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Eating for IBS

eating for ibs

Rated 2.7/5 based on 3 reviews

by Heather Van Vorous

Eating for IBS explains the diet developed by Heather Van Vorous for IBS sufferers. The diet is based on using soluble fiber foods as a foundation to soothe the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber foods, which are potential IBS triggers but still necessary for good health, are carefully incorporated into the diet.

The book also looks at other factors such as how dairy intolerance can cause IBS symptoms, and how supplements and safe foods such as peppermint oil and herbal teas can help keep symptoms at bay. Eating for IBS includes various eating and cooking strategies, travel and restaurant advice, daily menus, supermarket ideas, and 175 gourmet recipes. The book was developed after Heather Van Vorous suffered for many years with her own IBS, but gradually learned to control it through modifying her diet.

To read an extract from the book just scroll down the page. You can also read a full interview with Heather Van Vorous.


Review by Kelli

I tried the Eating for IBS diet for my extreme IBS-C and it did not help. It made my trapped gas and constipation worse. I find that some of the info is good for people with mild to moderate IBS-D and not IBS-C. For me, my constipation is way worse eating lots of soluble fiber. It plugs me up. The insoluble fiber helps me more like whole wheat, bran, rye bread etc. I hardly eat soluble fiber and my IBS is less severe because of it.

Review by Linda

This book is all about the differences between soluble and non-soluble fiber and it contains lots of good tips and recipes. The only drawback is a lot of the foods are American and so unobtainable here in the UK. However a lot of the things are known by different names and by researching the web I have found the name we Brits use for the same thing.

I have found it very helpful, it certainly helps me with constipation. Some of the things that she can safely eat however such as dried banana chips still don't suit me, but I have always had trouble with bananas, which is a shame because the home-dried ones are absolutely delicious. So it is still trial and error. I have just tried home drying apples which are also delicious, so am hoping they will be OK.

I am still prone to bouts of IBS at the moment as I am in a stressful situation with my job and am back on anti-depressants and tranquilizers, but at least, thanks to Heather's diet, I am not suffering constipation as well.

Review by Krista

My problems are constipation-driven rather than the more common diarrhea, and a lot of Heather Van Vorous' advice is downright contrary to what works for me. I actually need a lot of insoluble fiber, though it is true that soluble needs to be eaten first to avoid pain. Many of the supposedly forbidden foods have no negative affect on me - eggs, for example, and milk. (Cheese is another story.) The advice is too rigid and doesn't pay enough attention to the differences felt by different types of sufferers.

My main issue with this book is that the recipes don't taste very good...I was disappointed. There was only one recipe that was worth making again (of the ones I tried, of course...given how disappointing they were I didn't try many after the first few). I'm used to eating 'health' and specialty foods - I don't even mind tofu and sprouts and other things, so it's not that I'm fussy or just not used to the way healthy food tastes - the recipes just weren't good.

And I'm a good cook so it isn't that I was doing it wrong - I have years of making healthy foods under my belt. The recipe for cheesecake was appalling, even a jar of jam dumped on top couldn't have made it tasty; it was like eating plain cottage cheese. No-one else liked it either.

She seems like a nice woman and everyone praises her so highly, I feel bad saying anything negative, but blah! I'd rather be constipated than have to dread every tasteless meal. Big thumbs down for this book.


Heather Van Vorous has kindly given permission for these extracts from Eating for IBS to be published here.

Eating for IBS

Copyright Heather Van Vorous, http://www.helpforibs.com/shop/books/eatingforibs.asp

Introduction to Eating for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

You are not alone! For twenty years I thought I was the only person in the world with IBS. I wasn't, and neither are you.

Although an estimated 15-20% of all Americans, or 39 to 52 million people, have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there is slight media attention given to the subject and precious little medical research conducted. It's an incurable condition; there is no alternative to controlling the symptoms through daily diet. Yet incredibly, even doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists appear to be either wholly uninformed or wildly misinformed about the eating requirements for IBS.

I don't know why this is, but I do know things must change. I hope this book will help. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also known as spastic colon) is a devastating and incurable condition that afflicts up to 20% of the world's population.

Until I wrote Eating for IBS I had never met another person with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I have yet to meet someone without IBS who truly appreciates how devastating and excruciating the condition can be. It is literally ruining people's lives - there are many folks out there with IBS who are afraid to leave their homes, who cannot work, drive, socialize, or travel. They live each day in fear.

The illness has an unimaginably dramatic effect on every single aspect of their lives - and yet, they often cannot even get their own family, friends, employers, and doctors to acknowledge that they have a legitimate physical problem. They feel that they are treated like hypochondriacs, and that their complaints are either summarily dismissed or met with outright contempt.

I know first-hand the sheer brutality of abdominal pain that characterizes an IBS attack (imagine someone setting their hand on fire, then plunging it into your lower abdomen to try and rip your guts out), so I sympathize unconditionally with all of these people. I know exactly what they are going through because I have been there myself. The only reason I am able to lead a normal life is because I follow the dietary advice in this book.

I have had IBS since I was nine years old, although I went undiagnosed for six long years. My pediatrician at the time refused to send me for diagnostic tests because my symptoms didn't fit any disorder she knew (though I was a textbook case), and therefore the problem was all in my head. This doctor also dismissed my suffering as 'only pain.' She flatly told me that my symptoms did not warrant treatment and that I should 'quit whining.' I was in the fourth grade at the time and had recently fainted from severe abdominal pain in a neighbor's garden.

When I was eventually diagnosed (by a different doctor) at the age of fifteen, I was offered little help beyond being given the label 'IBS.' Although it was a relief to finally have a name for my problem, I was not provided with any dietary advice whatsoever. My doctor simply prescribed an anti-spasmodic drug and recommended Metamucil. It took a great many years of daily trial and error, and much excruciatingly painful experience, to gradually learn which foods triggered my IBS and which soothed it. It required additional medical research to realize precisely why these foods had the physical effects they did, be they hurtful or helpful.

However, even after learning exactly what I could and couldn't eat as well as the reasons why, it was still very difficult at times to follow the IBS diet. Most typical American meals, whether home-cooked or in restaurants, were simply intolerable. What I needed was a way to bridge the gap between knowing what to eat and how.

I wasn't about to sacrifice my health, nor was I willing to forego great food, so I had to find a way to create recipes that were both safe (and I use the word 'safe' deliberately, knowing how justifiably fearful many IBS sufferers are when it comes to food) and scrumptious. The happy result was that by following the IBS diet I was led unexpectedly to a life of culinary adventure, and along the way I developed a cooking strategy that's surprisingly simple, fun, and delicious.

How did this happen? Well, instead of viewing IBS food guidelines as a dietary prison sentence to be borne with grim determination, I took them as an opportunity to explore new cuisines, as an incentive to take control of my own health and life, and as an invitation to practice a little kitchen wizardry. This often meant exploring techniques from different culinary traditions and cultures.

One important lesson I learned early on was that delicious American homestyle cooking was amazingly easy to adapt to the IBS kitchen - the key was simply clever substitutions, never deprivation. A second realization was that ethnic cooking frequently offered the most exciting variety of foods as well as some of the most easily modified recipes. Finally, I learned that even if a recipe adaptation failed miserably, the dog would always eat it.

Once I had decided to view IBS dietary restrictions as mere challenges to be met through creative thinking and cooking, I realized that I had a whole world of cuisines to explore, exotic foods to taste, and nothing at all to lose by trying different things. I vowed to never be intimidated by new cooking techniques, specialty ingredients, or recipes from different traditions and cultures. Food is fun, cooking is a pleasure, and eating a delicious meal is the wonderful end reward.

After I had gained the knowledge that allowed me to eat without fear, I refused to be afraid in the kitchen. Recipes just couldn't be too varied, exciting, or interesting - safe never meant boring or bland. And like everything else that seems daunting at first, with practice came comfort, and with repetition came familiarity. New techniques were never as complicated as they had initially seemed once I actually tried them, and ethnic foods were no longer foreign once I had tasted them.

Recipe adaptations soon became a quick and easy matter, and it grew quite clear that there was simply no limit on great taste when it came to cooking for IBS. My personal IBS recipe collection accumulated gradually over the years, eventually filling an entire shelf of notebooks in my kitchen bookcase with a wide variety of exciting, delicious, and healthy dishes.

As I was the only person I knew with IBS, however, these recipes, as well as the dietary guidelines that formed them, were simply for my own use. It never occurred to me - in fact, it didn't seem possible - that there were other people (millions of them!) suffering from the same problem I had, who could all be helped by my information. Then the internet came along and changed everything.

My personal IBS recipe collection accumulated gradually over the years, eventually filling an entire shelf of notebooks in my kitchen bookcase with a wide variety of exciting, delicious, and healthy dishes. As I was the only person I knew with IBS, however, these recipes, as well as the dietary guidelines that formed them, were simply for my own use. It never occurred to me - in fact, it didn't seem possible - that there were other people (millions of them!) suffering from the same problem I had, who could all be helped by my information. Then the internet came along and changed everything. How, exactly? Well, Eating for IBS evolved over the course of a few years from an email file I created to send to other people on IBS boards.

I had surfed onto these websites with a casual interest at first, as I don't give too much thought to my own IBS anymore. I've lived with it on a daily basis for so long that I automatically control my diet, and thus the symptoms, through habit. So I was completely astonished and appalled by how much the people on the IBS boards were suffering, and by the fact that no one had told them how to eat properly.

Many of their stories were heartbreaking, and their desperation was palpable. They felt they were treated with a complete lack of respect by doctors and offered no help at all - many were told things like 'stop complaining', and 'the pain can't be as bad as you say or you'd kill yourself.' These were people whose lives were so utterly compromised by IBS that they attempted suicide, purchased RVs with toilets in the back so they could drive without worrying about a sudden attack, and wore adult diapers every day in case they were stricken in public and couldn't make it to a restroom in time.

I was deeply affected by the stories on the IBS boards, so I started compiling all the advice I had to give, and eventually this information turned into a full-fledged eating plan. I added the recipes when I realized that most people would be dumbstruck when told they could no longer eat meat, dairy, fried foods, coffee, or soda pop. I didn't want people to feel that there was nothing left they could eat, and I knew that's how most of them would react to my information. There is in fact a wealth of wonderful things to eat that don't trigger IBS attacks, and as I had created hundreds of dishes over the years I decided to share my recipes along with the dietary advice.

I then did some research to verify and annotate the accuracy of my medical/nutritional information (documented through extensive footnotes in the text so that readers may consult more technical and detailed authorities at the primary source). I also read a copy of every IBS book on the market. I have to admit I was having a very hard time believing that there was nothing with accurate dietary information already out there, despite what I was hearing from the people on the IBS boards.

It was shocking to discover they were absolutely right - the books available had dietary advice that ranged from worthless to downright dangerous. One book's outrageous suggestions made me so angry I nearly threw it across the room. Had the author been standing there I think I would have smacked him, as he clearly had no comprehension of the physical torment people with IBS endure, let alone any sympathy for their suffering. I turned my email file into a full-fledged book after learning that there really was no legitimate IBS dietary information, and certainly no comprehensive eating guide with recipes, anywhere on the market.

I was helped immensely along the way by the terrific comments I received from fellow IBS sufferers via email. Their feedback was invaluable. The questions they asked had a very humbling effect, as I came to realize just how seriously people were taking the advice that I sent them. Here I was a total stranger, an anonymous nobody sending them email, and they were following every recommendation I had given them to the letter.

This really drove home the fact that they had no other source of information - virtually all that they knew about how to control their IBS through diet they had learned from me and my email file. These people really provided the inspiration to see this project through, and the determination to get the information into the hands of everyone who needs it.

The end result was this, the first and only book about Irritable Bowel Syndrome written by someone who personally has IBS and has learned to effectively control the problem through diet. I honestly believe that this is also the first and only book to offer IBS sufferers the information they need to live a normal life by explicitly detailing how to manage IBS through eating habits.

My conviction in this matter is backed not only by decades of first-hand experience but by the feedback from hundreds of other IBS sufferers. IBS is not a mental problem, nor is it strictly stress-induced, nor can it be solved through drugs or surgery. It is a problem that must be addressed on a daily basis through diet. The general guidelines and explicit recommendations in this book have helped everyone with IBS who has followed the advice. It is safe to assume that the information can in some way assist all IBS sufferers - the syndrome is not so highly individualized that no dietary generalizations can be made, as the colon reacts to specific foods in predictable ways. This is basic biology.

What I hope will be one of this book's major revelations is that, contrary to what people may think, eating for IBS does not mean deprivation, never going to restaurants, boring or bland food, or an unhealthily limited diet. There are safe recipes for traditional homestyle cooking, ethnic foods, rich desserts, snacks, and party foods. There is never any need to sacrifice an ounce of flavor or visual flair to create a gourmet IBS meal.

As a result, it's quite easy to cook for others following IBS guidelines without people even realizing that the food they're eating is tailored for medical needs. In addition, the IBS diet is inherently healthy (low fat, plant-based), lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer, is slimming, and it's delicious, too. It's easily suitable for an entire family to follow. IBS sufferers do not have to cook weird or special meals for themselves while their families follow a 'normal' diet.

In short, people with IBS who follow the advice in this book can achieve their dearest goal: after endless pain and suffering, they can finally eat without fear. I know this to be true because I am one of those people.

A New Way to Eat for IBS

The fundamental idea of eating for IBS is to avoid foods that trigger or irritate a spastic colon via the gastrocolic reflex that occurs when food enters the stomach, and to eat foods that soothe and regulate the colon. This will relieve and prevent the lower abdominal pain or cramps from IBS diarrhea and constipation, as well as gas, nausea, and bloating or swelling.

This is best accomplished by strictly limiting the amount of dietary fat (the single most difficult digestive tract burden), eating soluble fiber consistently with every snack and meal, eliminating coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcohol, being very careful with insoluble fiber, and avoiding overeating by having frequent small meals instead of large ones. It is also important to avoid cigarettes, as tobacco wreaks havoc on the digestive tract.

Have you read Eating For IBS? Please contact Sophie to send in your review.