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exclusion diet

Rated 4.8/5 based on 14 reviews

An exclusion diet is where different foods or groups of foods are excluded from the diet, and then sometimes reintroduced, to see whether they are causing the symptoms. Patients often start by cutting out some of the foods which most often cause intolerance, such as wheat or dairy. They may progress to cutting out other foods such as citrus fruit, gluten-containing foods such as barley and rye, and caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee.

Foods that are identified as causing symptoms are often called trigger foods. These triggers will be different in every IBS sufferer, but there are some foods which seem to cause problems in many sufferers. These include: alcohol, artificial sweeteners (sorbitol seems to be a particular offender), carbonated drinks, coffee, dairy, fried foods, oils, poultry skin and dark or red meat.

Because patients are actively avoiding whole foods groups it is important that they make sure they are still receiving the nutrition they need. It can be very helpful to work with a qualified nutritionist who can advise about the best way to use exclusion diets safely. A nutritionist will also be able to advise on substitute foods for any trigger foods that you find, such as using gluten-free flour for baking or the use of rice or potatoes as food staples rather than bread.


Review by Kristi

I was diagnosed with IBS definitively in January of this year by a GI doc but my general doc said she thought that that was my problem in June. I went through the elimination diet and found out that gluten, dairy and nightshade vegetables are all bad for me. I feel better since eliminating them but I still have horrible bouts of nausea and explosive diarrhea (with my three Senecot and Linzess every day) or horrible constipation if I lower the number of Senecot or don't take the Linzess.

I can't figure out if I just have an intestine that is very badly damaged or I have more triggers. I have had these issues for 20 years and I had my appendix out, a complete hysterectomy and my gallbladder removed. The appendix was fine but the other organs were in bad shape. My gallbladder was white and full of scar tissue. I don't eat meat other than chicken once a month maybe and fish occasionally.

Review by Elida

I suffered with this condition for years. I too consulted medical doctors and got the same answers. I was miserable. If I took any trips I wouldn't eat until I arrived to make sure there were restroom facilities. I missed out on exciting foods, especially on cruises off the ship. But then I read Dr Gotts column one day and there was a person writing about the same problems I had. He decided it was the food he had been eating so he started experimenting every day until he found it was the salads and the varieties of lettuce that were causing the problem.

I started to eliminate salads with any lettuce from my diet and guess what, I am cured. I no longer miss out on foods when I travel. It is a big relief to be able to enjoy my food without looking around for a restroom before I commence eating. I love salads and I thought that they wouldn't hurt me so I ate a lot of them when I was traveling and that was the wrong thing to do. I am enjoying my life now, even though I miss my salads. I hope this helps some of you out there, that column was a Godsend.

Review by Tamara

Without much research I started a gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free diet. I was tired of doctors telling me that I was the problem behind my IBS and they never did anything to help me. Since this new diet, my attacks are very few. I still have a lot of problems with gas and bloating but I feel 10 times better than I used to. I would like to feel completely well without any problems some day!

The only bad thing that recently happened to me was I passed out one day. When I came to I started throwing up violently and I had diarrhea so badly, non-stop along with blood. I was miserable and in severe pain for hours before I finally went to the emergency room (I have no insurance). The staff gave me three doses of narcotics before the pain finally started going away. They took my blood, took bowel samples, and ran a CT on my abdominal area and came back with nothing. They could not give me an idea on what happened.

IBS has taken away so much of my life through the years and I just want it to end. The new diet has helped but that day gave me a huge scare and I still do not know what caused it. It is nice to read other people's stories because it lets me know that I am not alone. Thank you! I wish the best for you all!

Review by Amy

I have suffered from IBS for over eight years now and been put on every prescription drug imaginable. About three month ago I tried cutting out gluten and dairy to see if that would help. I feel like a new person! Mainly the gas, bloating and constipation have been so much better. I will never go back to the IBS diet that some IBS websites recommend. It was all the wrong foods! No wonder I felt so horrible for so long!

Review by Donna

I would like to warn people with the diarrhea form of IBS to check any product that goes in or on the body for sorbitol, sorbitan, or polysorbate.

I was diagnosed with IBS about 10 years ago. No matter what I tried, nothing helped. I got progressively worse and my gastroenterologist didn't know what else to do. I realized that when I had sugar-free gum or mints I would get severe diarrhea. When I avoided those products I was great. For a while. The next time I had problems I knew that I hadn't eaten any sugar-free mints or gum so I started reading labels on other products and found sorbitol in my suntan lotion.

Over the last five years I have discovered the hard way that these laxatives are in sugar-free chocolate and candy, lotion, conditioner, whipped cream, Maalox and prescription medication. Mannitol (in Nulev) and xylitol also cause severe diarrhea. Now the only time I have problems is when I forget to read the label.

Review by Leanne

I was diagnosed by my local GP with IBS 23 years ago after suffering from bouts of constipation/diarrhea for some time. Over the past 22 years I have tried all sorts of good eating habits with limited success. I was at the stage where I did not want to go out anywhere for fear of needing a toilet in a hurry and embarrassing myself.

I mentioned this to my chiropractor who told me that the ileocecal valve was the source of my problems. He practises kinesiology on me when I let him know I have a problem. It took about three monthly treatments to bring my problems under control. Whereas once I would have problems five days out of every seven, it has now been four months since I have had to tell him 'My tummy's playing up too' when I walk in for my visit.

I went to visit an iridologist about 12 months ago as this form of diagnosis has always interested me. Without telling her anything whatsoever, she told me I had digestion problems (amongst other things) and suggested I try a wheat-free/dairy-free diet. She asked me to also avoid red and white wine, beer, citrus, pork, shellfish and red meat as I was creating too much uric acid.

Well I started this eating regime late one Friday afternoon and by the Tuesday, I could do my belt on my jeans tighter by two notches. The bloating just disappeared and after a few weeks I noticed I had dropped five kilos. It was hard to follow at first, but I certainly notice a difference when I wander away from the plan.

Review by Anon

I have had IBS for 40 years and found by accident that potatoes were the trigger - the whole nightshade family actually, plus avocados. (If anyone thinks that potatoes are harmless, try typing in potato glycoalkaloids into your search bar - you will find all you never wanted to know about the humble spud. I have no problem with gluten, but a crispy chip will never pass my lips again I can tell you!

Review by Jackie

This year I have been avoiding bananas (which I really miss!) and this seems to have improved my IBS-D enormously. I already stopped including raw tomatoes in my diet a few years ago with huge success. This latest addition to my no list is a surprise to me. Also, as I say, I do miss them. Nowadays my only trigger is extreme stress.

Review by Abby

I've been wheat-free and dairy-free for about eight weeks now, and admittedly it's been hard. I've always been a huge fan of cakes and cookies and just about any kind of baked goods! But the huge relief that I have felt in just this short time has been enough to keep me going.

I used to get really bloated and gassy, and I have suffered from chronic constipation for almost eight years. My bowels certainly aren't moving at lightning speed yet, but the bloating has been significantly reduced. Before going wheat-free I would generally feel really sick after a meal which included pasta or bread, and I would get incredibly bloated and feel a lot of abdominal pressure and pain.

Because of the additional constipation, the gas wouldn't pass, so the pressure and pain would just build. I'm still struggling with some constipation, but because of the reduction in the gas and bloating, I feel much, much better. As hard as it is to think about a life without cake and cookies, I am thrilled at the thought of a life without daily gas, bloating, and pain.

Review by Jessica

I have suffered from IBS with constipation for years, and I finally had a doctor of ayurvedic medicine recommend that I stop eating wheat and dairy to get my system back in balance. I have gone without eating wheat and very minimal dairy now for two weeks and I have had a bowel movement every single day!

I can't believe my physician did not suggest these dietary changes for me. I was tested for celiac disease and it was negative, but I obviously have some sort of intolerance to wheat and dairy. I am simply amazed at how normally my body seems to be functioning now, and I can give up all wheat if it means that I won't be bloated or 5lbs heavier because I have been constipated for days!

Review by Lee

I love Zelnorm, it really helped my stomach. I used to get severe pain in my stomach and saw several gastro specialists with no luck, until trying Zelnorm. Now that Zelnorm has been recalled the pain has returned. But I've found that avoiding bread products, milk and soda really helps. The diet takes some getting used to but it's all worth it!

Review by Jon

I stopped my IBS four years ago by some simple diet changes. There has been no relapse and I now have extremely healthy bowels. I stopped eating dairy products for a month, then only very occasionally (used soy milk on breakfast cereal, avoided coffee, etc). I stopped eating wheat products for a month, then only very occasionally (substitute rye bread for wheat bread, drink white wine instead of beer, etc). I also avoided peanuts, and generally avoided food with flavor enhancers.

Review by Michelle

I've had stomach cramps since I was small. I'm 24 now and in much better shape than I was before 2003. Sugar, wheat and dairy seem to be the culprits so far. Prior to 2003 there wasn't a week where I had at least one attack. Doctors told me that I have IBS and should eat more fiber. Yeah, that was helpful.

In the past I have tried diets, trying to omit the above-mentioned culprits. My self-discipline was just rotten. It's just too drastic to leave those common things out of your diet at once. In December 2002 I decided as my first new year's resolution ever I'm going to take seriously: I will stop eating wheat. No bread, pasta, pizza, you name it. My cramps were cut in half in 2003.

In 2004, according to plan, I cut out dairy. You wouldn't believe how my quality of life increased. I have difficulty remembering what a cramp is like. Sure, I experience my occasional cramps. Still get my bouts of constipation and diarrhea, but the pain...it's mostly gone, which makes the other symptoms just more bearable. My cravings for wheat are zero now. You can try and tempt me with a piece of cake. It won't work! It's not about the fear of getting another attack, it's just that processed foods are unhealthy in the first place, and if you respect yourself you wouldn't eat it.

This year, 2005, sugar is on my hit list. As a pure sugar addict, I'm finding it quite difficult so far, but I will survive! I believe in moderation and sometimes treat myself with the forbidden food. To avoid embarrassing situations, I plan when I'm going to cheat a bit, and make sure I am in my comfort zone, at home with a toilet nearby and some privacy.

If you have true friends, be open and tell them about your problem. It's amazing how accepting people can be. You might feel like the odd one out by not being able to eat in all restaurants and all types of foods. People get used to it, and most of them will go the extra mile for you. Food is medicine. People should get more aware of what they eat. Food intolerances and allergies are more common than you think.

It seems like a tall order to stop eating some basic types of food, but the rewards are overwhelming. In moments of extreme pain, I have asked why me? I came to the realization that most people have their own set of physical problems, eg: migraine. I asked myself what other kind of pain would I have preferred if I could swap it. My answer: nothing. Give me my stomach cramps.

Other people have many more problems than I do, and if that's the only problem I have, I'm thankful. At the end of the day, you have to accept your condition and be positive. Joke about your experiences. When you get a painless bowel movement, appreciate and enjoy your special occasion!

Review by Doug

I'm 43 years old. I've had IBS for most of my life. A year ago I was diagnosed with type II diabetes. To help control my blood sugar I gave up simple carbs like white flour, white rice, high starch foods and foods with sugar or corn sweeteners. When I do eat carbs, I make sure they are whole grain or are natural like fresh fruits and vegetables. I also make sure I never over eat.

To my surprise, my problem with IBS has all but vanished. At one time I suspected eggs and peanut butter were culprits, but I now eat an abundance of both with no problems. I wish I had known this a long time ago. It would have spared me a lot of pain.

Do you suffer from IBS? Have you tried an exclusion diet? Please contact Sophie to send in your review.