There’s no doubt that IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) causes distress for many and several people report experiencing everything from pain and bloating, to even vomiting. In some cases, sweating and shivering can be a part of the awful symptoms too.
If IBS is making it hard to enjoy life, it’s essential to have a doctor rule out potential health issues. However, if IBS ends up being the primary diagnosis, a low carb diet may be something worth trying. In particular, the ketogenic diet may help alleviate discomfort from IBS.
If you’re not familiar with this low carb diet, it focuses on eating mainly fat and less than 25 or so grams of carbs a day. For an excellent resource about the keto diet read the Body Reboot book, which explains why the keto diet may be a good fit for you. Not only can a low carb diet help you lose weight, but some specialists and patients report it helping their IBS. Don’t believe us? Keep reading to decide for yourself:
VeryWell Health discusses one research study that briefly covered how the keto diet may help with symptoms of IBS but believes the results are inconclusive:
“There is one clinical report of the use of a “very low carbohydrate diet” (VCLD) with patients who have diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D). This was a very small, very brief study. Only 13 people out of an original 17 completed the study. The study protocol required participants to follow a VLCD for a period of four weeks after following a standard diet for two weeks. Most of the study participants were women and all were overweight. All meals were provided for the study participants for the duration of the six-week study. During the VCLD phase, meals were comprised of 51% fat, 45% protein, and 4% carbohydrate. As such, this diet consisted of lower fat levels and higher protein levels than is seen in a classic ketogenic diet.
The results showed that all of the participants reported adequate relief of symptoms on at least two of the weeks they were on the VLCD, and ten of them reporting adequate relief on all four weeks of the restricted diet. Adequate relief of symptoms as a measure was merely a response to a question that the participants were asked one each week. Other results included reports of a reduction in stool frequency and pain and improvement seen in stool consistency and quality of life.”
Read more about the study mentioned above found on Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and base your own conclusions:
Participants with moderate to severe IBS-D were provided a 2-week standard diet, then 4 weeks of a VLCD (20 g carbohydrates/d). A responder was defined as having adequate relief of gastrointestinal symptoms for 2 or more weeks during the VLCD. Changes in abdominal pain, stool habits, and quality of life also were measured.
Of the 17 participants enrolled, 13 completed the study and all met the responder definition, with 10 (77%) reporting adequate relief for all 4 VLCD weeks. Stool frequency decreased (2.6 ± 0.8/d to 1.4 ± 0.6/d; P < .001). Stool consistency improved from diarrheal to normal form (Bristol Stool Score, 5.3 ± 0.7 to 3.8 ± 1.2; P < .001). Pain scores and quality-of-life measures significantly improved. Outcomes were independent of weight loss.”
Spectator Health reports on another study on IBS and how the keto diet may help people overcome this uncomfortable disease. The fact that the study revealed that there were significant improvements seen in some of the patient’s inflammation, C-reactive protein and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), is a good sign that the keto diet may be an excellent way to battle IBS.
“Recent research appeared to implicate changes in gut bacteria in the pathology of inflammatory bowel disease and it stands to reason that changes in gut bacteria as a result of a change in diet could affect the clinical impact of the disease or at least demonstrate improvements in blood markers for infection.
The diet used was the specific carbohydrate diet — essentially what is also known as a ketogenic diet.
Proteins found in grains including gluten have been shown to have an inflammatory effect on the bowel in susceptible, non-coeliac patients as well as coeliac patients and this is part of the rationale for excluding them.
Dietary compliance was excellent, with only two patients dropping out of the study.
At two weeks, five out of 12 patients were in clinical remission and, by the eight-week mark, eight of 10 patients were in remission.
Significant improvements were seen in two markers of inflammation, C-reactive protein and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), with normalisation seen in most patients after 12 weeks.”
Diet Doctor seems confident that the keto diet can help people who have IBS feel better and backs it up with claims from a variety of doctors on their site. The doctors have various patients who reported having less irritable bowel symptoms due to their low carb diet:
“A survey of doctors on this site, who recommend low-carb/keto eating, found that among their patients, it is very common to have a dramatic improvement, even a resolution of long-standing IBS symptoms. It is one of the most welcome side effects of the diet. Dr. Ted Naiman said he has seen it occur among “countless patients.” Dr. Sarah Hallberg, too, says “we see it all the time.”
So has Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt: “I remember one male patient in his late 20s who had suffered crippling IBS symptoms for most of his life,” he said. “I suggested he try a low-carb and high-fat diet, gave him a one-page pamphlet, and he agreed to give it a try. It was a quick ten-minute consultation. When I called him two weeks later, his GI symptoms were not only completely gone, for the first time he could remember, he’d also lost a surprising amount of excess weight. And all without a single medication.”
Dr. Evelyne Bourdua-Roy agrees: “It is super common. Most patients have given up hopes of getting a treatment, it seems. They’ve tried a lot of stuff, they have had a colonoscopy, they have had tests for food intolerances and celiac disease with no answers.”
Writer Domonic on the blog No Bun Please writes about his experience being on the keto diet and why he believes it cured him of dealing with IBS, and not to mention he lost 80 pounds! He decided to give the low carb diet try it on a whim after reading about it on Reddit, and the rest is history.
“Fast forward to March 2013. At the time, I had pretty much given up on trying to find something that would cure my stomach issues. I found myself constantly choking down at least 3 Imodium everyday just to be able to get through my day comfortably. Must have been my “nervous stomach” talking.
In addition to the constant bathroom trips, I was still surprisingly overweight and at the same time trying to shed some excess body fat.
I stumbled upon the Ketogenic diet on Reddit and was amazed at how many people experienced not only weight loss, but their ailments lifted by following a low carb, high fat, and moderate protein diet. Now, I thought about this way of eating in the past, but just assumed because of my stomach trouble it would make it more unbearable than it already was.”
Sure enough, after a while, Domonic’s symptoms went away, and today he is IBS free, well, unless he decides to eat a lot of carbs again…
“Since then, I've been trying to follow a strict ketogenic diet as treatment for my IBS. I've been very successful, but not perfect.
When I eat too many carbs, my diarrhea comes back, and usually with a vengeance. It usually takes a few days to a week to regulate. It's difficult sometimes, but constantly being aware of the closest bathroom is hard too.
I am eternally grateful and hope that anyone else with this problem can help solve theirs!”
Another blogger discusses her success on the keto diet and how it has helped her IBS on her blog Grumpy Stomach. She does caution against trying the keto diet if constipation is an issue, however.
“The Ketogenic diet for IBS will be very low carb, which naturally cuts out most of those FODMAP carbs, making the digestion process easier.
However, if you have IBS C (constipation) this could be a very bad diet choice as your risk for constipation increases on the Keto diet.
You could try adjusting fiber intake on this diet and may find success after a slight adjustment.
The Keto diet helps cut down on your risk for diarrhea, gas and bloating as well as heartburn.
So if you have IBS-D, this could be the diet for you.”
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