The feeling of abdominal discomfort, a bloated belly and bowel irregularity, can be debilitating. However, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms do not have to control your life. It is possible to have a diet full of healthy fibre that can help you battle the bloat, restore bowel regularity and reduce unpleasant symptoms.

What is IBS?

IBS can include symptoms such as abdominal pain and cramps, irregular bowel movements, gas, bloating, nausea, heartburn and various degrees of anxiety and depression. The cause is not known, but several factors have been linked to the condition including altered intestinal muscle contractions, inflammation, gut infection, bacterial imbalance and nervous system issues.

What is fibre?

Fibre is essential for digestive health. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves and ferments in the colon, producing gases and nutrients that support colon health. It also helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar, nourishes the bowel and helps support the immune system. Insoluble fibre cannot be broken down and absorbed by the body, but it does provide bulk to the digestive tract. It regulates food absorption, promotes bowel regularity and metab- olism and can help with constipation and hemorrhoids.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are a group of sugars in the diet that are not absorbed well in the small intestine. As a result, they can cause gas-related pain, bloating and consti- pation or diarrhea in people suffering from functional gastrointestinal disor- ders (FGIDs) and IBS. High-FODMAP foods and fibre supplements include those that contain short-chain dietary fibres, such as inulin, wheat and corn dextrin, and isomaltooligosaccharides (IMOs).

Getting the right fibre

Adults 50 years and younger should aim for 25–38g of fibre daily. Adults over 50 should aim for 21–30g daily. Children and adults with FGID and IBS typically have difficulty meeting the rec- ommended daily intake of of fibre in their diets. Following a low-FODMAP diet may help relieve symptoms of IBS. Some may find it difficult to meet the recommended daily fibre intake because many high-fibre foods are high in FODMAPs.

Choosing the right supplement

If you are having difficulty reaching your daily fibre intake goals, a fibre supplement may be the answer. Choosing a fibre supplement for people
with IBS can be challenging if you are not sure what to look for. It is important to note as the fibre’s solubility in water and the potential to produce gas in the large intestine. Fibre supplements that contain wheat bran, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) may contribute to increased gas production and make symptoms worse.

Research on another type of fibre called partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) is showing beneficial effects in helping to manage constipation and diarrhea in IBS sufferers. PHGG is also prebiotic and helps to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. PHGG is also low-FODMAP, which is important for managing IBS.

Monash University in Australia has developed a low-FODMAP diet to help people manage FGID and IBS. For best results, choose a fibre that is certified low-FODMAP.

More Insight: Check out this awesome article on mushrooms which can also help with good gut health!

Author: Dr. Joyce Johnson is a licensed naturopathic doctor, the author of five books and a regular guest on TV outlets throughout the nation. She holds a certificate in adult education and specializes in health topics and natural health products.

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