3 Biggest IBS Myths Busted by Experts

15th May, 2023
Biggest IBS myths - Busted by experts

Did you know around 1 in 10 of us now has IBS?

Yet sadly it’s still super misunderstood.

As a result, it’s easy to end up looking for answers in all the wrong places and getting fake news (IBS-style) from unreliable sources – and that can lead to all sorts of myths and misinformation about the condition. Cue the confusion.

We’re here to bust the biggest IBS myths and give you only the latest no-nonsense real science, so you can take care of your tummy and take back control of your health.

So, let’s set the record straight on 3 major IBS myths we hear too often…

But first, what actually is IBS?

Essentially, IBS (which stands for irritable bowel syndrome) is a chronic condition that affects how your tummy works (aka the long tube that drives digestion from top to bottom).

It’s actually thought of by experts as a disorder of the gut-brain connection, where the communication between your tummy and your brain is out of balance.

Some of the most common symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

1. MYTH: Sugar causes IBS flare ups

Sure, having too much sugar isn’t a great idea for your overall health – as eating plenty of plants with tummy-loving fibre is key. But in terms of how your tummy works, sugar is actually pretty easily absorbed. And being easy to absorb usually means smoother sailing, with fewer tummy troubles (like gas or bloating) in the process.

The thing is, foods you might have suspected as IBS triggers, such as cakes and chocolate bars, don’t just contain regular sugar. But also give you high amounts of fat that can slow down digestion and trigger tummy issues.

Also, there are a bunch of different types of sugar. Some sugars could cause symptoms if you have a specific intolerance (like lactose or fructose). But often you’d need to eat them in high quantities to feel the side effects.

So, instead of being simply about the sugar, it’s often the portion size, fat content and FODMAPs you’re reacting to in those ‘high sugar’ foods. Find out more about FODMAPs below and in our blog here.

TUMMY TIP: Instead of fixating too much on sugar, try enjoying a balanced diet and think about putting a limit on high fat, fried or spicy food.

2. MYTH: IBS stops you absorbing your food

With the troublesome tummy symptoms of IBS, it can be easy to think you might not be absorbing all your food. But, actually, you are.

Sometimes, people with IBS might find themselves losing weight or not meeting their nutrition needs. But this is usually down to avoiding certain foods not because food isn’t being absorbed.

Now there are some conditions that affect absorption, which have very similar symptoms to IBS (and may even be misdiagnosed as IBS). These include coeliac disease, lactose intolerance, bile acid malabsorption and pancreatic insufficiency.

If you think you might have an intolerance and malabsorption issue, it’s worth investigating. Speak to a qualified nutrition professional to help and check out our top tips for lactose or gluten intolerance.

3. MYTH: Fasting helps IBS

Skipping a meal might mean you switch off those pesky symptoms for a short time. The logic here is that if you reduce the number of times you eat, you could reduce the number of times you get symptoms.

Think of fasting as though you’re putting your tummy into standby or sleep mode for the time being. But even if you feel temporary relief. It’s not going to tackle the tummy troubles that can help your IBS in the long run.

So this isn’t a sustainable solution – you need to eat to give you energy and fuel everything going on in your body.

In fact, having an irregular eating pattern has actually been shown to make symptoms worse overall for people with IBS.

Ultimately, IBS is more complex than pinning it down to one single cause. It’s usually a combination of factors all coming together to create the perfect storm.

While there’s no sure cure for IBS. There are lots of things you can try to settle your symptoms and tackle those tummy troubles. There’s no need to suffer in silence!

Get more insight into the biggest IBS myths…

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