Although there are numerous resources available for people looking to shed pounds, there are not enough resources for those who are trying to gain weight. People dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may unintentionally lose weight due to symptoms or a restrictive diet. IBS can make it difficult for individuals to gain weight, particularly with diarrhea being a common symptom, as the body cannot adequately absorb nutrients from food.
However, there is no need to worry! By adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet, it is possible to gain weight in a healthy manner, even with IBS. In this article, we will discuss effective ways to gain weight, with a focus on widening hips through exercise and diet.
Why Gaining Weight With IBS Is Difficult
Gaining weight with IBS can be a challenge due to the limited food options available in the diet. People with IBS often experience discomfort and unpleasant symptoms such as pain, gas, constipation, or diarrhea after eating certain foods. As a result, they may choose to avoid those foods or even skip meals altogether in an attempt to relieve the symptoms.
However, this can make it difficult for the body to obtain the necessary nutrients it needs, including calories, carbs, and protein. In particular, dairy and wheat products, which are primary sources of these nutrients for many healthy individuals, may be avoided by those with IBS. This creates a significant calorie deficit, making it challenging for individuals to maintain their weight.
During IBS flare-ups, when the digestive system is more sensitive and uncomfortable, people with IBS may experience a dislike for all foods. This can be a contributing factor to unintentional weight loss in these individuals, along with the altered bowel habits and diarrhea that often accompany IBS.
What Is The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Actually?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a type of functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGD) that can make it challenging to gain weight. This disorder affects the digestive system and is characterized by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. The lower gastrointestinal tract, which includes the small intestine and colon, is mainly affected by IBS.
In individuals with IBS, the colon contracts more frequently than usual, resulting in symptoms such as gas, stomach cramping and pain, and bloating. Certain foods can trigger these symptoms, including legumes, cruciferous vegetables, dairy products, cabbage, onion, fried and smoked foods, and wheat products.
Gaining Weight With IBS
Although IBS itself does not directly cause weight loss, it can make it challenging to gain or maintain weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for preventing various health issues related to being underweight or having weak bones. Adapting the diet to manage IBS is a fundamental aspect of treating this condition.
For individuals with mild and sporadic symptoms that do not significantly impact their quality of life, lifestyle and dietary modifications are often recommended instead of specific medications. This includes avoiding food triggers and consuming more easily digestible, nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods to promote weight gain. Combining these approaches with a personalized care plan can help people with IBS achieve a healthy weight increase while also experiencing symptom improvement.
- Get to the bottom of your IBS symptoms!
- Exclude gas-producing foods.
- Start an empiric trial of a lactose-free diet if you have persistent abdominal bloating despite the exclusion of gas-producing foods.
- Ensure your diet provides you with all the nutrients you need for good health.
- Do not overdo it with sugar and fats to gain weight, as this can lead to serious health complications.
- Focus on building muscle instead of increasing fat content in the body.
- Increase your calorie intake with foods that do not worsen your IBS symptoms.
- Detox your body and reboot it with a proper diet and lifestyle for good weight gain.
There are no fixed guidelines for increasing weight in IBS through diet. Finding the correct diet by eliminating and reintroducing certain foods can help you manage a healthy weight in IBS. Foods that can help one individual may cause severe digestive disturbances in others. Try to figure out your food allergies, tolerances, and intolerances, and levels for each food item before concluding your weight-loss meal plan.
Step 1: Nutritious Carbohydrates Carbohydrates: are essential in the diet as they are the body’s primary energy source and are required to fuel the brain and nourish gut microbiota. They also contain B vitamins and many essential minerals; hence a healthy weight gain diet should include quality sources of carbohydrates that are easy to digest.
Unlike simple and refined carbohydrates, the carbohydrate sources that are less likely to trigger IBS symptoms should be gluten- and fructose-free, but also high in fiber. Examples are oats, rice, gluten-free pasta, quinoa, and buckwheat. In essence, choose carbs from a low FODMAP list.
Step 2: High-Quality Proteins: Although it is sometimes overlooked, many high-protein food sources are high-calorie foods that can promote weight gain in a nutritious way. Protein helps build muscle mass, so stocking up on them can help gain weight. Even smooth muscles that make the gastrointestinal tract function smoothly require good protein sources.
Getting enough protein helps provide the necessary calories and can prevent weight loss. The high-protein foods for those with IBS are seafood, eggs, fish, meat, lactose-free dairy products, chicken and turkey, seeds, and nuts.
Step 3: Eat Low FODMAP Foods: When one has IBS and wants to gain weight, it’s important not to exclude foods unnecessarily. FODMAP is a diet that restricts certain carbohydrate-containing foods called Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols (FODMAPs). A low FODMAP education starts with cutting FODMAPs out of the diet for six to eight weeks.
After the symptoms go away, the person slowly adds fermentable carbohydrate-rich foods back into their diet to find out how they react to each one. Low-FODMAP foods contain small amounts of fermentable carbs.
Some low-FODMAP foods are greens, carrots, potatoes, green beans, squash, lettuce, blueberries, bananas, lactose-free dairy, cane sugar, and brown sugar proteins (such as turkey, fish, eggs, and chicken), and High-FODMAP foods are short-chain carbohydrates that increase water volume in the bowel, quickly fermented by gut bacteria. This can lead to bloating, discomfort, and eventually abdominal pain in many people with IBS.
High-FODMAP foods are short-chain carbohydrates that increase water volume in the bowel, quickly fermented by gut bacteria. This can lead to bloating, discomfort, and eventually abdominal pain in many people with IBS. Some High-FODMAP foods, such as apples, blackberries, dairy products, wheat products, sausages, and legumes, should be restricted for IBS patients to avoid symptoms in the digestive system or not exacerbating.
Step 4: Consume Drinks With High Calories: Add full cream or soy milk to increase the calories in tea and coffee.
Step 5: Add More Healthy Oils to Your Diet: Fat sources are essential for gaining weight and contribute more calories than carbohydrates and proteins. Besides being a source of energy, fats are also required for muscle building.
If an IBS patient isn’t sensitive and can tolerate fats well, you can include 20-30% of your calories from fats and oils. They would increase calorie intake and help relieve IBS symptoms. They are extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and nut butter, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
Step 6: Drink Green Smoothies: Packed with lots of fruits and vegetables, smoothies are a great way to squeeze in the nutrients and calories you need to gain weight. Add milk, yogurt, or nut butter to add more energy. Your green smoothie that contains oils, seeds, fruits, and vegetables — all low-FODMAP foods are unlikely to trigger IBS symptoms. Always consume your smoothie slowly to keep your digestive system happy and avoid feeling too full.
Step 7: Eat Nuts, Seeds, Butter Seeds and nuts: such as macadamia, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and brazil nuts — are packed with energy-rich nutrients and healthy fats. They are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins, making them a great choice for snacking. Try spreading nut butter on fruits, adding it to smoothies, or enjoying it straight from a spoon!
Step 8: Eat More/Regular Meal Times: Enjoy meals at regular times, chew well, and eat slowly. You may find it easier to digest and tolerate smaller food portions than more significant portions.
Making changes to your lifestyle can help manage the discomfort caused by diarrhea and constipation. Individuals with IBS may alter their eating habits to avoid frequent bowel movements, such as opting to have two large meals and fasting for the remainder of the day or skipping meals altogether due to abdominal pain.
However, engaging in intense exercise should be avoided as it can lead to inflammation in the gut, worsening symptoms. It is crucial to understand how symptoms affect eating patterns when managing weight for IBS. Here are some other lifestyle changes that can help:
- Get enough quality sleep.
- Try de-stress therapies like meditation and music.
- Sit down and chew your food correctly.
- Small and frequent meals give your gut time for digestion.
- Have a regular meal pattern.
- Try to avoid eating late-night dinners.
Physical Activity for IBS
It’s recommended that individuals with IBS engage in physical activity to potentially alleviate symptoms and promote overall health. Exercise can also aid in building muscle and weight gain. Walking, strength training to build muscles, low-impact cardio exercises, yoga, and swimming are all viable options.
Can Exercise Trigger Symptoms?
While exercise can stimulate the gastrointestinal system and trigger reactions, not all types of exercise are harmful to those with IBS. Research suggests that regular physical activity can actually help manage IBS symptoms. Similar to food, it’s important to determine which physical activities may worsen symptoms, so you don’t have to eliminate all forms of exercise.
Can IBS Itself Promote Weight Gain?
Individuals with gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS, may experience changes in weight as a side effect of their condition. This is particularly common in individuals with IBS with predominant constipation, which can cause changes in bowel function such as infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stools, or feeling like the bowel is not fully empty.
These symptoms may be linked to diet and are more commonly seen in overweight individuals due to overeating in response to decreased satiation signals. Furthermore, alterations in the gut microbiota, which have been observed in both obesity and IBS, suggest a relationship between the two conditions. In general, weight gain can occur due to a variety of factors such as diet, hormonal changes, lack of exercise, and more.
- IBS is often associated with depression or anxiety, which can lead to overeating. Emotional eating typically occurs when someone feels stressed or upset, and food provides comfort.
- Individuals with IBS who suffer from constipation and abdominal pain may limit their food intake to alleviate their symptoms. On the other hand, some may eat frequently to relieve acid flare-ups. They may unknowingly turn to easily digestible processed carbohydrates, which are often more calorie-dense and provide comfort. As a result, they may neglect to consume vegetables, fruits, and beans.
- For some individuals, eating can serve as a distraction from the pain, discomfort, or emotional distress caused by IBS. This may result in a continuous cycle of eating and avoiding or limiting physical activity.
- A poor diet, insufficient hydration, and a sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate constipation associated with IBS. Furthermore, these factors can contribute to weight gain, a sluggish metabolism, and excess body fat.
Can IBS cause weight gain?
Yes, it’s possible for IBS to cause weight gain. People with IBS may experience changes in bowel function that can include straining, having stools less often, or feeling like the bowel is not emptying all the way. Additionally, some people may experience emotional eating as a coping mechanism for the stress and discomfort associated with IBS.
Can IBS cause weight loss?
Yes, it’s possible for IBS to cause weight loss. People with IBS may avoid eating to alleviate symptoms, or they may experience frequent diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and weight loss. In some cases, people with IBS may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients, which can contribute to weight loss.
How can I manage my weight with IBS?
Managing your weight with IBS involves making dietary and lifestyle changes to support healthy bowel function. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Exercise can be helpful for managing IBS symptoms and promoting weight management, but it’s important to test out which physical activities work for you and to avoid overexertion.
Are there any medications for weight management in people with IBS?
While there are no specific medications for weight management in people with IBS, some medications used to manage IBS symptoms may have side effects that can impact weight. For example, some medications may cause constipation or increase appetite. It’s important to discuss any potential side effects with your healthcare provider and to work together to find a medication regimen that works for you.
Can weight loss improve IBS symptoms?
Yes, in some cases, weight loss can improve IBS symptoms. Excess weight can put additional strain on the digestive system and contribute to bowel dysfunction. Losing weight through healthy eating and regular exercise can improve bowel function and alleviate symptoms of IBS. However, it’s important to approach weight loss in a healthy and sustainable way, rather than through crash dieting or other unhealthy methods that can worsen IBS symptoms.
In conclusion, IBS can indirectly affect weight by causing symptoms like constipation, bloating, and changes in eating habits. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid further health complications. Adapting the diet pattern is a key component of treating IBS and achieving a healthy weight.
This may involve avoiding food triggers and incorporating easily digestible, nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods into your diet. A personalized care plan, along with these measures, can help manage symptoms and promote weight gain in individuals with IBS.