Friday, 13 April 2012

The F word...

If you have been diagnosed with IBS you have likely talked a lot about the “F” word – F.I.B.R.E.  I feel confident enough to say that you were likely told to increase your fibre consumption, no matter the type of IBS you happen to have.  Fibre appears to be the centre of the IBS universe and at the forefront of the minds of our medical professionals.  It is often touted as the cure-all for IBS.  I am about to tell you how fibre is quite literally a pain in my ass; it is both friend and foe.  Fibre is like that person that you walk on eggshells around, too much one way or the other and this fickle friend will make your life miserable. 

It took me a long time to figure out fibre and it required a lot of help along the way.  It took specialists, a surgeon and one amazing dietitian to help me understand how fibre affects my body.  This journey also included extensive food journaling, diligence and patience to gain the understanding I now have today.  

How much fibre do I eat in one day?  Fifteen to nineteen grams (15-19g), however, I prefer to hover in around 15g.  How much should you be consuming?  According to the Dietitians of Canada, adult men should consume 38g per day and women are recommended 25g.  For those of you without IBS, you will likely be shocked at my daily intake, and some of you will likely deem it to be unhealthy…  this would not be the first time that I have heard this, and it will certainly not be the last. 

A low intake of fibre allows me to manage my symptoms and maintain a routine of three to four “movements” daily.  However, this does not mean that I do not have flare-ups at this level.  I think I hit six, seven and eight washroom trips on three consecutive days last week at my normal intake level.  So, what I am telling you is, often, IBS is kind of like gambling.  Sometimes you are cautious and win big, sometimes you throw caution to the wind and you win big, and sometimes, no matter what you do, shit happens.  What I do know for sure is that if I go above this threshold I might as well pitch a tent right beside the toilet.  

One extremely important fact to keep in mind is that everybody is different.  My fibre RDI may be the same, lower, or higher than yours, and that is okay.  Everyone reacts differently to different foods and that also applies to those who do not have IBS.  So, when it appears as though someone is judging you for eating things like gasp – white bread – keep in mind that, if it is easier for you to digest than whole wheat bread, then eat the white bread.  Eating things like whole grains can be just as unhealthy for someone with IBS as for someone else who shuns white bread.  If it makes you use the washroom all the time, forces you to take medication and/or causes weight loss and additional stress, then, this choice is unhealthy for you.   
  • Never be ashamed of the choices you have to make in order to lead a healthy life. 
  • Never forget that healthy is not a static definition; it is just as unique as you are.   
Be sure to talk these things over with your doctor, or, get referred to a dietitian.  If you do not gel with your dietitian, ask to be referred to a different one.  That is what I did, and we ended up meshing really well and I was able to learn a lot from her. 

Fibre is a beast of its own and a bit cumbersome to tackle in one post, so, I will begin a series of posts relating to fibre so that we can work through this issue together.  If you have specific questions relating to the f word, contact me and I will ensure I cover it at some point throughout the series.  In addition, feel free to share your experiences about keeping it regular!


  1. I had to spend a lot of time getting to know fibre, but in order to manage different kinds of health problems. I realized that I was getting way to little fibre for most of my life and now that I've been paying attention, my tummy is a happy one and so is the ahem, rest of my body. :o)

    1. It is amazing to me how one seemingly "little" detail can have such an effect on our daily lives. Glad to hear you figured out what was right for your body.

  2. I also have discovered that THE ONLY way I can manage IBS is through a very low FIBER (FIBRE) diet. With carnivory, for the first time in my life, I dont' suffer constant pain and bloating. Low-fiber has allowed me to live again without thinking of the washroom all the time!
    Good stuff!

    1. It is certainly liberating not to have to worry about running to the washroom, what a relief it must have been to find a way to manage your IBS. Thanks for commenting Fox!