These are the exact steps I took to find relief from my chronic irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. After living with IBS for nearly a decade, these are the tips, foods, and diet adjustments that got me back to my pre-IBS digestion. If you’re looking for relief from your IBS flare-ups too, then keep reading to see how I finally got rid of my irritable bowel syndrome for good!
This post may contain affiliate links. See my full disclosure here.
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a healthcare professional. You can read about our personal experience with a plant-based diet, but please know that your experience may be different from ours. You should do your own research before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle especially if you have a health condition.
Before we get started, let me begin by saying that irritable bowel syndrome is not pretty.
Do not read this post if you’re squeamish or if you think it’s taboo to talk about things that go on in the bathroom. IBS sufferers need these kinds of details, and these are the very things I wish I had known when I was desperately searching for answers to my own IBS problems. Please proceed with caution!
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short.
There’s nothing sexy about it, especially when you’re frantically searching for a bathroom because you have some severe gastrointestinal distress going on.
And yet I lived with IBS for nearly a decade before finally getting the long-awaited relief I’d been searching so desperately for. You see, it took years for me to put all of the puzzle pieces together. Heck, it took years to even find half of the puzzle pieces!
But I’m living proof that you can go from chronic diarrhea to enviable bowel movements, even if it does take a while to get there.
Hopefully, though, you’ll be able to shave years off of your IBS journey just by reading my story. I’ve gained some valuable insights in the 9 years since my IBS first reared its ugly head, and I hope these tips will help you find some relief from your IBS symptoms too.
So let me tell you all about how I finally kicked my IBS to the curb for good!
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My Story: What I Experienced as an IBS Sufferer
Let’s start with a little backstory, shall we?
My IBS symptoms first started in 2010 when I was 17 years old. I had the classic symptoms:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Urgency to empty my bowels
- Gassiness and bloating
- Severe abdominal pain
I can remember having to leave social gatherings early because of my embarrassing symptoms.
You know those commercials for IBS where the woman is desperately searching for a bathroom? I became that person, and it sucked, especially as a teenager.
I also had mild anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to find a restroom, especially when I took long road trips with my family.
What was even more embarrassing was having to explain my situation to Josh, my then-boyfriend-now-husband. We weren’t at the level of comfort with each other to be able to talk about such things, but I still had to explain why I needed to stop at a bathroom every thirty minutes on our way to the beach.
And finally, the list of foods I could safely tolerate kept getting shorter and shorter. Even real foods like apples, watermelon, and bell peppers started to set me off, so I constantly feared ingesting something that would trigger my IBS.
But through a slow process of trial and error, doctor visits, and doing countless Internet searches, my mom and I finally put the puzzle pieces together and found a solution to my chronic IBS.
5 Crucial Things I Did to Ditch My Chronic IBS for Good
That solution? It all boiled down to five things:
- Pinpoint my trigger foods
- Stop eating those trigger foods
- Give my body the foods it actually wanted
- Support my gut with probiotic-rich foods
- Add three tablespoons of chia seeds to my daily food intake
Even though pinpointing and eliminating my three main trigger foods kept me from having the more serious IBS symptoms, I still wasn’t completely happy with my digestion. I had plenty of work to do to get myself back to where I was pre-IBS, and it took actively putting in the good stuff to get me to where I am today.
But the good news is that I’m in a good place now. I couldn’t be happier with my digestion, and I can finally say that I have enviable bathroom habits.
Oh yeah, I went there.
If you want the TMI specifics, here’s what I mean:
- I’m as regular as clockwork. I can usually bank on two bowel movements per day: one after breakfast and one mid-afternoon.
- My bowel movements are quick. I’m in and out in 90 seconds flat with zero straining.
- My stool consistency is perfect. It’s soft enough for complete comfort yet firm enough to make for easy cleanup.
- I don’t have any bloating. My stomach stays comfortably flat all day long without any gas buildup causing it to feel full and distended.
These are definitely things to be proud of, but it really took ALL 5 of these steps to get here. No more, no less.
Let’s talk about each one in detail.
1. Pinpoint My Trigger Foods
The first thing I did to get rid of my IBS was pinpoint my trigger foods. This was a years-long process of keeping meticulous food logs and trying elimination diets to rule out various food intolerances and sensitivities.
When it was all said and done, I discovered three main triggers:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Dairy products
High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS for short, was the trickiest ingredient to pinpoint. It took about a year to figure out that this sneaky ingredient was one of my IBS triggers, but I finally learned that I was sensitive to it sometime around 2011. Avoiding it eased my symptoms somewhat, but high fructose corn syrup clearly wasn’t my only trigger.
The next two foods I tried eliminating from my diet were meat and dairy products. I went fully plant-based (no meat, dairy, or highly processed foods) for about 2 months in the spring of 2016, and that’s when my severe IBS symptoms completely went away.
After that 2-month period, though, I relaxed my stance on plant-based eating and allowed some small cheats every now and then. That’s when I noticed that both meat and dairy products are definite triggers for my IBS. They never set off my IBS to the extent that high fructose corn syrup did, but I could tell that my body didn’t appreciate me eating them.
2. Stop Eating Those Trigger Foods
The second thing I did to get rid of my IBS was stop eating the foods that triggered my IBS symptoms.
Once I completely cut high fructose corn syrup, meat, and dairy products from my diet, I noticed an almost-immediate improvement in my IBS symptoms. After only one month of not eating any of these foods, I no longer had those critical, painful, oh-my-gosh-I-need-a-bathroom-NOW episodes. My digestion still wasn’t completely perfect (I still had painless chronic diarrhea) but the worst part was definitely over.
And if that wasn’t enough, I could also tell that my body was on its way to tolerating real foods again.
In fact, after keeping those three products out of my digestive tract for a full two months, my body was able to heal to the point that I could eat real foods like apples, watermelon, and bell peppers again.
And these days I can even tolerate small amounts of my trigger foods on occasion without getting the more severe IBS symptoms. I still try to avoid them as much as possible to keep my gut happy, but on those rare occasions when I do eat one of those ingredients, it’s nice to know I won’t have an acute IBS attack.
3. Give My Body the Foods It Actually Wanted
The third thing I did to get rid of my IBS was to start eating the foods my body actually wanted.
So what foods sealed the deal?
Instead of relying on processed junk food to sustain me, I found that plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in their whole or minimally processed forms are what my body really wanted.
These are the staples of a whole food, plant-based diet, and they comprise the bulk of my diet every day. I do have small cheats here and there, but I try to stuff my face with whole plant foods the vast majority of the time. I eat lots of raw fruits and veggies, cooked veggies, bean burgers, pasta dishes, rice dishes, and anything else that comes from a plant.
If you’d like to give the whole food, plant-based lifestyle a try, you can grab my free quick-start guide here:
Download the Free Plant-Based Quick Start Guide here!
4. Support My Gut with Probiotic-Rich Foods
The third thing I did to get rid of my IBS was support my gut with probiotic-rich foods. Through much trial and error, I found that my body LOVES kombucha as a source of probiotics.
See, I used to take a probiotic supplement thinking it was helping keep my gut flora in check, but I constantly struggled with yeast overgrowth in addition to my less-than-perfect bowel movements. I had two yeast infections in 2 years, neither of which displayed the typical yeast symptoms (no odor or vaginal discharge), so it was pretty frustrating trying to figure out what to give my gut to make it happy.
That’s when I decided to give kombucha a try. Having those probiotics in a whole food form instead of a pill made all the difference in the world. I saw my yeast symptoms (white tongue, mostly) go away in a matter of days, and I saw a slight improvement in my stool consistency.
So now I drink 8 oz. (half a bottle) of GT’s gingerade kombucha every single day. I buy it in bulk from Sam’s Club since it’s a little less expensive there.
Update: I recently started making water kefir, which is a probiotic-rich beverage similar to kombucha. My gut loves it! It’s delicious, easy to make, and costs way less than pre-made kombucha. If you’d like to give it a try, then be sure to check out this article: How to Make Water Kefir: An Easy Probiotic Drink You Can Make at Home!
5. Add Three Tablespoons of Chia Seeds to My Daily Food Intake
While eating an abundance of whole plant foods and drinking kombucha every day got me 90% of the way back to my pre-IBS bowel movements, the single most effective food that got me the rest of the way there was chia seeds.
And so, the fifth and final thing I did to get rid of my IBS was add three tablespoons of chia seeds to my daily food intake. Simply adding in this little superfood took me from having loose stools that fell apart to now having firm ones that hold their shape.
Eating three tablespoons of chia seeds every day sounds like a hard task to complete, but it’s actually really easy to get those little seeds in, especially if you’re a big fan of chia seed drinks like I am.
Every week I make a big batch of chia gel (at a ratio of 3 Tbsp. chia seeds to 1 cup water) and keep it in my refrigerator to use all week long. I usually mix 1 cup of the chia gel (which is my daily amount of chia seeds) with ½ cup of juice, sparkling water, or kombucha to turn it into a fun chia drink. It makes the perfect mid-morning snack while also keeping my gut happy.
- Easy Fruity Chia Drink (Copycat Mamma Chia Drink Recipe)
- How to Make the Perfect Chia Gel for Chia Seed Drinks
How to Find Relief from Your IBS Too
So that’s how I went from having chronic IBS to enviable bowel movements! My IBS story had a happy ending, but if you’re still in the throes of IBS, you may be wondering if there’s a happy ending for you too.
While everyone’s journey will be different, here are some general guidelines to help you get relief from your IBS.
Pinpoint Your Trigger Foods
Your food triggers are likely different from mine, but a good way to pinpoint exactly which foods are bothering you is to keep a food log and then try an elimination diet.
Track everything that goes into your mouth for at least a couple weeks while also documenting your bathroom habits. An example log might look like this:
- 6:00am: apple, peanut butter, toast, and a cup of coffee
- 6:30am: had diarrhea
- 9:30am: cinnamon bun
- 10:00am: had diarrhea
- 12:00pm: salad (romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes) and tomato soup
- 3:00pm: oatmeal snack bar
- 6:00pm: taco salad (black beans, brown rice, avocado, salsa)
- 8:00pm: bowl of frozen fruit
If your log consistently looks like this, you might hypothesize that your IBS flares up after you eat wheat products.
At that point, you can try eliminating wheat for a week to see if the diarrhea goes away. If it does, you might want to avoid wheat products. If it doesn’t go away, you should revisit your food log to see if there’s another link between your food and diarrhea. Eliminate that food for a week and see if it clears up your IBS symptoms.
It’s a terribly tedious process, but it’s still a good way to determine exactly what’s triggering your IBS symptoms. This is how my mom and I figured out that high fructose corn syrup was my biggest trigger food nearly a decade ago.
Stop Eating the Foods Your Body Doesn’t Like
Once you know which foods disagree with your gut, stop eating them! Your major symptoms should go away once you stop ingesting those trigger foods, but it’s important to not stop there.
Give Your Body the Foods It Does Like
Our bodies need fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to get all of our essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Skipping these vital plant foods is robbing your body of the micronutrients it needs to function optimally.
And you really do need to get these nutrients in the whole food form. Simply taking a supplement won’t cut it, as you saw with me and probiotics. Supplements are isolated nutrients, but what you really need is the complex profile of nutrients found in whole, living foods. (source)
Besides, it’s no coincidence that whole plant foods are an excellent source of fiber, and what your gut really wants is plenty of fiber! 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men, in fact. (source)
See, fiber is great for digestion since it bulks up your stool and makes it softer to pass, thus relieving both diarrhea AND constipation. (source)
And on top of that, fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut. (source)
Whole plant foods have a myriad of health benefits, but they’re especially helpful for those of us with IBS. So do your body a favor and give it the whole plant foods it really wants.
You can still get my plant-based quick start guide here if you need some help getting started:
Note: As a general rule, you want your nutrients to come from food. But there are a few supplements that plant-based doctors and experts recommend for everyone including meat-eaters, so be sure to check out this article to learn more about them.
Support Your Gut with Probiotic-Rich Foods
Probiotic foods are great for the gut because they increase the number of good bacteria in there. You definitely want the good bacteria to outnumber the bad, so it’s important to consume plenty of probiotic-rich foods to support a healthy gut microbiome.
Some good sources of probiotic-rich fermented foods include:
- Water kefir
The key is to buy these unpasteurized. Pasteurizing kills even the good bacteria, so it’s important to buy these unpasteurized or make them yourself. GT’s kombucha is raw and unpasteurized, so it’s always a good choice.
Eat Chia Seeds Every Day
Chia seeds are awesome all around, but they were absolutely essential for me to ditch the last of my IBS symptoms.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, which we know is good because fiber
- Bulks up loose stool
- Softens hard stool
- Feeds the good bacteria in our gut
And at 11 grams of fiber per 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, you’re getting a good chunk of your recommended daily fiber intake just from one serving! (source)
There are plenty of other reasons to eat chia seeds (they’re a good source of omega-3 fatty acids), but just their fiber content alone is what makes them awesome at combating IBS.
Final Thoughts on How I Got Rid of My Chronic IBS for Good
I can’t say it was easy. In fact, it took nearly a decade for me to finally get rid of my chronic IBS for good, but once I started putting together the puzzle pieces, I was able to crack the code to my digestive mystery.
All I had to do was pinpoint my trigger foods, stop eating those trigger foods, give my body the foods it actually wanted, support my gut with probiotic-rich foods, and add three tablespoons of chia seeds to my daily food intake.
Food was the answer all along, wasn’t it?
If you’re in the midst of irritable bowel syndrome too, then it might be time for you to try keeping a food log to pinpoint your trigger foods and then start healing your gut with the vital foods it’s been missing.
I hope you find healing soon. It is possible, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.
Other Healthy Lifestyle Articles You May Enjoy
- How to Start a Plant-based Diet: The Ultimate Transition Guide for Beginners
- Why We Transitioned to a Mostly Plant-based Lifestyle
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
- 12 Healthy Habits You Can Start Today
- 3 Simple Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle
- How to Afford a Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget
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