IBS GOOD SAFE FOODS – Mainly ‘SOLUBLE’ Fibre Foods with a few of Sarah’s extras!
Below is a list of foods that are the staple and basic everyday components of my IBS eating plan. These are what I consider to be my ‘safe’ IBS foods and have been tummy tested by me for over twenty years. They are low gas-forming ‘gut soothers’ and are basically foods known to cause virtually no irritation to my entire gut tract.
The secret to providing a stable IBS-gut is a diet High in Soluble Fibre (note that’s ‘soluble’ not insoluble fibre). You will need to educate yourself to the differences between the two as Insoluble Fibre is an IBS-gut’s worst nightmare – you can find out more about my FIASS plan here. When I was first put on my IBS-gut-stabling diet (about twenty years ago) there was not a lot of scientific information on these ingredients but it was explained to me that I needed to cut out all foods that were high, or enriched, in ‘insoluble’ fibre and basically swop them for white starchy carbs (i.e. high soluble fibre foods), with fruit/veg coming next and then protein. (You can read more about it via USA’s leading IBS-expert Heather van Vorous here Soluble Fibre Foods.)
Some ingredients may surprise you and I urge you to read the notes below. You may have to un-brainwash yourself from common food and diet misconceptions – particularly concerning wheat, carbohydrates and weight gain – I’ll explain about these in later posts. Plus the list is not particularly long – but don’t panic, I’m not saying that you can only eat these foods, rather these are your safest ingredients. I resort back to only these ingredients any time I have a relapse or am ill and its this group of foods that helped break my inital nausea/diarrhoea horror when my condition was chronic in my early twenties!!
(I accept that we are all different so for those of you avoiding gluten you will not be eating any of the wheat products. FODMAP’ers will need to consult their charts to check for low/high variants. This list looks at my high Soluble Fibre Safe foods! Although I don’t totally avoid dairy, there’s no dairy on the list below as its a caution food and just about every other fruit and vegetable is also on the caution list lol!)
Short List of ‘Soluble’ Fibre Good IBS Safe Foods (see notes)
potatoes . white breads . white flour tortillas . white pasta . white rice . noodles . barley . carrots . parsnips . butternut squash . pumpkin . swede . turnips . bananas . cooked apples . oats . rice cereals
Short List of Sarah’s Additional Gut-Safe Extras (please see notes for guidance on amounts and how to eat)
chicken & turkey . white fish . water . weak ‘fruit & barley’ cordials . peppermint cordial . peppermint tea . ginger tea . fennel tea . lemon water . sea salt . knob of butter. drop of extra virgin olive oil . ginger . a few cloves . spoonful of honey . spoonful of brown or raw cane sugar . plain biscuits . plain crackers . baked lightly salted crisps
Long List with Notes of ‘Soluble’ Fibre IBS-Good Foods
Potatoes: – Probably my one saviour survival ingredient – how can the Irish be wrong? It’s also gluten free, so if you happen to be a celiac and an IBS suffer you can still eat potatoes. How you cook your spuds is the key to IBS-gut-stable success. If your condition is chronic then you can only have plain boiled potatoes or mash. If your condition is stable you can make your own roasties and chips – but eating roasties or chips out is likely to always be a big greasy no no!!! Mash would be my main comfort food and the first thing I turn to if I have had a relapse or am recovering from a bout of food poisoning.
White Bread: – Yes you read right, that’s ‘white’ not brown bread! In fact I would go as far as to say that you should never again eat the brown variety, but for many of you, you will struggle at first at getting your head around this. I must stress that if your condition is chronic, you should swop immediately to white bread and do not eat any brown or wholegrain breads which are severe gut-irritants. If your condition is stable, you may occasionally swop the white varieties for the occasional piece of whole grain or wheaten breads – but I mean occasionally. You might argue with me stating that white bread and pasta is ‘unhealthy’ but once you learn why you need to eat it, your gut will thank you. White bread often gets really bad press and rightly so as a good majority of cheap supermarket bread is full of crap. So choose a good quality white loaf – one that has little ‘added’ ingredients in it and if possible low in soy, yeast and preservatives. In an ideal world you could bake your own where you are in control of the ingredients but a premium pan loaf, a plain crusty loaf like French or Italian breads and sourdough are all good choices. (Of course if you have been medically diagnosed as being Celiac then you will not be able to eat bread as it contains gluten.)
White Flour Tortillas: – As with the bread, choose a good quality variety with as little additives as possible.
White Pasta: – As with bread, an IBS-stable gut diet needs you to swop to white pasta and not brown which again is too high in insoluble fibre that is not your friend. You want a good quality 100% whole durum wheat variety or equivalent – check the ingredients so as to make sure it doesn’t contain other ingredients. I have Italian friends who only ever eat Italian pasta brands but store bought ones are totally fine. You can now get pastas made from rice, but again you need to make sure that this is white and not brown rice based. Fresh pasta is a premium alternative if you have time to make it or can buy it – but again check its ingredients. You want to stick to the plain varieties – green pasta generally includes spinach which is not suitable.
White Rice: – As with the bread and pasta, you need to eat white rice as brown rice is too high in insoluble fibre. There’s lots of varieties of rice from plain to basmati, sticky and risotto rice. If your condition is chronic you need to stick to plain white rice and avoid the ones containing wild rice or the flavoured ones. If your condition is stable you may enjoy trying Jasmine flavoured rice. Again always check the ingredients, you don’t want anything else in there like flavourings.
Noodles: – Rice noodles are a great choice. Other varieties like egg noodles should be avoided if your condition is chronic because of the egg but can be included when your gut is stable.
Barley: – Good source of soluble fibre so you can chuck it into soups for example to add bulk and chewy bits.
Root Veg – Carrots, Parsnips, Butternut Squash, Pumpkin, Swede & Turnips – Yippeee!!! You can eat as many root vegetables as you like. They are all gut-soothers and are your tummy’s friends. If your condition is chronic you will want to boil, bake or mash them and add them plain to soups. If your gut is stable you can add them to stir frys or roast them.
3. Meat & Fish
Chicken & Turkey: – White meat only and without the skin. Grilled or baked if your gut is unstable or added to stir-frys when your gut is stable.
Fish: – White fish only and without the skin. Grilled or baked if your gut is unstable or added to stir-frys when your gut is stable.
Bananas: – A lifesaver for me, and a fruit that I carried around with me at all times for more than 15 years. Even better it comes in its own packaging so you don’t have to worry about washing it. In recent times I have to admit I got a bit fed up with them as they reminded me of being ill because I ate so many of them but when i have any source or relapse or need a quick food fix this is the trusty fruit I know I can rely on!
Cooked Apples without the Skin: Choose a sweeter variety of apple like a braeburn or pink lady and avoid the really tart ones like a granny smith or cooking apples. You can chop or grate them and then steam them with a little water. Make your own apple sauce but again go easy on sweetening it and use honey to taste or buy a non-swetened apple sauce but again you want to check the ingredients. Grating an apple with the skin on and then leaving it to turn slightly brown before eating is thought to have medicinal benefits if you are suffering from food poisoning – however I would still take the skin off and steam it first to account for my IBS!!
5. Breakfast Cereals
Oats: – Oats are an odd one as they contain both insoluble and soluble fibre – its outer coating may be an insoluble wholegrain but its inners are soluble and hence it is considered a good gut-soothing food. Rolled oats, as in porridge, are a great breakfast choice for an IBS sufferer as the rolling process has broken the insoluble fibre down. Likewise, you can consider oatbran and oatmeal – which is basically porridge that has been ground or milled into powder form. You will, however, need to be careful how you cook your porridge as the addition of milk / diary may unsuitable if your condition is chronic and you will need to choose ‘safe’ fruits if you want to flavour it. Honey is the best choice for a sweetener. Always buy plain basic porridge – many of the quick ready packets contain lots of extra additives and are too high in sugar. I have to add though that some people may have sensitivities to oats and there have been odd occasions when I haven’t been able to eat them as they made me feel sick – but when I first started my soluble fibre diet porridge was a great comfort food to start the day!
Rice Cereals: Like Rice Krispies but you need to buy the plain ones. Anything that is sugar-coated is a gut-no-no for IBS sufferers.
Water: – Plain / Still.
Weak ‘Fruit & Barley’ Cordials: – A splash of a ‘barley’ cordials mixed with water can be a welcome change to plain water. Try to find ones that are low in sugar. Make it weak. ‘Fruit Barley’ is good for females if you are suffering from Cystitis too (more about that in additional posts)!
Peppermint Cordial: Use sparingly as its quite medical in taste. I use it to sip when times are bad, especially if you are suffering from gas/wind – its not a drink for regular consumption!
Peppermint Tea: Either loose or in tea bags – its got to be peppermint and not spearmint. You want a good quality variety with only peppermint in it. A great rescue tea and something that should be consumed every day – I always carry a few tea bags with me in my bag for emergencies. Drinking two cups a day for a period of two weeks will have significant effects on your IBS-gut. Check out Sarah’s IBS Rescue Tea Remedy.
Ginger Tea: Either use a good quality tea bag, grate some ginger root or add a quarter tea-spoon of the dried variety into hot water. Great for relieving nausea.
Fennel Tea: Use a good quality variety – good for nausea and for relieving wind.
Lemon Water: A slice or a squeeze of lemon in a glass of gold water. A squeeze of a quarter lemon in cup of hot water (you can add a small amount of honey to sweeten). Contrary to what you might think, lemon added to water will have an alkalising affect on the body and is not acidic. It is a great nausea reliever and helps the body to rid itself of toxins.
7. Herbs, Spices, Flavour
Sea Salt: Used sparingly in cooking for seasoning.
A Knob of Butter: Used sparingly in cooking or spread on toast / bread. We’re talking a wee bit of butter here by the way. If your condition is chronic don’t include this. If your condition is stable then use sparingly – note this is butter, don’t use margarines of any sort as these are made with all sorts of additives.
A Wee Spoonful of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Like butter, use sparingly in cooking. We’re talking a wee spoonful here by the way, like a tea-spoon to cooks stir-frys or for roasting potatoes and veg. If your condition is chronic don’t include this. If your condition is stable then use sparingly – use a good quality extra virgin variety and not one that is a ‘blend’ (which is a mix of all sorts).
Ginger: – Use the root or powder to cook with or as a tea. If your condition is chronic then use a little bit of the ground spice in cooking or in tea. Otherwise you can grate or chop the ginger root for more flavour.
A few Cloves: – Not to eat, but a few to be used sparingly in peppermint tea, see Sarah’s IBS Rescue Tea Remedy for instructions.
Spoonful of Honey: – A small spoonful spread on toast or used as a sweetener in cooking or baking, but sparingly.
Spoonful of Brown Sugar or Cane Sugar: – A small spoonful of either used as a sweetener in cooking or baking, but sparingly. Refined white sugar should be avoided.
8. Snacks & Crisps
Plain Biscuits: – Plain low ‘insoluble’ fibre biscuits that are also low in added sugar or sweeteners like; Plain Rich Tea, Oat biscuits or Shortbread (without the sprinkled super).
Plain Crackers: – Plain low ‘insoluble’ crackers that are also low in added salt or other additives.
Baked Lightly Salted Crisps: If you can find them, crisps that have been baked and not cooked in oil are acceptable occasionally if your condition is stable. Choose an organic variety if possible and only eat those that have been lightly salted – your IBS-gut won’t be able to withstand all the other ‘fake’ additives and flavourings.
Remember that these foods concentrate solely on providing a clinically diagnosed IBS sufferer with a stable gut tract over and above any other condition.
Want to more about the different fibre content of foods? – then click on the following link for a complete A-Z guid: Insoluble vs Soluble Fibre Food Guide