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If diarrhoea is your predominant IBS symptom and you’re looking for ways to manage it, here are five tips to get you on the road to solid poops:
1. Limit or Omit Caffeine
Caffeine is a gut stimulant and acts as a laxative in some people so if you’ve got poop on tap, it’s wise to nix it (or at least reduce it) to see if that helps.
If you need something to get you going in the morning, try green tea or matcha which is a bit less stimulating.
2. Go Easy on Fried and Spicy Foods
These common gut irritants often trigger and exacerbate diarrhoea so if they’re a regular feature of your meals, it might be time to cut back.
This doesn’t mean you meals need to be bland and boring though – use herbs, lemon or lime juice, and other spices to flavour your food instead.
3. Modify Your Fibre Intake
Reduce insoluble fibre found in whole grains with the bran intact, some veggies like kale and cauliflower, and fruits with edible seeds like raspberries.
Increase soluble fibre – good low FODMAP options are oats, carrots, oranges and ground flax seed (1Tbsp at a time for low FODMAP on the latter).
It’s still really important to get your 30g fibre a day and to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – within your tolerance threshold – so this is not your ticket to skip eating fruit and veg.
Most plant foods contain a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre, so the emphasis is on reducing, not removing entirely.
4. Replace Lost Fluids and Electrolytes
Make sure you’re drinking enough water – ~2l a day is the benchmark, but you may need more if you live in a hot climate or are very active.
If your diarrhoea is severe, add some oral rehydration solution (like Dioralyte or Pedialyte) to plain water.
5. Reduce FODMAP Intake (temporarily)
Some FODMAPs draw water into the intestines by osmosis, which can contribute to diarrhoea. The FODMAP elimination process is the gold standard in identifying IBS food triggers, and figuring out your personal trigger foods can help with managing IBS-D.
Not familiar with FODMAPs? I’ve written in detail about them here and here.
Dairy is often a biggie where diarrhoea is concerned, as lactose is a FODMAP and malabsorbed in ~75% of people.
This is not just in IBS sufferers – lactose intolerance is prevalent in both healthy people too, so you might want to look into a short-term removal of this to start with (for 2-3 weeks) if you’re not ready to take the plunge and go through the full FODMAP elimination process just yet.
Foods That Help With Managing an IBS-D Flare-up
Replace lost potassium from all that pooping with a banana. Keep them low FODMAP by choosing slightly green ones over fully ripe ones.
Another awesome potassium source, potatoes are a nutrient-dense starchy veggie and the ultimate comfort food, IMO. Just skip the chips/fries and opt for a mash or a baked potato instead.
Carrots are rich in soluble fibre which absorbs water in your gut and can help to firm up your poop and reduce diarrhoea.
Forget kale, oats are the OG ‘superfood’. They are another excellent source of soluble fibre, full of minerals and B vitamins, and contain β-glucans which help to slow digestion. Slower digestion = less diarrhoea.
Tofu & Tempeh
Firm tofu and tempeh to keep your protein intake up. If beans and lentils are your usual plant-based protein source, you might want to cut back on these during a flare as they’re high in the FODMAP GOS.
Quinoa is another great source of protein and a fructan-free (pseudo)grain that is generally very well tolerated. Rice works too, but I love quinoa for its higher mineral content.
These foods are great to incorporate into your regular eating pattern, even when you’re not in an IBS-D flare, so go ahead and add them to your shopping list!