Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

The opinions expressed herein are those of the guest's alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome! Our guest today is Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. We will be talking about what you can eat when you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Welcome Elaine. How are you today?

Elaine Magee: Feeling great!

Moderator: Before we begin taking questions, Elaine, can you please tell everyone a little bit about your background and area of expertise?

Elaine Magee: I have a degree in nutrition and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley in public health nutrition, and I am a registered dietician and my job, so to speak, is helping people make better food choices and I do that by writing books. I have written 18 books so far, and I have a national column called the Recipe Doctor. I do consulting for two magazine and food companies.

Moderator: You are most famous as the Recipe Doctor, helping people reduce the fat in their favorite recipes. Why did you decide to write about IBS?

Elaine Magee: Great question! I am in the middle of a nutrition series called Tell Me What To Eat. In that series, there are books on menopause, helping to prevent breast cancer, type II diabetes, and the publisher wanted me to do one on irritable bowel syndrome. I was happy to do that because I am a third-generation IBS sufferer.

Moderator: So the information in the book not only comes from your professional expertise, but also your personal experience?

Elaine Magee: Yes, and I also interviewed many IBS sufferers while I was writing the book. I also interviewed dieticians on what works and what doesn't for people. I have the most common type of IBS and that is what they call diarrhea-predominate IBS, so it really helped me to write the book, and I actually give personal stories and tips when appropriate.

Moderator: Speaking of tips, let's talk about your 10 Food Steps to Freedom.

Elaine Magee: Yeah! Yeah! People don't like to see this: The first step is that people keep a diary of their food intake and their stress and symptoms from day to day. Nobody likes to keep a diary, but it's so important because you begin to understand the links between diet, stress, and symptoms for yourself. It also helps you manage your symptoms.

Moderator: So the first step is to keep the diary, and the next step is to increase fiber. Why is fiber so important when you have IBS?

Elaine Magee:  It gets a little bit tricky. There are two types of fiber: water-soluble and water-insoluble. It's the soluble type like oat bran, beans, apples, psyllium seed, and flaxseed that tend to be the most helpful for people with the diarrhea-predominate IBS. So while fiber is important, depending on the type of IBS you have, you might need to gear yourself toward some different fiber sources because of it. But generally, people have said that having high-fiber foods throughout the day and drinking plenty of liquids, water mainly, is very helpful for them, particularly if they have constipation-type IBS.

Moderator: The next step is to drink eight or more glasses of water each day. Could you please explain why this is important?

Elaine Magee:  Yes. Healthy bowels need plenty of water to be able to do their job right and drinking more water goes hand-in-hand with eating more fiber-rich foods.

Moderator: Why should IBS sufferers avoid caffeine?

Elaine Magee:  That morning cup of "Joe" gives your intestines a jolt along with your brain. We all know it's a stimulant, and maybe it's no surprise that it also stimulates the intestines. The No. 1 caffeine source in the U.S. is coffee; No. 2 is cola and other caffeinated soft drinks.

Moderator: Your next step might be difficult for some people: avoiding high-fat meals and snacks.

Elaine Magee: The reason is because fat in food is known to exaggerate the gastrointestinal-colonic response. Keep in mind, fat is better tolerated when eaten in small amounts throughout the day, rather than all at once. So enjoy your potato chips, just have a handful, not the bag! Actually, people with IBS should probably avoid the kind of potato chips with artificial fats like olestra (sucrose polyester). With people who are irregular, the effect is loose bowels and an accident waiting to happen! This one of my favorite food steps, because although people think it would be difficult to do, it's not as bad as you think. My favorite cookbook that I've done is The Recipe Doctor, and you'll find all your favorite dishes in this book. The recipes are lightened in such a way that most people will not even miss the fat that is cut out. In fact, most people will like these recipes better.

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