Affecting nearly 15% of the population annually, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders in the United States and one of the most common reasons people visit a gastroenterologist. IBS tends to be a chronic condition and has no cure, but a number of treatments have been developed to relieve many symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. For those trying to lose weight, however, some of these treatments can make it a little more difficult. Fortunately, however, doctors and nutritionists have discovered ways to achieve weight loss even with IBS.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a group of common gastrointestinal symptoms that appear together in various combinations. Because of this, IBS is not a well-defined condition, and symptoms will vary from person to person. However, the defining characteristic of these symptoms is bowel function problems and the maintenance of bowel movement consistency. The nature and frequency of these types of symptoms can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and can disrupt work, school, or relationships.
As mentioned above, irritable bowel syndrome is quite common in the US and around the world, and many people may be suffering from it without even realizing it. Anyone can develop IBS, but women are twice as likely as men. Also, unlike many other health conditions that affect us more often as we age, you are much more likely to develop IBS. before 50 years old than after turning 50. IBS should not be confused with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), which is a different condition that specifically involves inflammation of the intestinal lining.
Symptoms associated with IBS
IBS is generally a chronic, lifelong condition, but symptoms can change over time, especially if steps are taken to manage them. In general, IBS symptoms are related to bowel movements, so most people find that they decrease shortly after they have a bowel movement. Below are some of the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome:
- abdominal pain
- changes in bowel movements over time
- bloating or cramping
- feeling of incomplete bowel movement
- pale colored mucus in the stool
- excess gas or gases
What causes IBS?
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but ongoing research suggests that it is likely a combination of factors. IBS is one of several types of functional gastrointestinal disorders, and these disorders are widely believed to be caused by a problem with the interaction between the digestive system and the brain. This “gut-brain axis” involves complex biochemical signaling between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. It is thought that disturbances in these interactions may be the underlying cause of IBS by increasing or decreasing the rate of normal intestinal motility.
Although the cause of IBS is not fully understood, there seem to be some common factors that can make someone more likely to develop it. There is also some evidence that genetics may play a role. Below are some factors that seem to be associated with IBS:
- food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity
- bacterial infections of the digestive tract
- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a gut health problem that results from a change in the makeup of the gut microbiome
- Stressful or traumatic events from early life, such as sexual abuse or physical abuse
- mental disorders such as depression or anxiety
How does IBS affect weight loss?
On the surface, it may not be clear why or how IBS can interfere with a weight management program or even cause weight gain. One reason has to do with the impact IBS can have on quality of life. symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and constipation, for example, can cause significant distress in a variety of social situations. The combination of ongoing physical distress and gastrointestinal distress can cause depression and lead to overeating or eating higher-calorie foods to feel better. Emotional eating in this way can further exacerbate IBS symptoms, creating a mental health spiral.
Another reason that can interfere with weight loss is the dietary changes that are often necessary for IBS patients. Since there is no cure for IBS, one way to manage symptoms is to change your eating habits to avoid “trigger” foods. One of the most common strategies for this is to adopt a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, and this refers to short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and are instead fermented in the large intestine. This fermentation process can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in some people, especially those with IBS.
The American College of Gastroenterology has provided a list of high FODMAP foods to avoid and some low FODMAP foods that are better for IBS. There are many foods on the FODMAP list that are otherwise very healthy options for any diet, including a diet aimed at weight loss. When eliminating these foods in an attempt to manage IBS symptoms, it’s easy to fall into the habit of replacing them with foods high in simple carbohydrates. While such foods may not be inherently incompatible with a weight loss program, high-carb options tend to be less filling and easier to metabolize. over time, this can promote overeating and inhibit caloric deficits.
How to lose weight with IBS
While losing weight with irritable bowel syndrome can be more difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. IBS symptoms can still be effectively managed while maintaining a diet that is both healthy and helps create a caloric deficit. The key is finding the right combination of foods that avoid IBS flare-ups, provide proper nutrition, and are enjoyable to eat. Below are some diet tips for losing weight with IBS:
- Low FODMAPAs mentioned earlier, FODMAP foods have been found to be some of the most likely to trigger IBS symptoms. Limiting or eliminating these foods and replacing them with low FODMAP options is the first step.
- High proteinAn emphasis on lean proteins is essential for weight loss and overall health and well-being. Protein is easier on the gut than many carbs, and it will keep you feeling full longer.
- Healthy fatsAvoid trans fats and saturated fats, and instead look to olive oil, seeds, nuts and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid simple carbohydratesFoods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and cookies, can trigger IBS symptoms while also negatively affecting the body’s insulin levels.
- Avoid sweetenersArtificial sweeteners such as sorbitol contain sugar alcohols (polyols) that are difficult to digest.
- MoisturizeMany people with IBS have a variant that either tends to cause diarrhea or constipation. In either case, drinking plenty of water can reduce the likelihood of any symptoms.
The bottom line is that it is definitely possible to lose weight with IBS, but unfortunately there are no quick and easy solutions. It’s quite common for IBS sufferers to have to go through a period of trial and error to figure out which foods trigger symptoms and which foods are fine. The answer will be a little different for each person, but the ultimate goal is to create a diet plan that meets the needs of managing IBS while providing adequate nutrition; by emphasizing high protein and avoiding simple carbohydrates, you’re more likely to feel full regularly and avoid the cravings that often accompany a high-carb diet.
Losing weight can be difficult if you have IBS or even if you don’t. If you’ve been trying to lose weight without success, it may be time for a new approach. At True You Weight Loss, we provide several different weight loss approaches to suit different needs and different circumstances. If you would like to learn more about our non-surgical weight loss procedures or weight loss medication options, please contact us today to request a consultation. We’re passionate about helping you find the freedom you’ve been looking for.