Bloated Bellies Are Us: does a high soluble diet help IBS?

20 Jun
Bananas! High soluble fibre, IBS friendly. Image credit: morgue file user kconnors.

Bananas! High soluble fibre, IBS friendly. Image credit: morgue file user kconnors.

As I said in my last post, the low FODMAP approach to managing my IBS symptoms has bitten the dust. Sadly it did not reduce the bloating and lack of toilet action that is plaguing me more than ever at present. It was not the magic solution for me others have found it to be.

So onwards and upwards. What IBS eating plan to try next?!

Never one to be defeated I embarked on some research and came across an absolute gem: Heather Van Vorous’ site Help For IBS. Heather is a food and medical writer specializing in the management of IBS and associated bowel disorders because she herself has suffered from IBS since the age of 9.

If you are struggling with IBS (either constipation or diarrhea) I urge you to have a look and play on Help For IBS. It is an absolute treasure trove of IBS info. I learnt a lot from it. The fundamental principle of the Help For IBS approach, in a nutshell, is to start each and every meal with high soluble fibre foods. Soluble fibre does wondrous things in our colons that helps regulate both diarrhea and constipation. How awesome is that?! (Is it sad that I get excited about things to do with my colon…don’t answer that!)

Bananas! Image credit: morgue file user mconnors

Bananas! Image credit: morgue file user mconnors

What are high soluble fibre foods I hear you cry? Well they are: light white bread, rice, pasta, polenta, soy, potatoes, corn crackers, mushrooms, carrots, squash, avocado, beetroot and more. Oooh and bananas! Bananas are great soluble fibre and get a special mention from me. For YEARS I have avoided bananas like the plague having been told by some doctor or other that they are really high GI (sugar) and a cause of my IBS. WRONG WRONG WRONG! Bananas are actually good for my IBS belly. I’ve been eating a banana each day as part of my snacks and am not reacting to them. AMAZING! I had no idea how much I’d missed bananas!

Soluble fibre foods are NOT the green veggies, seeds (out with the linseed) wholemeal bread, raw fruits, nuts, pulses and beans which is what we, or I at least, previously associated with the term fibre. These are all insoluble. And whilst must be eaten for a healthy balanced diet, they should be secondary to those foods high in soluble fibre. Get it? There are 2 types of fibre it turns out: soluble and insoluble, soluble being “smooth” and helpful to our colons and “insoluble” being “rough” and less helpful.

Eating for IBS - Book by Heather Van Vorous

Book by Heather Van Vorous

I highly recommend the book Eating for IBS by Heather Van Vorous for full lists of trigger foods and soluble and insoluble fibre foods. Whilst you can find a lot of the info for free on Help For IBS the book goes into more detail and most importantly (to me at least) contains 150+ recipes based on the principle of high soluble fibre and friendly to IBS tummies.

I’ve learnt so much, some of which is the total opposite of what I’ve been led to believe over the years, and some new stuff too:

  • Dairy products are a huge irritant to an irritable bowel
  • High fat foods (including healthy fats such as coconut) are triggers for IBS flare ups, as is red meat, egg yolks and fried foods to name just a few. These foods should be avoided as much as possible so me using coconut milk as a dairy free milk substitute wasn’t particularly smart!
  • Base each meal or snack on high soluble fibre foods and eat some of this first and then once you’ve lined your stomach with soluble fibre you can go on to eat the insoluble components of your meal.
  • It’s not about deprivation, but food substitution instead.
  • Raw veg and especially green salad can irritate our IBS addled digestive systems. Eat salad at the end of a meal, not at the beginning.
  • Puree pulses and veggies (e.g. in soups and dips) to make them more tummy friendly.
  • 2 whites make up 1 whole egg when not using the yolk.
  • Take a soluble fibre supplement twice daily before eating.
  • Fennel seed tea is great at easing bloating and it actually tastes nice! Yes Really!!
  • Raspberry leaf tea is great at unblocking you! And also tastes nice!
  • Peppermint oil capsules eases IBS pain and cramps but make sure you buy capsules with a high % of enteric coating so that you don’t suffer from acid reflux.

That’s all well and good but what am I eating? Here’s what I’ve eaten today:

Breakfast – Blueberry French Toast (recipe in Eating for IBS) (made using gluten free white bread which gives a good soluble fibre base)

Mid morning snack – half a banana & small glass of mango & strawberry soya yoghurt smoothie (ate the banana first – soluble fibre)

Lunch – Carrot, corriander & lentil soup with 2 corn crackers & avocado (ate 1 corn cracker first)

Mid afternoon snack – 1 piece of gluten free banana bread (home made, recipe coming soon) bananas and rice flour provide the soluble fibre base

Dinner – mushroom, squash risotto (all soluble fibre) followed by a SMALL green salad (eat salad last and chew lots, don’t add a fat rich dressing, I just add a splash of balsamic vinegar, no olive oil)

And now for the $1 million question: is this new approach of high soluble fibre working? How’s my poor bloated belly and slow (to the point of non-existent) waste disposal doing?

Well I won’t lie and say all is pink, rosy and perfect. Cos well, that would be a lie. I’ve been eating this way for a couple of weeks now, and I’d say in the last few days I’m beginning to see improvements. It’s been a bit up and down. I’ve had some days where I’ve been badly blocked up (I’m enjoying the quiet time sitting on the toilet for so long provides….not) and really bloated mid afternoon and in the evening. But it’s not all the time and not everyday, which is a big IMPROVEMENT. I’m taking a soluble fibre supplement and have gradually increased the dose and touch wood, (not sure I want to say this in case I jinx it…) the last day or so things seem to be regularly moving which in turn lessens the bloating.

I’m encouraged by this and am going to keep going with the high soluble fibre approach. I do think this is not necessarily the entire answer to my IBS woes but it does seem to be having at least some positive impact. I’m thinking that I may need to do an elimination diet where I only eat soluble fibre in order to then reintroduce other foods (not dairy or gluten, definitely keep them out, thinking more soy, certain fruits and veg) to see which are my IBS triggers. Because something is still causing my belly to bloat, but listen up belly bloaters, I’m going to hunt you out, whatever you are. IBS is NOT going to defeat me. Jess will win! I’ll keep you posted!


23 Responses to “Bloated Bellies Are Us: does a high soluble diet help IBS?”

  1. thehomeschoolingdoctor June 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Now it has become more of like a mystery to solve,hasn’t it!! It is actually becoming rather fun and challenging!! What can I change to get rid of THIS…or THIS…or THAT!!! Okay, it’s not really fun, but like you, I won’t stop trying! My bloating has gotten better over the last year. For a week or two, maybe completely, wonderfully gone–but always comes back. I think I’ve narrowed it down to FODMAPS (unlike you) accompanied by SIBO (which is why it’s there even when I eat “right”). Good luck! Following!

    • myjourneythrume June 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks for commenting and following! It is definitely all a bit of a mystery, I so wish there was a one size fits all approach! Interesting what you say about SIBO. I so often say ‘but I’ve not eaten anything bad’ and yet I’m still bloated. Am going to investigate SIBO, thanks for the lead!

  2. Becoming the Best Me June 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    This is a great article! I have been reading Help for IBS as well and just started adding soluble fiber into my diet as well. I know it isn’t a “cure” but its a good start. I look forward to reading more about your journey and sharing my experience with you as well. Thank you for finding my blog so I could find you. It is always nice to know someone else is dealing with the same issues as me (although I wish no one would have to deal with this either).

    • myjourneythrume June 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I’ve found Help for IBS to be one of the best approaches to IBS that I’ve come across. The soluble fiber seems to be helping me…long may it last! It’s really nice sharing experiences, it’s the best way to improve ourselves I think. I’ll definitely be following you and your blog.

  3. E. Milo June 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Everything you write about IBS, I could have written. I have been tortured by constipation for as long as I can remember, but it has been much worse since having ME. A few weeks ago, I started gabapentin (a very low dose: 100mg) and my bowels immediately stopped moving. I’m in hell! I refuse to take crampy laxative pills since collapsing and having paramedics called when the bowel pressure issues caused a vasovagal response a few years ago. I’ve been taking Miralax every night (it’s Movicol in Ireland ~ maybe in England, too?), plus a stool softener pill, loads of madnesium, massage, breathing exercises etc. Nothing is helping. SOOO, I am going to buy fennel seed and raspberry leaf tea and some of that acacia fiber (gonna try this one: ~ I’m trusting you!! Please let me know if you have any new and wonderful ideas! Thanks for this great info. Good luck to both of us!

    • E. Milo June 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Oh, I just realised your link is for the exact same brand of acacia fiber as the link I posted (only yours is “fibre”, of course :)). But, your price is 17.45 pounds which works out to about $27 ~ my version is $15.79! Next time you come to America, bring an extra suitcase and load up! Or maybe your sister can bring you a bunch? 🙂

      • myjourneythrume June 27, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

        I know the UK mark up is ridiculous. My sister is indeed brining me some when she comes home next wk! It’s the only brand of acacia fibre (sticking with the English spelling!!) I could find. It took a week or so to start working but touch wood, it does now seem to be working, ie. going once (even twice) daily which is amazing!!!!! Is it sad how happy ‘being regular’ makes me?!

    • myjourneythrume June 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Oh god, not sure trusting me is a wise move! I hope it helps. I totally share and sympathize with your hell. I have been there waaaaay too much. I do think the fibre is helping as are the teas. Fennel is really good at debloating and tastes surprisingly nice. I’d really recommend her book too, eating soluble fibre first each meal/snack seems to be a big help. But each of our colons and digestive systems are different so I really hope you find these as helpful as me! It’s not at all perfect but pain, bloating and constipation is much eased…..which i am immensely grateful for. U could also try ground flaxseed it worked as a laxative for me for years and as a temporary tool I don’t think it should cause bloating, especially I guess if u combine it with soluble fibre. I needed 3 tbsp flax (ground or whole) and am using 1.5 tsp twice daily of the acacia fibre stuff to make things move! I wish u so much luck, let me know what works for you, something has to!! P.s have you considered colon hydrotherapy?

      • Elizabeth Milo December 21, 2013 at 2:17 am #

        Look at this job:
        I had no idea Heather’s was based just down the road from my house. It made me think of us…. I want to apply and have a job again!!!

      • myjourneythrume December 22, 2013 at 8:25 am #

        Me too! We both definitely have the personal experience if digestive health that she is after! I had forgotten you were in Seattle, I’m hoping to visit there next spring. Are you still using Heather’s products?

      • E. Milo December 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

        Yes, I still take the fiber every day and drink the fennel tea. I have no idea if it helps at all. Nothing helps! But I keep talking everything.

        I insist- seriously- that you visit me (if you have time) if you come to Seattle. Just an hour some day for a chat. You will understand how bad I look and when I take an age to answer a question and my inability to make you a cup of tea. Or, maybe, just maybe, by the spring I will be doing better. 🙂

      • myjourneythrume December 23, 2013 at 7:29 am #

        I definitely have days where it seems nothing is helping but I notice a difference when I don’t take the fiber. And I still swear by fennel tea for debloating.

        I would love to visit you! It would be amazing to meet in person after all this time in cyber space. And of course I would totally understand all the constraints of socialising with ME/CFS. I know that all too well.

        I’ll keep you updated with our plans. At the moment we’re planning some kind of road trip probably from LA up the coast to Seattle. I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle and as it’ll be my 30th whilst we’re away (assuming I keep doing well enough to plan and travel) we thought finishing our trip in Seattle to celebrate my birthday would be perfect. Any hotel / restaurant / things to see and do recommendations will be gratefully received if and when you have energy and time to share any. No rush or pressure though 🙂

        Merry Christmas to you Elizabeth, I hope 2014 is a year of progress, recovery and wellness for you.

        Jess xx

  4. tiredtechie August 12, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    I have one word for you: Chia. Yes, Chia Pet chia. It’s a traditional food from Mexico and while the seed itself is highly nutritious, the really important thing is the seed coat. It is highly mucilaginous, which means it absorbs water and forms a gel in your gut. This gel both soothes and lubricates the intestines, which makes it good for both types/phases of IBS. If you have too much liquid, it absorbs it. If you’re too dry, it makes things flow smoothly.

    I’ve been taking just a tablespoon a day in my breakfast and it has made a huge difference in my digestion and improved my energy level too. There are other mucilaginous foods, such as flax seed (ground), nopal (cactus), okra and seaweeds, but chia is convenient because it stores dry and you can eat it raw, no processing required. It’s also trendy right now so it’s easy to find.

    • myjourneythrume August 13, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

      Interesting to hear that chia has helped your energy as well as your digestion. It’s on my foods to try list, it’s a real buzz food at the mo and I don’t want to miss out! I used to take flax and it worked the same as you say chia does but I was still bloated on it apparently it can cause that especially the seed form. The Senegal acacia soluble fibre I’m taking now works the same way too and seems to be helping. Tho it’s pricey. So thanks for the chia tip, think that’s next on my list!


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