Drinks and IBS
It is thought that diet can have some influence over IBS symptoms though the types of foods that cause problems do vary from person to person. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, be it dairy produce or gluten, if you suspect certain foods are causing symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea and bloating it may prove beneficial to cut these things out for a little while. If your symptoms improve you’ll know what was to blame and if not, you can at least rule that food group out.
Drinks are similar in that, for a variety of reasons, they too have the potential to irritate IBS symptoms. Therefore, it could help to cut a few of these out and to opt for more IBS-friendly drinks instead. Read on to find out what those could be!
What to avoid?
It is widely agreed that caffeine can exasperate IBS symptoms but the reasons for this are less clear cut.1 It may be because caffeine stimulates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response which takes attention away from the digestive processes. As the movement in your gut becomes less effective, issues such as diarrhoea become more pronounced.
Drinks high in caffeine include:
- Coffee – this may make diarrhoea worse
- Regular tea
- Energy drinks
- Fizzy juice – this has the added problem of stimulating gas.
Unfortunately if you suffer from IBS it may be necessary to cut down your consumption of alcoholic drinks as alcohol is quite harsh on the stomach which can increase the severity of IBS symptoms.
It can irritate the bowel for example, increasing pain and discomfort. It also affects the digestive processes thus encouraging heartburn, stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant and so cutting down the consumption of this food group could help to ease symptoms. Lactose is a natural sugar found in dairy products and milk however, if you suffer from lactose intolerance this sugar isn’t easily absorbed which can then worsen the range of symptoms associated with IBS.2 Also, the saturated fats inside milk can increase inflammation which only adds to the discomfort.
- Milk (including cow, goat and sheep)
Drinks high in FODMAPS’s
IBS sufferers are often encouraged to follow a low FODMAP diet in an attempt to ease their symptoms. FODMAPs, which include foods like cauliflower, mushrooms and legumes, can encourage bloating, pain and gas. Therefore some IBS sufferers feel better when after cutting these things out of their diet. See my blog ‘FODMAP-friendly foods’ for more information.
- Some smoothies
- Some fruit juices
Juice with high fructose content
Fructose is often problematic for IBS sufferers as it isn’t always easily absorbed by the body.3 A study included in the 2008 Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found one third of its 80 participants, who were all IBS sufferers, were also fructose intolerant. Therefore, after these individuals cut down their consumption of fructose it was found that IBS symptoms such as bloating, indigestion and diarrhoea began to improve.4
Fructose is found in many sugary treats like chocolate and cakes, as well as ready meals and, of course, some drinks including:
- Fizzy juice (including diet and sugar-free)
- Energy drinks
- Fruit juices from concentrate
We all know that maintaining a high water intake is great for overall health, but did you know it’s especially important for IBS sufferers?
If IBS means you suffer from symptoms like diarrhoea, drinking lots of water helps to rehydrate you. Dehydration can sap energy from your body and decrease mood so drinking lots of water helps to counteract this. Water can also soothe stomach upset, be that pain or diarrhoea.
It is recommended that adults drink eight glasses of water a day though, if you are suffering from IBS, you may need a little more to replace any fluids lost through the likes of diarrhoea.
I know water isn’t the most exciting of drinks so if you want to mix things up a little you could try our detox water. A tasty mix of water, cucumber, lemon and mint makes this drink refreshing and hydrating!
Instead of opting for your usual brew, it may prove helpful for IBS sufferers to switch to a herbal variety. These are incredibly gentle on the stomach, plus they lack the high caffeine content of other hot drinks.
There are so many herbal teas available, each with their own benefits for IBS symptoms. Peppermint tea, for example, is thought to have a soothing effect on the digestive processes which, in turn, helps with abdominal pain and gas. Chamomile tea, on the other hand, is believed to reduce inflammation and cramps.
Now, I mentioned that occasionally IBS sufferers must avoid smoothies as they can contain FODMAPs – ingredients that are thought to contribute to IBS symptoms. However, the great thing about smoothies is that you can make your own with whatever ingredients you want. So, just avoid those high FODMAP foods to prevent making your symptoms worse.
If you need some inspiration for your smoothie, have a look at our recipes - the easy de-bloat green smoothie is perfect for IBS sufferers!
Caffeine-free hot drinks
As an alternative to your usual caffeine-filled cappuccino or latte, you could give our Bambu hot drink a try. This is made from a mix of figs, malted barley, wheat, acorns and chicory to give it a rich, wholesome flavour. This means you’ll be able to have a hot drink without affecting your IBS symptoms.
If you suffer from IBS but enjoy a drink of milk, either with your cereal or on its own, then you needn’t give it up completely. That’s because there are many alternatives to cow’s milk that you could consume instead. Almond milk is one option which is naturally sweet and creamy!
IBS affects people in different ways so when it comes to drinks, it’s really a case of trial and error to determine which ones make symptoms worse. In general though, keep up your water intake and if you suspect the likes of coffee or wine is making things worse, cut it out for a little while and see what happens! However, I hope I’ve made it clear that IBS sufferers still have plenty of choice when it comes to the drinks they consume.