Looking For A Quick Fix?
Having a chronic condition can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated and sometimes, desperate. Feeling uncomfortable all the time is just simply not fun. And quality of life can reach very high levels of “suck.” This ongoing – and extremely understandable — frustration can help explain why people with IBS often turn to purported “miracle” cures or treatments. And believe me, there are dozens of these IBS diet fads out there. But unfortunately, many of these are over-hyped at best and dangerous to your health at worst.
Read on for what to watch out for to protect your gut (and your wallet).
These Are The IBS Diet Fads To Avoid
The Ketogenic Diet
This is the very trendy diet du jour, stolen from the early 1900s, and originally (and currently) used to treat intractable epilepsy in children. Unfortunately, there’s very limited data to show that it’s useful for much beyond this original and important use case, though there have been a number of recent studies that have examined a modified ketogenic diet for weight loss, dementia and diabetes.
The basis of the diet is that instead of using carbohydrates for fuel, your body uses fat instead, turning it into ketone bodies to fuel your brain, muscles and organs via a process known as ketosis.
The ketogenic diet is very high in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates and protein. A hospital grade therapeutic ketogenic diet is 80-90% fat with the remainder of calories consisting of carbs and protein.
Most online keto plans (which may or may not put your body into ketosis) are 60-70% fat, 25-30% protein and 5-10% carbs. This amounts to a lot of butter, cream, cheese, nuts, avocados and meat.
Why You May Want To Avoid This If You Have IBS:
For individuals suffering from IBS, this large amount of fat intake can be extremely problematic, as fat is one of the main triggers of IBS symptoms, . In addition, the ketogenic diet tends to be very low in fiber (because fiber is a carbohydrate), which can cause constipation and alterations in gut bacteria, and can also lead to further GI distress.
Finally, if you are an athlete, the ketogenic diet can make you feel like you are “bonking” (low on energy) on a daily basis, as the metabolism of fat is a long and complicated process. Most athletes will require carbs for both quick and sustained energy. And, again, the GI upset that high dietary intake of fat can bring will only be exacerbated during high-intensity or endurance bouts of exercise for individuals with IBS.
For a more in-depth look into the keto diet and its relation to IBS, please read our article, The Keto Diet and IBS: A Closer Look.
Activated charcoal is charcoal that’s been exposed to gases at high temperatures, which gives it a porous and highly absorptive surface. This allows it to grab onto and absorb the things it comes in contact with.
The theory is that activated charcoal absorbs “toxins” in the GI tract and calms the gut. There is science that shows that activated charcoal is effective for drug overdoses or ingestion of poisonous substances, but there is no science that demonstrates any effect for IBS or other gut symptoms.
As humans, we have a very fine natural detoxification system in our body that includes our liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. Charcoal is an unnecessary addition to this system.
Why You May Want To Avoid This If You Have IBS:
It’s important to remember that IBS is not a situation where you have “toxins in your gut,” but is rather a functional GI disorder characterized by a gut that just doesn’t do what it was designed to do, doesn’t have proper enzymes or transporters to digest certain foods and/or has a faulty gut-brain communication system. So no amount of “detox” will relieve your symptoms.
Finally, activated charcoal may not only be unhelpful, it can be harmful. This substance can absorb other medications you’re taking as well as important vitamins and minerals, interfering with your health and safety in a serious and potentially life-threatening way.
This IBS diet fad has reached peak internet velocity over the past 6 months or so (late 2018/early 2019), showing up as the miracle cure for just about anything that ails you. It’s become especially popular in online gut health forums that discuss IBS, small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other related conditions.
The original source of this somewhat improbably craze is a self-professed “medical medium” who has no medical or nutrition training. Thus, it’s best to listen to what science actually has to say.
Some of the (unproven) claims regarding the wonders of celery juice include: restored gut health and digestion, balanced blood pH, reduction of gas and bloating, reversal of leaky gut, decreased inflammation, reduced blood pressure, increased stomach acid, reduced constipation, reduced risk of cancer, and generalized detoxification of the gut and body.
Sounds pretty incredible, right?
In reality, celery juice, like most vegetable juices, does contain some excellent vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and offers good hydration. But so does carrot juice or good ol’ V8.
Unfortunately, celery juice does not deliver anything unique that a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins cannot also provide.
Why You May Want To Avoid This If You Have IBS:
In addition, for those with gut issues such as IBS, celery can actually cause stomach distress, as it contains mannitol, which is a FODMAP. Plus, in utilizing multiple stalks of celery to make juice, individuals are more likely to consume a higher amount of mannitol than they might typically eat in stalks alone, which can further contribute to painful gas and bloating.
Finally, celery juice, like grapefruit juice, contains compounds that can interfere with certain medications, such as statins, blood pressure or anti-anxiety medications, causing the medications not to work properly and/or increasing side effects, .
Aloe Vera Juice
Similar to celery juice, aloe juice comes with a reputation for myriad magical qualities, including anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce gas, bloating and constipation. This juice, extracted from the aloe vera plant, has long held great appeal in alternative healing circles due to its historical use as a medicinal plant. While the plant has been studied for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, most research and usage has been based on external use of the plant, rather than ingestion.
Why You May Want To Avoid This If You Have IBS:
It’s unclear where the myth of aloe vera juice as a treatment for IBS symptoms originated, but scientific research does not support its use, and the few random control studies that have been undertaken have found no benefit , .
In addition, the regular ingestion of aloe vera juice is not recommended due to the risk of significant side effects, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, allergic reactions, dehydration or electrolyte imbalances, low blood sugar, elevated cancer risk and interactions with other medications.
A fancy name for stock, bone broth is essentially animal (fish, chicken, beef) bones that have been simmered with water (and sometimes herbs and spices) for many hours to several days.
It is thought that the long cooking time allows various minerals and proteins from the bones to leach into the broth, increasing its nutrient value. Calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, glutamine and collagen are amongst the nutrients that may be found in bone broth, however the levels of most of these are insufficient to deliver an excellent source of nutrition (e.g. you’d have to drink a LOT of broth). In fact, one intrepid amateur researcher recently analyzed her homemade bone broth and found it contained less calcium than kale.
Some proponents of bone broth believe that adding vinegar to the broth increases nutrition content by leaching minerals from the bones. However, because vinegar is a relatively mild acid and the ratio of vinegar to water in bone broth is very low, any increase in mineral content of the final product will be negligible.
In addition, some of the nutrients found in bones are denatured (broken down) during cooking, making them less useful in the body. And, while we know that bones and cartilage used for bone broth are generally rich with collagen, this does not necessarily translate to bone-building potential for you.
Collagen is not absorbed whole by the body, and instead is broken down into other amino acids, which are used throughout your body based on your current physiologic needs. A better option might be to eat plenty of collagen-boosting foods, such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, lean meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, fish and oysters.
Why You May Want To Avoid This If You Have IBS:
Purported benefits of bone broth consumption include reduced inflammation, improved joint function, immune system modulation, “gut healing” and increased bone strength. As a whole, science doesn’t support these claims , . And, as we discussed previously, [bctt tweet=”From an IBS perspective, the gut does not need to be “healed” because IBS is a functional disorder and not one characterized by widespread inflammation or immune system activation.” username=”FODMAPeveryday”]
Finally, because animals can sequester (store) excess lead in their bones, over-consumption of bone broth can put individuals at risk for lead contamination. Small amounts of bone broth are not problematic, however it’s possible that large quantities could have adverse effects.
As much as we would like to find a cure for IBS, or at the very least, a simple solution for managing painful symptoms, at present the best strategies to manage symptoms include dietary modification (reducing intake of fat, alcohol, caffeine and other triggers, or the low FODMAP diet), physical activity, stress management, medication and/or a combination of these.
[bctt tweet=”IBS diet fads might sound like a quick fix, but for the best regimen for your individual health needs, please work with your healthcare team (and not Dr. Google).” username=”FODMAPeveryday”]
- Wheless, J. (2008). History of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 49, 3-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x
- Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European journal of clinical nutrition, 67(8), 789-96.
- Ketogenic Diet. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/dietary-therapies/ketogenic-diet
- McKenzie, Y., Bowyer, R., Leach, H., Gulia, P., Horobin, J., & O’Sullivan, N. et al. (2016). British Dietetic Association systematic review and evidence-based practice guidelines for the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). Journal Of Human Nutrition And Dietetics, 29(5), 549-575. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12385
- The role of dietary fat in IBS symptoms. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/does-fat-play-role-in-management-of-ibs/
- How the Absorption of Fat Differs From That of Carbohydrates. (2019). Retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/absorption-fat-differs-carbohydrates-9041.html
- Carbohydrates: Yes? No? Friend? Foe? – Nancy Clark RD. (2019). Retrieved from https://blog.nancyclarkrd.com/2017/01/12/carbohydrates-yes-no-friend-foe/
- Cause of gastro-intestinal problems in athletes | Jeukendrup – Trusted sports nutrition advice & exercise science news. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mysportscience.com/single-post/2016/1/20/Cause-of-gastrointestinal-problems-in-athletes
- What is activated charcoal and is it safe?. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-activated-charcoal-and-it-safe
- Won, C. S., Oberlies, N. H., & Paine, M. F. (2010). Influence of dietary substances on intestinal drug metabolism and transport. Current drug metabolism, 11(9), 778-92.
- Functional GI Disorders | Learn About Brain-Gut Interaction & Your Digestion – IFFGD. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.iffgd.org/functional-gi-disorders.html
- Activated Charcoal: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-269/activated-charcoal
- Why Is Everyone Drinking Celery Juice Right Now?. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.flare.com/health/celery-juice/
- Is Celery Juice Good For IBS? (2019). BDA Freelance Dietitians Group. Retrieved from https://freelancedietitians.org/dietitian-blog-posts/is-celery-juice-good-for-ibs/
- Jakovljevic, V., Raskovic, A., Popovic, M., & Sabo, J. (2002). The effect of celery and parsley juices on pharmacodynamic activity of drugs involving cytochrome P450 in their metabolism. European Journal Of Drug Metabolism And Pharmacokinetics, 27(3), 153-156. doi: 10.1007/bf03190450
- Celery Effectiveness, Safety, and Drug Interactions on RxList. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/celery/supplements.htm
- Hashemi, S., Madani, S., & Abediankenari, S. (2015). The Review on Properties of Aloe Vera in Healing of Cutaneous Wounds. Biomed Research International, 2015, 1-6. doi: 10.1155/2015/714216
- DAVIS, K., PHILPOTT, S., KUMAR, D., & MENDALL, M. (2006). Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera for irritable bowel syndrome. International Journal Of Clinical Practice, 60(9), 1080-1086. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2006.00980.x
- Hutchings, H., Wareham, K., Baxter, J., Atherton, P., Kingham, J., & Duane, P. et al. (2011). A Randomised, Cross-Over, Placebo-Controlled Study of Aloe vera in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Effects on Patient Quality of Life. ISRN Gastroenterology, 2011, 1-8. doi: 10.5402/2011/206103
- Karen Gill, M. (2019). Aloe vera juice for irritable bowel syndrome: Benefits and side effects. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320532.php
- Bone Broth Analysis: Reader Research | alive. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.alive.com/health/bone-broth-analysis-reader-research/
- NPR Choice page. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/02/10/384948585/taking-stock-of-bone-broth-sorry-no-cure-all-here?t=1549909433046
- Ask the Expert: What’s the Deal With Bone Broth? – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0516p10.shtml
- Bone Broth – Is It Good For Digestive Health? – Dietitian Advice (2019) Freelance Dietitians Group. Retrieved from https://freelancedietitians.org/dietitian-blog-posts/bone-broth-is-it-good-for-digestive-health-dietitian-advice/
- Monro, J., Leon, R., & Puri, B. (2013). The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Medical Hypotheses, 80(4), 389-390. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.12.026
Tell Us What You Think
16 comments for “Don’t Fall For These 5 IBS Diet Fads!”
Have you heard about the “Motion Potion”? A clinical nurse has suggested this could be helpful to me and help control my crazy bowel issues.
Hi Glenice, so sorry for the tardy response. I have forwarded your question to Diana, the RD who wrote the article. The main ingredient for Motion Potion is psyllium, which can be very harsh for some people’s systems. (For others, it is what gets things moving). Here is a quote from Monash: “Fibre supplements such as psyllium husks are also rich sources of soluble fibre. However, being fermentable, psyllium husks are tolerated by some people with IBS, but not all, so include in small doses initially and/or under the guidance of your dietitian.” There are also some other items in the blend that have not been tested, and I know I have not heard our Success Team of RDs mention this formula. From a FODMAP perspective I would say that this is not a blend proven to be helpful. Does that mean it wouldn’t work for you? No. You could try it; ultimately we know our bodies the best.
This is not a product I’m familiar with. As Dede mentioned, psyllium husk is low FODMAP but it’s not always tolerated by everyone. I’d recommend trialing a small amount of plain psyllium husk or another low FODMAP soluble fiber supplement to help out with your issues. Flax seeds/linseeds, chia seeds, metamucil and citrucil are all low FODMAP fiber sources.
Out of all the don’ts on the list of 5, 4 of them have been recommended by doctors, the Medical Medium has done more to help me than any doctor or any fad. In the 9 months I have been doing celery juice and following the recommendations of the Medical Medium, I am finally getting better and issues that have been with me for years have gone away. If you read his books or listen to his talks you might learn something. Not to talk about nutritional training – having been in the hospital for a month, there was no worse food ever, and nothing has changed in over 50 years since the last time I was in the hospital. I took a class on nutrition in the past couple of years and it was seriously outdated, and it was doctors and drugs that have caused the most damage to my health. I am grateful to the Medical Medium for what he has shared.
Hi Sandra, we had to look up the Medical Medium, who is described as “Anthony William Coviello, known professionally as Anthony William or the Medical Medium, is a medium who offers pseudoscientific medical and health advice based on alleged communication with a spirit.” We are always happy for anyone who finds relief from their symptoms. For us, we choose to stick with evidence based sources. Also, we do not disagree that most doctors are woefully under-educated when it comes to nutrition. You mention you took a course. You might be interested in our article on Nutritionists and Dietitians: What Is the Difference?
I can only agree with you, from my own experience
Metamucil is a BRAND NAME. Stop with the BRAND names! It is PSYLLIUM, a plant. Read the label!
There are lots of other brands of psyllium on the market, many without the nasty artificial flavors that Metamucil BRAND adds.
The point you should be writing about isn’t “metamucil” it is PSYLLIUM.
Hi Sue, we have found that many folks know the brand Metamucil and are thrilled to learn that they can incorporate it into their low FODMAP diet. Artificial flavors are low FODMAP, too.
I disagree with your statement regarding medical medium’s celery juice cleanse. Pseudoscience is a poor choice of words, as he has proven himself to be accurate and more accurate than the current nutrition scholars. Perhaps if you read his book before judging him and maybe even tried the celery juice cleanse for 1-2 months, you’d probably change your mind. If you haven’t tried it, you are giving bad advice here. Anyways, I have always had IBS and have tried everything else for all these years. When I drank celery juice for only 2 months, my symptoms went away completely. It was the only thing that worked for me! I agree with the rest of the items mentioned, ironically so does the medical medium.
Hi Krista, whenever we can find relief, it IS a relief, however, what we do here at FODMAP Everyday® is rely on clinical studies and evidence-based research. Also, once has to take into consideration long term effects, which are just as important. What has worked for you has not been proven to work for many, hence it is not something we would recommend to our community. There is a reason why it has not. And, it is ironic that we are talking about celery, which has a very small low FODMAP serving size. We understand that you have your opinion, but since we focus on the low FODMAP diet here, this does not fall within our parameters for recommendation from any angle.
Hi Diana, I find this to be misleading with reference to the keto way of eating. In fact I couldn’t disagree more. My gut issues are the reason I have maintained a nutritional form of ketosis for 7 years. FOdMAP guidelines never worked for me, but sustainable and nutritious keto has….and yes I test my ketone levels.
I work out 5 days a week, I don’t fatigue, I’ve built muscle and at 42 my overall health is the best it’s ever been. I think it best to adopt a “one size doesn’t fit all” attitude when writing these articles. And there is a lot of research to suggest that athletes are very much leaning towards a “fat for fuel” diet for the exact opposite reason that you suggest. I don’t wish to offend, but after many years of struggling with gut health this lifestyle is my saviour. I think social media misrepresents keto massively, the science speaks for itself, Dr Hugh Conklin paved the way for epilepsy research, but as with most scientific findings they can be greatly transferable. With thanks
The article was written on the best science available at the time. It was not intended as a personalized nutrition strategy for any one individual. That should only be undertaken with a registered dietitian. It’s great that you personally found an approach that works for you, however that should not be assumed to work for all. I did write a longer piece about the ketogenic diet and IBS, along with Vanessa Cobarrubia (https://www.fodmapeveryday.com/keto-diet-ibs-a-closer-look/), that you might wish to review for more detail on this topic.
As you will see, both articles are focused on the ketogenic as related to IBS, and not athletes and fat for fuel or epilepsy, as those are different topics than IBS and gut health. In terms of epilepsy research, the ketogenic diet and its use in children and adolescents with intractable epilepsy indeed has been nothing short lifesaving in many cases. However, epilepsy and IBS are not interchangeable, thus the scientific approach to treating each should not be either. In regard to a “one size doesn’t fit all” approach, I certainly agree with you. Here is the last line of the longer keto article: “NOTE: As always, work with your doctor and/or dietitian to develop a customized treatment plan (diet, lifestyle, medication) that works best for you. You are unique.” Thanks for your feedback.
Thank you, Lexie. I was shocked to see keto/low carb dissed here. This way of eating is the salvation for diabetics! Richard K. Bernstein, MD, proved it using a glucometer on himself, and millions of us have furthered his proof. Long time low carb diabetic here (25 years) but found myself with IBS-D after a tetanus shot six years ago. Getting worse; glad I found the FODMAP concept this year. This helps, whereas low carb/keto hasn’t, for me. Low-carb and keto folks likely dismiss FODMAP as just another fad, too. Enough!
Hi Diana, I was a little confused by your comment. Your initial statement seemed to contradict the one made towards the end. Our article is based upon evidence-based research. The Dr. Bernstein Diet goes against the recommendations of major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. It also conflicts with recommendations set by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It is also not exactly the same as popularized keto, so again , I am not sure what you were saying here. We stick with evidence based information.
Of note, aloe vera GEL/aloe vera JUICE (both use only the inner gel-like part) does not produce the side effects listed in this article- if you follow your resource you can see this. Aloe vera LATEX (the outer skin) is almost never recommended unless in cases of severe constipation since it is a cathartic laxative. Aloe vera GEL/JUICE, however, has an extremely low side effect profile, is inexpensive, and has shown anti-inflammatory effects in both animal and human clinical trials (see one of many studies below). I would agree that for IBS/SIBO this would not be my go-to, however, it can have a very beneficial effect on conditions with more inflammation such as IBD, ulcers, or gastritis.
Hi there, the article references IBD, not IBS, as you mention at the end of your note.