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If you’re looking to lose weight if you’ve got IBS you may be frustrated that some healthy food trigger your IBS symptoms.  It can feel like everything weight loss advice tells you to eat makes you feel bloated, gives you stomach pains or send you running to the bathroom. 

Some studies have found links between IBS and weight. It’s thought that people who are obese may experience worse IBS symptoms. 

How to lose weight

As with everything in nutrition, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Your IBS symptoms will be very different from the next client. And what helps one person lose weight might not be enough for another person. 

Generally, working with my 1:1 weight loss clients I like to focus on including foods that will help to fill us up and keep us well nourished instead of removing foods. 

When we restrict our intake of foods (or feel like we are restricting ourselves) it can be problematic leading to binge eating or giving up.

However, removing obviously high calorie, overly processed foods from your diet will help to reduce your energy intake.  This includes things like crisps, chocolate, cream, ready meals and pre-packaged cakes and biscuits.  These tend to be high caloric density foods with little nutritional value.

Foods high in salt and sugar can cause water retention, and bloating, which may make IBS symptoms worse. 

Which carbs to eat for weight loss

Avoid simple carbohydrates like white bread white pasta and switch to whole grain versions.

This is because whole grains include more nutrients fibre and protein.

How to do it:

Often when people with IBS react to certain foods it can be dose-dependent so you may want to transition from white pasta to brown pasta by cooking half and half for a period of time. Slowly increase the whole grain. 

How to eat fibre with IBS

Fibre is really important for helping us to feel full, as well as feeding the beneficial gut microbes. 

High fibre foods are whole grains like brown rice brown bread vegetables fruits and pulses. 

Many people with IBS struggle to increase their fibre intake. 

How to do it:

If you’re very sensitive to high fibre foods start very slowly, and always drink enough fluids. Fibre without water will lead to constipation.

Focusing on the low FODMAP foods first maybe something that help you build up to a higher fibre diet. For example:

  • Kiwis are good for anyone with IBS and constipation because they can encourage a healthy bowel movement
  • Try adding some greens to your dinner, even blending up some spinach into sauces may help to begin with
  • Berries like raspberries or blueberries can make a good snack, or addition to a breakfast

 

Increase protein to avoid hunger

Protein from meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, pulses and tofu can help to keep us fuller for longer. 

Aim to include sufficient protein at every meal and snack to help keep your blood sugars balanced. 

If you increase protein when you have IBS you may find meat sits in your stomach for a long time and leads you feeling heavy. This may be down to insufficient stomach acid to help break down the proteins.

How to do it:

Some people find eating bitter foods such as rocket, endive, chicory, or lemon juice can help to stimulate the digestive processes, and aid protein breakdown. 

You can also focus on chewing your food really well to help kick start the digestion in your mouth and reduce the pressure put on your digestive system by unchewed lumps of food. 

 

Healthy Fats for IBS

It is important to include healthy fats in our diet whether we want to lose weight or not.

Eating fats helps signal to the body that we we are getting enough calories and we can stop eating.

This helps us to feel full at the end of a meal. Cutting out all fat from your diet is not a good idea.

We need fats to help us absorb certain vitamins A, D, E and K, and we need fats for cell health, skin health and our hormones. 

How to do it:

Snack on a handful of nuts, include Omega 3 rich fish twice a week such as mackerel salmon or sardines. Include avocado if well-tolerated. 

 

Hydrate – aim for 8 glasses

Ensure you’re drinking enough water. When we are very thirsty sometimes our body mistakes these signals as hunger and we end up snacking more than we need to. If you’re aiming to lose weight ensure you are drinking enough fluids throughout a day. 

How to do it:

Drink around two litres of water spaced through the day.

Avoid alcohol – Drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain because often you are drinking a lot of energy.  In addition you may find yourself snacking on crisps and other foods whilst drinking or the next day if you feel a little bit hungover. 

 

Moderate exercise for weight loss with IBS

One of the best ways to lose weight is to do some high intensity exercise.  However, for people with IBS the intensity can trigger symptoms and leave you rushing to the bathroom. 

Some studies have shown that when we do high intensity exercise blood rushes from the internal organs to our muscles which can in some people create problems for people with IBS. 

How to do it:

Try yoga, walking, swimming or other moderate exercise to get moving, without setting off your stomach. 

 

Slow down to eat

When we eat very quickly, not chewing food properly this can lead to to strain on your digestive system by swallowing large chunks of foods that have not been chewed up.

In addition when we eat very quickly we are more likely to miss the satiety signals sent by our digestive hormones back to the brain which tell us we have eaten enough food. 

This means we might eat more than we were intending to because with eaten so quickly.  

This is good advice for anyone not just those who want to lose weight. 

Simple changes like chewing your food properly before each mouthful can really make a difference to the quality of your digestion. 

How to do it: 

Sit down to eat, and chew each mouthful properly. 

Use a food diary for weight loss

I’ve previously written about how tracking our food can improve the quality. You may find that writing down what you eat shows up all those things you previously forgot about. 

We also get a good insight into symptom triggers when we have a record of what we’ve eaten and done over the last few weeks. Use a  journal, or my tracker templates you can download from the shop – IBS symptom tracker 

 

Work with a professional

Losing weight with IBS isn’t impossible, but it can be more difficult due to how you react to ‘healthy foods’.

If you want to change your diet but feel like you react to everything you eat please contact me too to discuss an appointment. 

I can help you find a diet that works for you and your particular health conditions, your unique situation so that you can achieve your health goals.

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I specialise in all things ‘digestive health’ and I help people with their IBS symptoms.

I can help you to:

  • track your symptoms in a really simple but meaningful way to understand them better
  • rebalance your digestive system
  • access group support to make long lasting changes to your digestive health

“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"

To find more about out how I work and how I’ve helped people just like you, see my IBS Diet support page