IBS: What Can I Eat? (cont.)

MODERATOR: Are there any food groups in general that you should avoid when you have IBS?

MAGEE: Not really, because all of the trouble spots we've talked about are not food groups. We've talked the greasy foods, the fructose, dehydrating liquids like coffee and alcohol, but really in terms of food groups, generally all of those are okay, unless you find a specific trigger for you.

Some people can be lactose intolerant and this can make their IBS worse with the amount of milk, sugar or lactose that they're consuming. So it's possible that dairy foods, especially the ones with more lactose in them, could be problematic. If you're having a reaction to frozen yogurt that could be lactose or fructose, depending on that particular product. If it looks like lactose is making your IBS worse you can try the lactose-free products or the lactase tablets and see if that helps you. Just to give you a range: hard cheese has just 1 gram of lactose per ounce, sour cream has 4 grams of lactose per 4 ounces, ice cream or ice milk have 5 to 7 grams of lactose per 8 ounces, yogurt has 12 grams of lactose per 8 ounces and all of the types of milk -- from skim to whole -- have around 11 grams of lactose per 8 ounces.

We talked about limiting caffeine and we talked about avoiding high-fat meals. You may also need to avoid certain spices and spicy food like chili powder, chili peppers and for some, garlic, curry, and ginger. I have to say for me, those three are not a problem. We talked about not overdoing alcohol and avoiding gassy foods. I have a big list in my book, but it's basically raw vegetables like cucumber and lettuce and other gassy vegetables like the cabbage family and onion family. Some of the beans and certain fruits can cause trouble in some people; and then other kind of quirky foods and drinks, like beer, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, soft drinks, nuts, popcorn, and hot sauce or barbecue sauce.

MODERATOR: So are there certain foods, spices or food groups that seem to help when you have IBS?

MAGEE: Yes. We talked about fiber and a little bit about the different types of fiber. Just to quickly review, here are your soluble fiber sources: psyllium seed and psyllium products; beans, oats, barley, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, carrots, and green beans.

For herbs, some antispasmodic herbs are fresh mint leaves; brewing it into a strong tea can help some people.

Exercise is particularly helpful for people with constipation. Moving your body helps get your intestines moving.

Of course I'll remind everybody about the importance of eating smaller, more frequent meals as being one of the most important styles for people with IBS.

I would say also one of the most important changes people can make is to start cooking light. Try oven frying in a little bit of oil, using lower fat dairy products and less butter or margarine in your cooking. Eating less fat is really pivotal for many people.

MEMBER QUESTION: How do you feel about probiotics?

MAGEE: I personally tried the Lactobacillus supplements years ago and it seemed to have no helpful effect for me. I just read a review of a couple studies and they found that the beneficial microbe Bifidobacterium infantis relieves symptoms of IBS, while the Lactobacillus seemed to have no effect. So it's worth talking to your gastroenterologist if you're interested. It's really about making sure you've got plenty of good bacteria in your intestines.

MODERATOR: Do you think the key to managing you IBS is really identifying your triggers via a journal and working with your GI doctor?

MAGEE: Pretty much. I found it very helpful for me. Most of us will know or suspect what may be causing us trouble. We may not want to admit certain foods or drinks are causing us trouble, but information is power, and the more we know the better off we'll be down the line.

It's awesome that I haven't had an attack for about five years. That's really what a lot of us IBS sufferers are trying to avoid -- the full-blown attacks. We want to live comfortably and we want to be able to travel without issues.

It's really about decreasing stress and eating sort of defensively. I like to call it "defensive eating" to prevent attacks, knowing what our limits are and still enjoying life. For me, there's nothing that I give up, technically, for my IBS. I still have Alfredo sauce, just mine. I still have fried foods, but I make it the light way. I don't miss spicy food anyway, but that's just me. So I feel completely "not deprived."

By going to your gastroenterologist, it's good to check in with the expert and that person can find the medication for you for when you are in situations that are out of the ordinary. Fry Light, Fry Right is my brand-new cookbook and it helps you straighten up and fry light. We pretty much make over every fried food in America -- from corn fritters to corn dogs, from coconut shrimp to pork chimichangas; it's in there -- even chicken fried steak with country gravy. Check it out!

MODERATOR: Our thanks to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, for joining us today. And thank you, members, for your great questions. I'm sorry we couldn't get to all of them. For more information, please read Tell Me What to Eat IF I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as Elaine's other books.

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