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Fiber-rich food for people with IBS: inulin and psyllium compared

  1. People who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are often advised to follow a high-fiber diet. However, the relationship between fiber and IBS is quite complex. For certain forms of IBS it seems more logical that a high-fiber diet can help than for others. And one fiber is not the other. In this article, we will discuss two types of fibers and how effective they can be in controlling IBS: inulin and psyllium. Never heard of it you say? Read on and find out all about it!

  2. People who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are often advised to follow a high-fiber diet. However, the relationship between fiber and IBS is quite complex. For certain forms of IBS it seems more logical that a high-fiber diet can help than for others. And one fiber is not the other. In this article, we will discuss two types of fiber and how effective they can be in controlling IBS: inulin and psyllium. Never heard of it you say? Read on and find out all about it!

  1. Research into the relationship between fiber and Irritable Bowel Syndrome has not provided clear guidelines for patients and doctors on how to follow a high-fiber diet. Indeed, for people with IBS syndrome whose primary symptom is a feeling of constipation (IBS-C), it does appear that adding extra fiber to the diet can help alleviate these symptoms.

  1. The other form of IBS, IBS-D, in which the patients mainly suffer from diarrhea, does not necessarily require a high-fiber diet. On the contrary, a diet rich in fiber can cause worsening of symptoms for these patients.

  2. The other form of IBS, IBS-D in which the patients mainly suffer from diarrhea, does not necessarily require a high-fiber diet. On the contrary, a high-fiber diet can cause worsening of symptoms for these patients.

Soluble vs. insoluble fiber

  1. Doctors and scientists agree that generally more fiber in our diet is good for our health. But a large-scale scientific study in Great Britain from 2010 showed that for a group of patients, especially those with the worst IBS symptoms, on the contrary, it led to more complaints. The conclusion was therefore that not all fiber-rich food is equally good for IBS sufferers.

  2. Doctors and scientists agree that generally more fiber in our diet is good for our health. But a large-scale scientific study in Great Britain from 2010 showed that for a group of patients, especially those with the worst IBS symptoms, on the contrary, it led to more complaints. The conclusion was therefore that not all fiber-rich foods are equally good for IBS sufferers.

  1. But indeed, not all fiber is the same, and the study also showed that people with IBS often respond well to the fiber in fruits and vegetables, which improved their symptoms. This is because fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber that forms a kind of thick gel in water. And so do psyllium seeds, which is why many IBS medications contain these fibers. Inulin also falls under these soluble fibers, although inulin is a special case because it is often synthesized and therefore contains no 'natural' fibers.

  1. Most patients with IBS who say they have been helped with one of these two types of fibers seem to prefer psyllium. We describe the differences between these two soluble fibers below.

Inulin

  1. This is an additive that is used to replace fats in food products. We find it in lettuce dressing and fruit yoghurt. It is flavorless and colorless and gives a creamy texture to food. It is a soluble fiber made from chicory root or synthesized from sucrose and then processed into a white powder.

  1. Because it stimulates the growth of the good bifidobacteria in the gut, it can help strengthen our immune system and prevent diarrhea. In that sense it can indeed help people with IBS.

Psyllium

  1. Psyllium fibers are extracted from the shells of the seeds of the psyllium plant. These tiny dry granules dissolve into a gel-like substance when mixed in a liquid. As mentioned, a number of existing IBS drugs but also a number of laxatives are based on psyllium. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with psyllium.

  2. Psyllium fibers are extracted from the shells of the seeds of the psyllium plant. These tiny dry granules dissolve into a gel-like substance when mixed with a liquid. As mentioned, a number of existing IBS drugs but also a number of laxatives are based on psyllium. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with psyllium.

  1. The difference with non-soluble fiber found in many foods (such as bran) is that the latter remains intact during digestion and thus causes further irritation in the intestines. By the way, the scientific discussion is not yet fully concluded: other scientists continue to warn that the fiber in fruits and vegetables, and therefore also inulin and psyllium, can sometimes worsen symptoms.

  2. The difference with non-soluble fiber found in many foods (such as bran) is that the latter remains intact during digestion and thus causes further irritation in the intestines. The scientific discussion is not yet fully concluded: other scientists continue to warn that the fiber in fruits and vegetables, and therefore also inulin and psyllium, can sometimes worsen symptoms.

Conclusion?

  1. Knowing this, we cannot say that the fibers of inulin or psyllium can help everyone with IBS. It does seem clear that a group of patients is benefiting from this. Before experimenting with adding this fiber to your diet, it is best to talk to your doctor about it. If you do decide to try it, keep a close eye on how your body responds to the change in diet. If it soon becomes clear that the symptoms are getting worse rather than improving, you should of course stop.

  1. We would like to hear from people with IBS which fiber they put on their diet to improve the symptoms of their condition. Do you opt for soluble or non-soluble fiber? Or do you prefer to avoid fibers as much as possible? Let us and our readers know so we can continue the discussion here!



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