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IBS and Weight Loss: What You Should Know

Slim man measuring his waist
Have you tried to lose weight for years with no results, no matter how dedicated you are to your weight loss plan? The problem might not lie with your willpower - instead, you could have an underlying food sensitivity or gastrointestinal ailment that keeps you from maintaining a healthy weight.
For instance, millions of people in the US suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. People with IBS can have a hard time gaining or losing weight, depending on how their metabolism works and what triggers their IBS flare-ups.
Unfortunately, because gastrointestinal problems are considered taboo (or at least impolite) discussion topics in American society, most people haven't heard of IBS apart from cursory jokes, including those who suffer from it.
Below, we'll overview IBS and explain why it can impact weight loss. If you do have IBS, getting a diagnosis and understanding your IBS triggers could be the weight-loss solution you've been working for.
IBS Symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by stomach cramping, often sparked by anxiety, and bouts of constipation and diarrhea. People who suffer from IBS can also experience uncomfortable, socially awkward symptoms like frequent gas and bloating, not to mention running to the bathroom at the most inopportune moments.
People with IBS often have food sensitivities that contribute to stomach cramping, pain, and frequent or infrequent bowel movements. For example, many people with IBS have gluten sensitivities; while they can digest gluten without damaging their small intestine, unlike people with celiac disease, eating foods with gluten can trigger an IBS flare-up.
IBS and Weight Gain
While some people with IBS have difficulty gaining weight, especially if they don't tolerate many types of food or experience severe anxiety, others gain weight that they find incredibly hard to lose. Bloating in particular can cause weight gain through water weight. Additionally, anxiety tied to IBS can cause sufferers to avoid healthy habits like exercise, which in turn make weight loss harder.
IBS Treatments
Unfortunately, every individual has different IBS triggers. Some people might be more sensitive to gluten, while others experience stomach cramping when they eat dairy, red meat, spicy foods, or even avocados. As a result, there isn't a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for IBS. However, regardless of the trigger, doctors typically recommend those with IBS follow a few key dietary guidelines:
  • Eat a high-fiber diet to encourage healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
  • Exercise frequently to maintain regularity and give your digestive system a boost.
  • Find healthy ways to manage your stress and anxiety (such as through therapy and medication).
  • Eat regular meals at regular times during the day and small, healthy snacks in between.
  • Don't overeat - manage meal portions and eat until you're comfortably full.  
  • Drink more water.
  • Avoid foods that cause bloating and gas.
If fiber, exercise, and anxiety treatments alone aren't enough to ease IBS, a gastroenterologist, dietician, or weight loss professional might recommend you try a more specific diet, like FODMAP, to find your unique triggers.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are found in foods as diverse as onions, garlic, avocados, and gluten. A strict FODMAP diet cuts multiple foods from your diet and reintroduces them slowly to help you identify triggers, which in turn helps you manage IBS symptoms, minimize flare-ups, and maintain a healthy weight.
You don't have to manage weight loss and IBS on your own. Instead, if you're serious about reducing your IBS symptoms, seek help from medical professionals who can work with you to identify your unique triggers and craft an individualized treatment plan.
If you live near Columbia, schedule an appointment with your personal weight loss professional at WaistLines to create a weight management plan that works for you.