Diet For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The best diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome should be understood from both the conventional perspective as well as the perspective of Oriental medicine. Here's why...

...conventional wisdom focuses on what foods may cause an immediate IBS response, such as abdominal spasms, diarrhea or constipation. That's very helpful, but the conventional diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome doesn't take into consideration foods that negatively damage your digestion when eaten over an extended period of time... which can lead to having IBS in the first place.

That's where Chinese Dietary Principles come in. When followed, these principles are the most health-promoting way to eat long term. Combine that with the conventional diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, particlularly the knowledge of which foods set off a more immediate IBS reaction, and you're going to do much better in the long run.

Here's 2 examples of what I mean...

1.) Conventional wisdom says bananas have lots of soluble fiber which helps regulate bowel movements today... but Oriental experience has shown that bananas contribute to weakening digestive functioning over-all, so should be limited or avoided.

2.) Oriental wisdom recommends eating a big variety of cooked vegetables, including dark leafy greens like kale. But conventional wisdom states that these high insoluble fiber foods (hard leafy greens) can set off an over-reaction of your normal gastrocolic response, causing abdominal pain, so you may want to limit or avoid them.

So, it's wise to understand both perspectives, using the conventional diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome to help control episodes, while using Oriental wisdom to improve digestive functioning and over-all health.

Something for you to think about this. Since:...

  • IBS often includes an over-reaction of the normal gastrocolic reflex (causing abdominal spasms) in many people, and...

  • Emotional stress is believed to be the main cause of IBS...

...then acupressure (or acupuncture) is a great therapy, because it works to regulate functions in your body, and calm emotional stress, which are causing the problem in the first place.

Remember, the correct diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is only part of the solution.

Here's a summary from both perspectives...

Conventional Diet For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The conventional diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome focuses on fiber. Studies are not conclusive regarding the effects of fiber on IBS, but here's the general consensus:

Eat foods (and supplements) high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber soothes your digestive tract and normalizes bowel function, preventing both diarrhea and constipation.


  • Oats, oat bran and barley
  • Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots
  • Apples, pears, prunes, peaches
  • Beans and lentils (just about all types)
  • Chick peas and black-eyed peas
  • Fruits such as oranges and apples
  • Vegetables such as carrots
  • Psyllium husk

Insoluble fiber helps constipation by adding bulk to your stools... but, with IBS, you need to pay attention to your reaction - they may initiate an overreaction of the "gastrocolic reflex" (that causes those abdominal spasms). Foods high in insoluble fiber include:

  • Vegetables such as green beans and dark green leafy vegetables
  • Fruit skins and root vegetable skins
  • Whole-wheat products
  • Wheat oat
  • Corn bran
  • Seeds & Nuts

Many foods have both soluble and insoluble fibers. Generally, fruits have more soluble fiber and vegetables more insoluble fiber.

  • Eat regular meals in small amounts.
  • Avoid (or minimize):
  • Red meat
  • Oily, greasy, fried foods
  • Dairy
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks

And Now, The Chinese Dietary Principles...

Thousands of years of observing food and humans in the Orient have shown that most people do very well promoting their digestive health when they follow these principles.

For people with IBS, I do recommend integrating the conventional recommendations regarding insoluble fiber (as I discussed that above) into this ancient wisdom, particularly if you notice problems after eating dark, leafy greens, et. al.

Mostly what you'll notice is that there are foods that conventional diet for irritable bowel syndrome says are o.k. (either are high in soluble fiber, or don't cause any reaction), but Oriental wisdom says to avoid, due to their weakening of the digestion when eaten long-term.

So, here's a very abbreviated version of dietary principles from the Oriental perspective...

Eat a diet of:

  • Fresh, lightly cooked vegetables (a big variety) - not raw. This should be the largest part of your diet.
  • Whole grains (but avoid wheat). Eat more vegetables than grains
  • Beans
  • Eat small amounts of animal protein (2 or 3 oz. per day). Think of it as a flavoring for your meals, rather than the main course.
  • Drink room temperature or warm water

Limit everything else to only small amounts. And, even though some doctors recommend large amounts of fruit for health, the Chinese discovered differently. Despite it's high fiber content...

...eating lots of fruit can weaken the digestion / elimination for many people, due to its sweetness. (It's beyond the scope of this site to go in depth about that).

You probably already know that your foods should be natural, not processed, and organic whenever possible (more for your overall health than any one condition).

Additional recommendations from Oriental medicine...

If you stay with the Chinese Dietary Principles above, you'll already be following the principles below... but I'm going to state them just to be sure you understand.

  • Eat cooked and warm foods, not raw or straight out of the fridge
  • Avoid "sweet" tasting food
  • Avoid cold foods and drinks
  • Eat very little greasy or oily food
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid dairy
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid yeast
  • Avoid boxed, packaged and processed foods
  • Drink about a teacup of warm water with meals. Green tea is o.k. if your stools are not dry, but avoid tea if you have dry stools (tea is a diuretic - it dries you out.)
  • Moderate use of spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper are ordinarily beneficial, but in excess they create too much "heat" in your intestines, which you want to avoid when you have inflamed intestines or dry stools.
Additionally, the "how to's" of eating you need to follow are...


  • Eating late at night
  • Eating in a hurry
  • Overeating
  • Eating while stressed

I can't go into all the reasons behind these Chinese Dietary Principles, but just remember... they are based on thousands of years of observation in the Orient, and have been shown to promote health and recovery from disease for most people.

Combining both the conventional diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome along with the Chinese Dietary Principles, you will be more successful in getting over your IBS for good.

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