Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Food Diary and What to Learn From It
The purpose of the food diary is to establish a connection between your eating habits and the way you feel.
Keep a detailed food diary for 1-2 weeks, which should be enough time for your eating and behavioral patterns to emerge. Answer the questions below to better understand factors that might be contributing to your IBS symptoms.
Food and Drinks
Is there a type of food that makes my symptoms worse?
Foods that typically trigger IBS symptoms are: processed, fried and spicy food, carbonated drinks, chocolate, dairy, the skin of fruits and vegetables, sugar, alcohol, coffee, onions, cabbage, legumes, food containing sugar alcohols as sweeteners (xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol…). Foods that trigger your symptoms might be different than the usual suspects. When looking for a connection between the food you ate and IBS symptoms, keep in mind that the symptoms can sometimes appear 2-3 days after the food had been consumed.
A number of common trigger foods (alcohol, processed and fried food, excessive sugar) should be avoided regardless of whether they are causing digestion problems or not. Foods with high nutritional value, such as vegetables and fruits, should be avoided only if you determine that they are responsible for your symptoms. It is important to have proper nutrition in mind when making decisions about eliminating certain foods from your diet.
Am I skipping meals?
IBS symptoms can be triggered by irregular eating patterns. Try to have 3 meals and 3 snacks daily, each moderately sized. Smaller meals are easier to digest and are less likely to cause bloating which is often experienced after large food intake. Also, frequent meals are likely to prevent overeating and rushed mealtimes.
Do I rush when I eat?
Slow eating and thorough chewing have important functions in the digestion process.
Chewing mixes food with the enzymes in saliva which start the digestion process. It also breaks food into small pieces that can be properly processed in the stomach and the small intestine. Big chunks of improperly chewed food do not allow efficient absorption of the nutrients in the small intestine and can lead to the overgrowth of bacteria in the colon. Excessive bacterial fermentation in the colon can lead to gas, feelings of bloatedness and abdominal pain.
Additionally, chewing is known as a stress-coping activity (teeth clenching, nail biting), so use your mealtimes to relax by chewing slowly and thoroughly.
Am I distracted while eating?
While eating, focus on your food and avoid distractions such us your phone or TV. Eating in a calm atmosphere reduces stress and allows you to fully enjoy the eating experience. Use your mealtimes as an opportunity to develop a positive attitude toward food and the nourishment it provides.
Am I drinking enough water?
Insufficient water intake can lead to constipation, especially in combination with a high fiber diet. If your health allows, sip water and other suitable liquids throughout the day. Sodas and other carbonated drinks should not be used as water substitutes. Excellent alternatives are teas such as peppermint, ginger, and chamomile, which not only hydrate but can soothe abdominal discomfort as well. Increase your water intake when consuming alcohol or coffee as they have a dehydrating effect.
Is my medication causing constipation?
Many medications, prescription and over-the-counter alike, can cause constipation or diarrhea. If you think that your medications may be altering your bowel habits, check with you doctor about alternatives.
Am I getting enough exercise?
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the risk factors associated with constipation.
If you are not getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, increase your activity gradually until you meet that goal. Increased physical activity will not only help with constipation but will have multiple positive effects on your overall health, from better sleep to decreased stress.
Last updated: February 3, 2017