and outcomes of home cooking: A systematic review of observational studies. Appetite, 111, 116-134.

  11. Sonnenburg, E., & Sonnenburg, J. (2019). The ancestral and industrialized gut microbiota and implications for human health. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 17(6), 383-390.

  12. Noble, E., Hsu, T., & Kanoski, S. (2017). Gut to Brain Dysbiosis: Mechanisms Linking Western Diet Consumption, the Microbiome, and Cognitive Impairment. Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 11.


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