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Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D.

IBS and Raw Vegetables

By August 21, 2013

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When I am asked the same question by two different people within the course of a couple of days it occurs to me that maybe it is something to be discussed on a wider scale. The question is "Does eating raw vegetables and salads aggravate IBS?" Not necesarily a question that a PubMed search is going to shed any light on because no one is going to pay money to do a study to see if eating salads makes people with IBS feel worse. The answer that I gave is that over the years I have frequently heard from many IBS patients that they have found that raw vegetables and salads do not agree with their systems.

Why might this be the case? Certainly uncooked vegetables require more work on the part on the digestive system as it has to break down food components and deal with the fiber content of the produce without the benefit of heat to start the process for it. On the other hand, can it just be that when one is eating salads or raw vegetables, one is simply eating a larger volume of produce, thus increasing gas and osmotic "load", along the lines of the FODMAPs diet theory? These are just my guesses and I am open to anyone else who might have a theory.

I hope no one reading this thinks to themselves, "okay, then, no more raw vegetables for me!" Every body is different and IBS is different in every person. Proponents of raw diets discuss the benefits of eating raw foods so as to benefit from the full array of enzymes in food and to reduce immune system reactivity during digestion. I would thus recommend that you be a scientist - do raw vegetables cause a problem for you? Is it just certain vegetables? You may find it helpful to use the FODMAPs list as a starting guide - "Foods on the FODMAP Diet".

If you would like to reap the benefits of raw vegetables, but are wary about the effects on your body, one option is to consider the use of juicing. Although I am only making an educated guess, juicing may provide a more comfortable way to access the nutritional benefits of raw vegetables:

Of course, there is always the option of just cooking them!

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August 26, 2013 at 11:11 am
(1) Kristine Keeney says:

I have tried to follow the FODMAPS diet and have had good luck with eating green bell peppers and summer squashes raw. Tomatoes as well, in limited quantities. I figure that, as long as I do the test (try a food and wait 72 hours), I should be fine in adding that food to my personal “acceptable foods” list.

I don’t know if this helps anyone else, but keeping a close eye on what helps and what hurts seems to be allowing me to tailor my diet to my needs.

August 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm
(2) Dr. Bolen says:

Kristine, this type of information is so helpful – hopefully other people reading this will be willing to try different foods to see how their body reacts. Thank you so much for sharing!

August 27, 2013 at 8:09 am
(3) Doug says:

I have had IBS for years and have never had any problem eating raw vegetables or, indeed, salads. In fact, there are some vegetables — especially the cruciferous ones (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) — that I can eat raw, but which give me gas or cramps if I consume them cooked.

August 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm
(4) Cynthia Cinami says:

I had to buy a juicer to use on fruits and veggies raw. It works great. Recently I have come across some interesting human bio information I was never told and ALL IBSers should know. The stomach acid is HCL- hydrochloride acid. Which is made of calcium and salt. We need calcium and salt to keep our stomach acid strong enough to be useful. Not just calcium but it MUST include ALL cofactors necessary for the body to absorb it and use it. I am currently using a calcium mix that is that complete and just starting to eat raw tomatoes for the first time in 19 years! I will continue to test this info and send in my results as I go. This little tidbit of info no Dr felt was important enough to tell me is VERY important for everyone- sick or not. If some one here wants more info please find my email address above or in my info on this site and I will forward all I am learning- as I am not sure I can include a company or product name in this note.
In respects to IBS and gluten I have found that gluten is a grain that does NOT break down I the digestive track of any human being but plows through the system like an elephant in a china shop – destroying the villi in the intestine walls. Villi is what absorbs the nutrients from food as it goes through. If this has been damaged you cannot get nutrients from your foods. This is why those who stop eating gluten feel better. Stopping gluten and getting a complete calcium source and keep using reg salt and digestive diseases as we know them have a much greater chance at disappearing. This is a summary of the tip of the iceberg of my recent learnings. If you want to question this with a professional seek out a Naturopathic Dr as this is their field of study.
It would be great if this news letter presented some of this info from NDs as another natural treatment option for those who are suffering. Lord knows drugs come with so many side effects. I would prefer calcium over drugs. CC

August 29, 2013 at 7:15 am
(5) barbara says:

From all that I’ve heard or read, so far about I.R.S. and having this condition in my family, it seems that, taking a really goood pro-biotic, to heal the bowel, and getting back the balance of the good bacteria, any foods, including raw, are okay to eat. In fact it’s the essential digestive enzymes that are in raw fod, that are necessary and beneficial for the healthy condition in the bowel.

August 29, 2013 at 7:25 am
(6) barbara says:

The members of my family who have I.B.S. that have given up all wheat, and gluten, have found this to be hugely beneficial, and have also found that ‘other’ unrelated conditions have disappeared…….a fabulous ‘bonus’

August 29, 2013 at 7:31 am
(7) Barbara says:

Cynthia, your comments on Hydrochloric acid in the stomach, are very interesting, because I have had digestive problems all my life, and it is only as I have got older, I have read that these acids reduce with age. Am believing I should possibly have always been taking these. Can you advise me as to what it is & where to find it ? Thanks

September 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm
(8) Sylvia says:

Cynthia, I cannot find your email address anywhere, I tried the search and only came up with your posts, not a ‘membership’. help?

September 3, 2013 at 8:48 am
(9) maddy says:

I read somewhere that salad, especially iceberg lettuce, if eaten first acts as foliage that makes you have a bm, so if it is first then it is taking everything else with it, ie the ibs painful bm, so if you eat your salad last it gets snuck in and causes less trouble. I avoided salads for a year and then added them back in and now I do fine.

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