Living with IBS comes with many challenges and one of them is diet. While no food has been shown to cause IBS, many patients report a worsening of their symptoms after eating certain foods. This is why one of the most effective treatments for IBS is diet modification.
Vegan diet is popular these days and there are many reasons why you might want to try it. These include a concern for animal rights, the environment, and a desire for a refreshing change.
But if you have IBS, you can run into problems when following a vegan diet because it may trigger your symptoms.
But there’s a way to try it without triggering your IBS. So in this article, we’ll discuss whether a vegan diet can be used to cure IBS and how you can incorporate it as someone with IBS. Let’s begin!
Can a vegan diet cure IBS?
No, a vegan diet can’t cure IBS. In fact, there’s no cure for IBS yet — doctors can only keep your symptoms under control but they can’t make IBS go away permanently. And while diet modification is one way to keep IBS in check, a vegan diet has not been shown to improve it.
If not tailored appropriately, a vegan diet can make your IBS worse. That’s because many plant-based foods contain FODMAPs. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols and they are a type of sugar that’s hard to digest.
Since the body can’t break FODMAPs down very well, they reach the large intestine unchanged. In the large intestine, FODMAPs can cause the release of gas as bacteria feed on them. FODMAPs also increase the water content of your gut because they’re osmotic.
Since people with IBS are very sensitive to even minor changes in the gut, increased gas and water content in the gut leads to uncomfortable symptoms.
The way you can deal with this problem is to combine your vegan diet with a low-FODMAP diet. Let’s see how.
How to eat plant-based foods with IBS?
To follow a vegan diet as someone with IBS, you must combine it with a low-FODMAP diet. As mentioned earlier, FODMAPs are a common trigger for IBS. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a low-FODMAP can alleviate IBS symptoms.
For example, this meta-analysis looking at several randomized controlled trials concluded that a low-FODMAP diet can lead to significant reductions in abdominal pain and bloating associated with IBS.
To follow a low-FODMAP diet, you start by eliminating all FODMAP-based foods in your diet. This is called the elimination phase. You then reintroduce foods one at a time to see which ones trigger your symptoms. Once you identify the culprit foods, you exclude them from your diet permanently.
To combine the low-FODMAP and vegan diets, you follow the usual low-FODMAP diet steps. Once you’ve identified the trigger foods and excluded them from your diet, you eat only those low-FODMAP foods that are also plant-based.
Now, this might be difficult because you won’t have too many food choices that are low-FODMAP and plant based at the same time. This means your diet might become too restrictive and you develop nutrient deficiencies. So it’s extremely important that you consult a healthcare provider knowledgeable about nutrition before making any changes to your diet.
Some plant-based foods that are low in FODMAPs include:
- Peanuts, almonds, coconut
Again, this is just a basic list and your actual diet plan will depend upon expert advice, your personal preferences, and local availability.
In case you’re consuming too many FODMAPs as part of your vegan diet, you can try FODMAP Digestive Enzymes to keep your IBS symptoms in check. These enzymes break down the FODMAPs found in fruits and vegetables and prevent them from triggering your IBS.
What are the benefits of a vegan diet?
It’s understandable that you want to try a vegan diet because it has several science-backed benefits.
For starters, it can help you lose weight. Several studies have compared the vegan diet to other types of diet to see which one is more conducive to weight loss. And in many of these studies, the vegan diet has come out to be on top.
Obesity is linked to a wide range of complications — including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke — and a vegan diet might help you avoid these.
In addition to its beneficial effects on body weight, a vegan diet has also been shown to have direct effects on your cardiovascular health. When you follow a vegan diet, your risk of developing high blood pressure falls by as much as 75%. You may also see a reduction in blood cholesterol levels.
Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol both protect you against cardiovascular disease.
Finally, vegan diets have been associated with a reduced risk of a variety of cancers including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.
But once again, when you combine a vegan diet with a low-FODMAP diet, your dietary choices might become too few. This could lead to a variety of health problems due to malnutrition. So it’s important to seek the help of a professional to make sure you get necessary nutrients.
Some general tips for dealing with IBS
IBS is a complex disease and dietary modification is just one aspect of treating it. It’s not only important what you eat but how you eat it also matters. Eating too quickly, eating while working or driving, and chewing gum excessively can all make IBS worse (even if you’re on a low-FODMAP diet).
Stress also plays a major role in IBS and effective stress management is an important part of treatment. Here are some healthy ways to manage stress that can help you keep IBS in control.
Finally, some drugs (like antibiotics and antidepressants) may make IBS worse. If you feel your IBS symptoms come on after taking a drug, make sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider to see if they can prescribe you an alternative medicine.