Eating for IBS: 175 Delicious, Nutritious, Low-Fat, Low-Residue Recipes to Stabilize the Touchiest Tummy

Eating for IBS: 175 Delicious, Nutritious, Low-Fat, Low-Residue Recipes to Stabilize the Touchiest Tummy

by Heather Van Vorous


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The essential dietary guide and cookbook for people with irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders—with hundreds of low-fat recipes to ease the effects of IBS, lactose intolerance, Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive conditions

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of our nation's most untalked-about ailments, but millions of people - mostly women - suffer from the debilitating condition, one that must be controlled primarily through diet. Contrary to what many sufferers believe, eating for IBS does not mean deprivation, never going to restaurants, boring food, or an unhealthily limited diet. It does mean cutting out such trigger foods as red meat, dairy, most fats, caffeine, alcohol, and insoluble fiber. Heather Van Vorous, who has suffered from IBS since age 9 and gradually learned how to control her IBS symptoms through dietary modifications, collects here 175 recipes she has created over 20 years. Those suffering from IBS, lactose intolerance, Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive disorders will be thrilled to discover that they can enjoy traditional homestyle cooking, international foods, rich desserts, snacks, and party foods - and don't have to cook weird or special meals for themselves while their families follow a "normal" diet. Eating for IBS will forever revolutionize the way people with IBS eat—and live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569246009
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 11/13/2000
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 119,249
Product dimensions: 7.25(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Heather Von Vorous is a health and special diet author with a particular interest in helping people with bowel disorders. She is the founder of, the largest IBS organization in the world, and she developed the Heather's Tummy Care line of certified organic medical foods for preventing and relieving IBS symptoms.

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Eating for IBS: 175 Delicious, Nutritious, Low-Fat, Low-Residue Recipes to Stabilize the Touchiest Tummy

Strategy, Strategy, Strategy

Question - What is the single most important principle to eating for IBS?

Answer - Organize every meal along the lines of easily tolerated, high soluble fiber staples.

French or sourdough bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fat-free flour tortillas, baked corn chips (Tostitos), pita bread, oatmeal, soy foods, polenta, etc. must form the foundation of every meal and snack. Think of vegetables, fruit, seafood, beans, nuts, egg whites, and chicken breasts as secondary ingredients to be used in smaller quantities for flavor.

Tips, Tricks, and Helpful Hints for Eating and Cooking

  • Eat soluble fiber first whenever your stomach is empty
  • Chew thoroughly. This will help prevent you from eating too fast and swallowing air, which can cause problems.
  • Eat at a leisurely pace - if you must eat in a hurry, serve yourself half portions.
  • Eat small portions of food, and eat frequently - the emptier your stomach is, the more sensitive you will be.
  • Avoid eating large amounts of food in one sitting as this can trigger an attack
  • Avoid ice-cold foods and drinks on an empty stomach. Cold makes muscles contract, and your goal is to keep your stomach and the rest of your GI tract as calm as possible.
  • Avoid chewing gum, as it causes you to swallow excess air, which can trigger problems.
  • Drink fresh water constantly throughout the day (not ice cold). Limit the amount of water or other fluids you drink with your meals, as this can inhibit digestion.
  • Eat green salads -tiny portions, non-fat dressing-at the end of the meal, not the beginning (tell people you're French).
  • Peel, skin, chop and cook fruits and vegetables; lightly mash beans, corn, peas, and berries. Finely chop nuts, raisins and other dried fruits, and fresh herbs. Nuts in particular can be quite tolerable when finely ground. To keep dried fruit from sticking to your knife when chopping, spray the blade with cooking oil first.
  • Use only egg whites (2 whites can substitute for 1 whole egg), and try to buy organic.
  • You can almost always reduce the amount of oil called for in recipes by at least 1/3.
  • Use non-stick pans and cooking spray, as this will dramatically lessen the amount of oil you cook with. Remember, with IBS the less fat the better, period...

Think Substitution, Not Deprivation

  • Substitute soy, rice, or oat milk for all dairy milk (check the ingredients to be sure there is no oil added). Try a wide variety of brands and flavors as the difference in taste can be dramatic. Some brands are truly wretched and some are delicious. My favorite is VitaSoy lite vanilla. It's helpful to keep two types of soy/rice milk on hand: unsweetened for cooking, and vanilla for drinking.
  • Use soy or rice substitutes for cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and other dairy products (check the ingredients to be sure the items are low-fat).
  • Many meat-based recipes such as tacos, sloppy joes, chili, etc. can be easily adapted to IBS guidelines by substituting TVP (textured vegetable protein, a soy food available in health food stores) for the ground beef. Simply eliminate the cooking oil and season the TVP as you would the meat. When well prepared most people honestly can't taste the difference. In addition, there are many vegetarian cookbooks available that replicate traditional American homestyle recipes with vegan substitutes for the dairy and meat ingredients. Try out several of these books from your local library and buy your favorites.
  • Find a well-stocked local health food store and try a wide variety of vegan versions of deli meat, hot dogs, burgers, chicken wings, etc. There are tasty versions of just about every fast food and junk food on the market - just check the ingredients for a low fat content.
  • Use only fat-free salad dressings, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Substitute cocoa powder for solid chocolate.
  • If you have a weakness for a particularly deadly food (mine's cheesecake), try slowly eating just one to two measured tablespoons after a satisfying meal of high soluble fiber foods. I've found this to be a pretty foolproof method for occasionally treating myself.
  • Watch out for hidden fat in seemingly safe foods: biscuits, scones, pancakes, waffles, restaurant French toast, crackers, mashed potatoes, store-bought dried (usually fried) bananas. Powders, Pills, and Potions
  • Take Metamucil or Citrucel (NOT sugar-free) every day. This may be the single greatest aid you'll ever find for controlling IBS.
  • Carry Fibercon capsules (soluble fiber in a pill form) with you to have on hand when you have to unexpectedly wait too long between meals, or eat at a restaurant. Take two pills with a large glass of water. Fibercon in general is not as effective as Metamucil or Citracel, but it is easier to carry in your purse or wallet and does provide some measure of protection in emergency situations.
  • Peppermint is a smooth muscle relaxant, and can be very helpful in preventing/relieving IBS spasms. I consider it a wonder drug. Try drinking lots of strong, hot mint tea throughout the day. It's inexpensive to make your own with dried peppermint leaves from bulk spice counters at health food stores. You can also try peppermints such as Altoids. I swallow them whole with meals as I would a prescription anti- spasmodic pill. You may wish to try Colpermin, a brand of enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules, which are not available in the US but can ordered from the UK (see Directory of Resources). They're perfectly legal and do not require a prescription. The directions state to take the capsules between meals but most IBS sufferers I've received feedback from have had better luck when they take them right before eating. However, be careful if you have GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) or suffer from heartburn as mint in any form can worsen these symptoms.
  • Take a multi-vitamin, multi-mineral supplement everyday. An additional 1500 mg. of calcium daily may also help, as calcium plays a critical role in regulating muscle contractions; it also has a slight constipating effect. Women taking extra calcium may want to consider an iron supplement, as calcium can block the absorption of iron from foods and lead to anemia (take the calcium and iron supplements at different times of the day)...

Be Active! But Rest When You Need To

  • Try to be in motion after each meal. Go for a short, leisurely stroll around the block. Climb up and down a few flights of stairs at work. If you're at home, simply doing the dishes and cleaning up immediately after a meal should help. If you're at work, try to do things you can accomplish while standing. The point is to not become immobile on a full stomach, particularly while sitting down (and NEVER lying down). You want to be gently active.
  • Try to get 30-60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every day. Exercising regularly will help your whole body function better.
  • Daily practice of yoga, meditation, or tai chi can significantly reduce stress-related attacks
  • Make sleep a priority. When you're tired your body simply cannot function properly, and this makes you more susceptible to attacks. In addition, sleep loss markedly decreases your ability to handle stress, and stress is a universal trigger. Try to take every opportunity you have to catch up on sleep by taking regular naps, setting an earlier weekday bedtime, and sleeping in on weekends...

What to Eat When You Can't Eat Anything

We've all been there. There are some days when it seems like everything you eat triggers an attack. When this happens, you need to give your body a break and stick to the safest foods possible.

  • French or sourdough bread (not whole wheat or multi-grain)
  • Toasted plain bagels
  • Toasted plain English muffins
  • Pretzels (salted or unsalted)
  • Fat-free Saltines
  • Fat-free fortune cookies
  • Plain angel food cake, homemade or from a mix
  • Arrowroot crackers
  • Cold fat-free cereal such as Corn Chex, Kix, Rice Chex, Rice Krispies, Honeycomb, or Corn Pops, eaten dry. At all costs avoid bran, granola, and whole wheat choices, as well as cereals with raisins, other dried fruits, or nuts
  • Homemade dried bananas
  • Plain cooked pasta (not egg), sprinkled with a little garlic salt
  • Lots and lots of strong hot peppermint tea

Table of Contents

So What Is Ibs, And How Do I Know If I Have It?
A New Way to Eat
Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
A New Way to Think
Ibs Kitchen Essentials
Directory of Resources



YOU ARE NOT ALONE! For twenty years I thought I was the only person in the world with IBS. I wasn't, and neither are you.

Although an estimated 15-20% of all Americans, or 39 to 52 million people, have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there is slight media attention given to the subject and precious little medical research conducted. It's an incurable condition; there is no alternative to controlling the symptoms through daily diet. Yet incredibly, even doctors, dieticians, and nutritionists appear to be either wholly uninformed or wildly misinformed about the eating requirements for IBS. I don't know why this is, but I do know things must change. I hope this book will help.

Until I wrote Eating for IBS I had never met another person with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I have yet to meet someone without IBS who truly appreciates how devastating and excruciating the condition can be. It is literally ruining people's lives – there are many folks out there with IBS who are afraid to leave their homes, who cannot work, drive, socialize, or travel. They live each day in fear. The illness has an unimaginably dramatic effect on every single aspect of their lives – and yet, they often cannot even get their own family, friends, employers, and doctors to acknowledge that they have a legitimate physical problem. They feel that they are treated like hypochondriacs, and that their complaints are either summarily dismissed or met with outright contempt.

I know first-hand the sheer brutality of pain that characterizes an IBS attack (imagine someone setting their hand on fire, then plunging it into your lower abdomen to try and rip your guts out), so I sympathize unconditionally with all of these people. I know exactly what they are going through because I have been there myself. The only reason I am able to lead a normal life is because I follow the dietary advice in this book.

I have had IBS since I was nine years old, although I went undiagnosed for six long years. My pediatrician at the time refused to send me for diagnostic tests because my symptoms didn't fit any disorder she knew (though I was a textbook case), and therefore the problem was all in my head. This doctor also dismissed my suffering as ":only pain.": She flatly told me that my symptoms did not warrant treatment and that I should ":quit whining.": I was in the fourth grade at the time and had recently fainted from pain in a neighbor':s garden.

When I was eventually diagnosed (by a different doctor) at the age of fifteen, I was offered little help beyond being given the label ":IBS.": Although it was a relief to finally have a name for my problem, I was not provided with any dietary advice whatsoever. My doctor simply prescribed an anti-spasmodic drug and recommended Metamucil. It took a great many years of daily trial and error, and much excruciatingly painful experience, to gradually learn which foods triggered my IBS and which soothed it. It required additional medical research to realize precisely why these foods had the physical effects they did, be they hurtful or helpful.

However, even after learning exactly what I could and couldn't eat as well as the reasons why, it was still very difficult at times to follow the IBS diet. Most typical American meals, whether home-cooked or in restaurants, were simply intolerable. What I needed was a way to bridge the gap between knowing what to eat and how. I wasn't about to sacrifice my health, nor was I willing to forego great food, so I had to find a way to create recipes that were both safe (and I use the word ":safe": deliberately, knowing how justifiably fearful many IBS sufferers are when it comes to food) and scrumptious. The happy result was that by following the IBS diet I was led unexpectedly to a life of culinary adventure, and along the way I developed a cooking strategy that's surprisingly simple, fun, and delicious.

How did this happen? Well, instead of viewing IBS food guidelines as a dietary prison sentence to be borne with grim determination, I took them as an opportunity to explore new cuisines, as an incentive to take control of my own health and life, and as an invitation to practice a little kitchen wizardry. This often meant exploring techniques from different culinary traditions and cultures. One important lesson I learned early on was that delicious American homestyle cooking was amazingly easy to adapt to the IBS kitchen – the key was simply clever substitutions, never deprivation. A second realization was that ethnic cooking frequently offered the most exciting variety of foods as well as some of the most easily modified recipes. Finally, I learned that even if a recipe adaptation failed miserably, the dog would always eat it.

Once I had decided to view IBS dietary restrictions as mere challenges to be met through creative thinking and cooking, I realized that I had a whole world of cuisines to explore, exotic foods to taste, and nothing at all to lose by trying different things. I vowed to never be intimidated by new cooking techniques, specialty ingredients, or recipes from different traditions and cultures. Food is fun, cooking is a pleasure, and eating a delicious meal is the wonderful end reward. After I had gained the knowledge that allowed me to eat without fear, I refused to be afraid in the kitchen. Recipes just couldn't be too varied, exciting, or interesting - safe never meant boring or bland. And like everything else that seems daunting at first, with practice came comfort, and with repetition came familiarity. New techniques were never as complicated as they had initially seemed once I actually tried them, and ethnic foods were no longer foreign once I had tasted them. Recipe adaptations soon became a quick and easy matter, and it grew quite clear that there was simply no limit on great taste when it came to cooking for IBS.

My personal IBS recipe collection accumulated gradually over the years, eventually filling an entire shelf of notebooks in my kitchen bookcase with a wide variety of exciting, delicious, and healthy dishes. As I was the only person I knew with IBS, however, these recipes, as well as the dietary guidelines that formed them, were simply for my own use. It never occurred to me - in fact, it didn't seem possible - that there were other people (millions of them!) suffering from the same problem I had, who could all be helped by my information. Then the internet came along and changed everything. How, exactly? Well, Eating for IBS evolved over the course of a few years from an email file I created to send to other people on IBS boards.

I had surfed onto these web sites with a casual interest at first, as I don't give too much thought to my own IBS anymore. I've lived with it on a daily basis for so long that I automatically control my diet, and thus the symptoms, through habit. So I was completely astonished and appalled by how much the people on the IBS boards were suffering, and by the fact that no one had told them how to eat properly. Many of their stories were heartbreaking, and their desperation was palpable. They felt they were treated with a complete lack of respect by doctors and offered no help at all – many were told things like ":stop complaining":, and ":the pain can't be as bad as you say or you'd kill yourself.": These were people whose lives were so utterly compromised by IBS that they attempted suicide, purchased RVs with toilets in the back so they could drive without worrying about a sudden attack, and wore adult diapers every day in case they were stricken in public and couldn't make it to a restroom in time.

I was deeply affected by the stories on the IBS boards, so I started compiling all the advice I had to give, and eventually this information turned into a full-fledged eating plan. I added the recipes when I realized that most people would be dumbstruck when told they could no longer eat meat, dairy, fried foods, coffee, or soda pop. I didn't want people to feel that there was nothing left they could eat, and I knew that's how most of them would react to my information. There is in fact a wealth of wonderful things to eat that don't trigger IBS attacks, and as I had created hundreds of dishes over the years I decided to share my recipes along with the dietary advice.

I then did some research to verify and annotate the accuracy of my medical/nutritional information (documented through extensive footnotes in the text so that readers may consult more technical and detailed authorities at the primary source). I also read a copy of every IBS book on the market. I have to admit I was having a very hard time believing that there was nothing with accurate dietary information already out there, despite what I was hearing from the people on the IBS boards. It was shocking to discover they were absolutely right – the books available had dietary advice that ranged from worthless to downright dangerous. One book's outrageous suggestions made me so angry I nearly threw it across the room. Had the author been standing there I think I would have smacked him, as he clearly had no comprehension of the physical torment people with IBS endure, let alone any sympathy for their suffering. I turned my email file into a full-fledged book after learning that there really was no legitimate IBS dietary information, and certainly no comprehensive eating guide with recipes, anywhere on the market.

I was helped immensely along the way by the terrific comments I received from fellow IBS sufferers via email. Their feedback was invaluable. The questions they asked had a very humbling effect, as I came to realize just how seriously people were taking the advice that I sent them. Here I was a total stranger, an anonymous nobody sending them email, and they were following every recommendation I had given them to the letter. This really drove home the fact that they had no other source of information – virtually all that they knew about how to control their IBS through diet they had learned from me and my email file. These people really provided the inspiration to see this project through, and the determination to get the information into the hands of everyone who needs it.

The end result was this, the first and only book about Irritable Bowel Syndrome written by someone who personally has IBS and has learned to effectively control the problem through diet. I honestly believe that this is also the first and only book to offer IBS sufferers the information they need to live a normal life by explicitly detailing how to manage IBS through eating habits. My conviction in this matter is backed not only by decades of first-hand experience but by the feedback from hundreds of other IBS sufferers. IBS is not a mental problem, nor is it strictly stress-induced, nor can it be solved through drugs or surgery. It is a problem that must be addressed on a daily basis through diet. The general guidelines and explicit recommendations in this book have helped everyone with IBS who has followed the advice. It is safe to assume that the information can in some way assist all IBS sufferers – the syndrome is not so highly individualized that no dietary generalizations can be made, as the colon reacts to specific foods in predictable ways. This is basic biology.

What I hope will be one of this book's major revelations is that, contrary to what people may think, eating for IBS does not mean deprivation, never going to restaurants, boring or bland food, or an unhealthily limited diet. There are safe recipes for traditional homestyle cooking, ethnic foods, rich desserts, snacks, and party foods. There is never any need to sacrifice an ounce of flavor or visual flair to create a gourmet IBS meal. As a result, it's quite easy to cook for others following IBS guidelines without people even realizing that the food they're eating is tailored for medical needs. In addition, the IBS diet is inherently healthy (low fat, plant-based), lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer, is slimming, and it's delicious, too. It's easily suitable for an entire family to follow. IBS sufferers do not have to cook weird or special meals for themselves while their families follow a ":normal": diet.

In short, people with IBS who follow the advice in this book can achieve their dearest goal: after endless pain and suffering, they can finally eat without fear. I know this to be true because I am one of those people.

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Eating for IBS 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been suffering from IBS for 11 years. I spent 10 of those eleven missing work, school, and outings with friends because of the pain IBS caused me. At one point I was having IBS attacks every day. Doctors told me it was in my head, it was an ulcer, it was a spastic colon, it would go away now that I knew about it. They were wrong. It is IBS and it will not go away. But you can live with it. As soon as I found this book, I immediately followed the diet and got immediate results. I don't hurt anymore. I lost weight. I can plan a day without needing to know where the nearest restroom is. My life is normal. And this book is the reason why. This book saved my life, it can save yours too.
Megan-Rae More than 1 year ago
I am a 19 year old female who has suffered through the pain of IBS, but thanks to this book I am able to eat deliciously healthy food. By following this cookbook my episodes have been reduced drastically and I feel amazing. The food tastes so good that instead of being sad about missing out on eating things like chocolate and dairy, I am just excited to eat. Along with the recipes in this book it is also important to drink plenty of water. The other things that have helped me include benefiber in the morning, along with probiotics (from advocare). I also do yoga because not only do I get some exercise, but yoga is also very helpful with digestion. On the days where I am not doing so well I drink either ginger tea or peppermint tea, both of which either aid in digestion or calm a person's stomach. I highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from IBS or even if someone is looking for a healthy diet. For the recipes that include chicken, don't forget to buy ORGANIC chicken. Also stay away from foods with preservatives. I also recommend going onto the author's website which includes even more information and products for those suffering from IBS. It is an amazing website that provides a wealth of information for people suffering form IBS. I hope you find a good combination of techniques to help with whatever you are suffering from. Good luck on your search!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After 23 years of looking for nutritional information, I found it. Heather Van Vorous tells it all in understandable terms and by using examples. There are no books out there on how to eat for Ulcerative Colitis. I can't wait to restock my pantry and freezer and get on with my life, which used to be active. Thank you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first advice for IBS I've ever read that actually WORKS! And it is so common-sense, clear, and simple. I have eliminated almost all of my symptoms and I am very hopeful that my severe attacks are a thing of the past now. I noticed a huge difference within the first two days of following this diet. Oh- and did I mention that the recipes are absolutely delicious? And easy? And range from simple quick snacks to gourmet dinners worthy of holiday guests? This book has literally changed my life, and definitely for the better. I predict a best-seller!
warmaiden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent resource for IBS-D sufferers. Easy to make, tasty and helpful in keeping the innards docile.
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Its been helpful -- but I had to be careful because it gave me permission to eat some of the foods I love which I wasn't eating before so I have to tweek it a bit for my own use.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Heather knows what she's writing about! My husband & mother in law have benefitted immensly from the techniques, tips & recipes found in this book (both suffer from IBS). I don't suffer from it, but I love the food, I love this book, and I highly recommend this to anyone that is affected by IBS symptoms. Also, if more information is needed, the author has a wonderful, supportive & interesting online newsletter. This book is a wonderful bargain, too!
VeganNatasha More than 1 year ago
I have severe IBS and after doing tons of research on the subject and reading one book after another I finally found one that works. This book explains how you have to eat soluble and insoluber fiber . Before reading this I had no idea how two eat these to fibers. Most of the info in this book is correct however it is not vegan. Anyone that knows anything about nutrition knows that animals products are toxic not to mention cruel and not natural. So eating them when you are already sick with IBS takes a toll on the body and will just make you more sick. So avoiding them are a must. This book touches on the vegan subject but just barely. Following the information vegan style in this book will help all IBS sufferers. It also doesn't mention how metamusil is not for IBS sufferers that have major gas and bloating which I found out the hard way. This diet is high carb which can cause weight gain ( it happened to me)but it helps IBS so you have to do what you gotta do. Overall though this book is fantastic for IBS and I reccommend it .
Guest More than 1 year ago
When you see a health related topic that has spawned an entire industry you can be sure of two things: A lot of people are suffering and there is little or nothing, beyond the obvious, that can be done about it. (Diet books are a perfect example). So, to minimize ABS, simply avoid the following: Coffee, bacon, fried food, greasy food, vinegar, pepper, orange juice, grapefruit juice, red wine, all Thai food, all Vietnamese food, all Korean food, all spicy Chinese food, all acidic Italian food and Mexican food. Japanese seems to be a toss up because wasabi--a sort of horseradish--does not smolder the way chili pepper does. Of course everybody's different but much of this is a no-brainer, since stuff like greasy spice burgers are tough on everybody--not to mention, unhealthy. And be aware that 'mild' in a Thai restaurant translates to 'incendiary...but less so than our other entries'. Some will say this is a long list but you know the alternative....and loading up with white rice and bread may or may not help--while giving way too many carbohydrates and possible constipation. I realize that some things cut both ways (no pun intended) like alchohol or mint or fiber. Just depends on which book you read. But do you really need a book to tell you to avoid pickles and pepperoni? Reaseach suggesting IBS sufferers are worriers, agitated, 'high strung' or whatever is encouraging. But short of a brain transplant I wouldn't count on being able to calm your digestive system to a point where you can eat anything you want. Last point, I did follow the Heather's book, it was my 'food bible' for almost two months. The only thing that resulted was a gain of 15 pounds. The recipies in the book are high starch, high carbs. (And of course, polenta, pasta (except whole wheat), French bread, white rice, are high in starch and low in nutrition value)