Traditional Japanese Healing Arts Articles

Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

As an acupuncture practitioner, I see a lot of clients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, which is a functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, gas, with alternating diarrhea and constipation, in the absence of any detectable cause. As a general rule, gastro-intestinal disorders respond well to acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. In addition, I advise my clients follow specific dietary guidelines:

  1. General Dietary Guidelines

    • Eat only when you are genuinely hungry. This is when your digestive fire is at its peak.
    • Eat slowly and chew your food well. This simple rule will greatly enhance your digestive ability.
    • Stop eating before you are completely full. There is a 15-minute lag between the time we eat something and the time the brain registers the sensation of fullness.
    • During meals, limit fluids to 4 to 6 ounces or warm or room temperature liquid. Avoid iced drinks. During a meal, too much water, and cold water in particular, will impair the body's digestive ability.
    • Favor cooked vegetables over cold or raw vegetables. With rare exception, it's difficult for the body to completely digest raw vegetables. The result is that undigested food passes into the colon where it creates toxins which further impair the digestion.
    • Between meals, drink plenty of pure, warm or room temperature water on an empty stomach. As a general guideline, divide your weight in pounds by 2. The result of this equation is the number of ounces of water you need to drink every day. Juice, green and herbal teas can be included in this amount.
    • Certain foods are very concentrated and must be used with caution in order to avoid creating an imbalance in the body. Meat, fats, egg yokes, sugar, salt, honey and molasses, are all extremely concentrated and should be taken in small quantities as a compliment to the meal, and not as a main course.
    • Certain foods are so extreme in their nature that eating even a small portion can aggravate an imbalance for many people. Candies (and especially chocolate), soft drinks, desserts, ice cream and frozen yogurt are examples of foods that are damp or cold in nature. Alcohol, coffee, fried foods, broiled foods or foods that are greasy, hot or spicy are examples of foods that are hot in nature. Carbonated beverages create imbalance due to excessive air quality. Try to eliminate these foods from your diet or at least limit them to small portions once or twice a week.
    • Some foods are toxic due to over cooking, over processing, age or chemical contamination. For example, burned meats or oils are toxic due to the chemical changes that occur when fats are exposed to high temperature. Likewise, fast foods, highly processed foods (such as margarine or processed meats) or spoiled foods should be avoided for the same reason. The artificial sweeteners Nutra-Sweet, Canderel and Amino-Sweet contain the chemical Aspartame which is a neurotoxin. Likewise, foods that contain MSG are toxic for many people. Finally, foods that contain high fructose corn syrup are linked to diabetes and obesity.
  2. Take the amino acid L-Glutamine - 1000 mg on an empty stomach upon rising.
  3. Certain pro-biotics have proven to dramatically reduce IBS symptoms. Unfortunately, the pro-biotic industry is focused almost exclusively on various strains of acidophilus, which do little to alleviate IBS. However, certain bifidobacteria are very helpful. My suggestion is to drink one cup of organic, unsweetened, goat milk kefir, every morning on an empty stomach, about 30 minutes before eating. Alternatively, bifidobacteria supplements can be obtained in powder or capsule form Natren under the brand names Life Start and Bifido Factor. Go to:
  4. It's best to avoid coffee, chocolate, raw vegetables, nuts and seeds (unless ground) and carbonated beverages.