Is The Paleo Diet A Good Diet For IBS?

Before I get to this question, do you know what the Paleo diet is? If not, here’s a quick summary of what you can eat:
•    protein from things with eyes (animals, fish, birds)
•    any green vegetable
•    sweet potatoes (but not white potatoes or other white starches)
•    fresh fruit
•    nuts, avocadoes
•    animal fats, fish oil and a handful of select vegetable oils: olive, macadamia, coconut
•    and that’s about it!
•    No sugar, dairy, grains, white foods, legumes, processed or junk foods.

The idea is that you eat the way our Paleolithic ancestors did for the thousands of years of human existence before the Agricultural Revolution brought us big helpings of bread and milk along with the diseases of civilization.

So is the Paleo diet a good diet for IBS? What a mare’s nest that question is! It sounds simple but it’s not.
While researching the answer to this, I discovered that:

 1. Pretty much all the information out there about Paleo and IBS is anecdotal. (At least all that I could find.) So if you want scientific studies, it looks like they haven’t been done yet.

2. There is a lot of disagreement about whether Paleo works as a diet for IBS. Some people say it completely cured their IBS; others that it was only partially successful for them. (This seems to be true of ALL diets for IBS.)

3. There are definite challenges to going Paleo when you have IBS, depending on what kind of IBS you have. For example, if you have IBS-D and you are quite sensitive to animal fats, which stimulate the production of a hormone that causes intestinal contractions, you’re going to have to be very careful to eat soluble fiber at the beginning of meals to stave off diarrhea. Also, you’ll probably need to eat low-fat meats and fish at least initially, until your system acclimatizes to the diet.

4. If you want to go Paleo, you may need to temper that diet with information from FODMAPS and the GAPS diet. That means you’re going to be concerned with the fructose content of certain foods as well as other naturally-occuring sugars that cause digestive trouble in some people. The GAPS diet is quite similar to Paleo, but also emphasizes making broths from meat, bones, or fish (these home-made broths are considered highly nutritious and very healing), and eating fermented foods and plenty of natural fats.

5. Any diet for IBS, including Paleo, will not be enough if you have undischarged trauma that is triggering symptoms. This is why some people search endlessly for the “right” IBS diet and never find it. If you want to know more about the trauma aspect of IBS and an effective way to release it, grab a copy of our ebook, “Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS: 3 Crucial Secrets to Getting Better.”

6. If your IBS is primarily from food sensitivities, the Paleo diet may be exactly right for you. As usual, with IBS, you won’t know whether or not it will work for you until you try it. The best thing to do is educate yourself. A great resource is Mark Sisson’s Daily Apple site. He calls this eating style Primal rather than Paleo, but it’s the same concept. Robb Wolff has great info about Paleo, as does his mentor, Loren Cordain. These folks and their websites are easy to find and offer tons of free information (especially Mark Sisson’s site – and he actually had IBS at one point.)

Did you try a Paleo or Primal diet for IBS? If so, please tell us about your experiences with this way of eating in the comment box below.

Thanks and see you next time,

Karen and Kathy

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15 thoughts on “Is The Paleo Diet A Good Diet For IBS?”

  1. I tried the Paleo diet back in the spring for 2 weeks. I was intrigued by the idea that a sensitivity to all grains (not merely gluten, as I had originally thought) might be causing my symptoms. Unfortunately, I did not see any improvement and, in my case, actually got worse since I was consuming more insoluble fiber – and nuts are actually quite a trigger for my symptoms. So, sadly, didn’t help me! Still on my search for the “right” diet.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I wonder if your symptoms may have temporarily gotten worse because of grain detox? It can last up to a month for some people – I know when I went through it, it was surprisingly brutal (I thought it would be easy because my diet was already pretty “clean.” Ha!) Possibly there’s a way to ease into Paleo, leaving the nuts for later – i.e. after the first month or two. If you have IBS-D, the nuts may have had too high an oil content for your system and stimulated intestinal contractions, which, of course would worsen diarrhea. I’m just speculating here since I don’t know your exact situation. In my experience, unless there are food sensitivities, leaky gut, or bacteriological problems, when trauma triggers are addressed, diet becomes secondary.

  3. Hi karen, I have IBSC and i have a hard time moving my bowels. I have tryed everything i can think of my question is i have a herb called Triphala i want to know how well does it work for IBS-C.

  4. Hi Latricia,
    I don’t know whether or not Tiphala works well for IBS-C. It is a mild laxative but, unlike other laxatives, it strengthens the body instead of depleting it. According to the Chopra Institute, Triphala is supposed to cleanse and detoxify the body without irritating the colon. It is made from three fruits that grow in India and the middle east, two of which have laxative properties. So it sounds like it could be helpful, but I have no experience with it, so I can’t tell you for sure.
    What Kathy and I have found is that when we help people work on their sources of trauma with EFT (or they use the No IBS Program, which is a self-help program), they tend to experience a lot of relief from symptoms like constipation.

  5. Hi Karen,
    I have not tryed the EFT yet even though it may be something I should. I just started using the Chia gel what about that? I heard it helps with IBS-C,what is your opinion on taking it ?
    Thank You!!

  6. Hi Latricia,
    Take a look at our blog posts on Anxiety – one of them has a tapping video so you can try out EFT. Also, there’s a longer tapping video at the very bottom of the Products page.

    Did you see the blog post on chia gel on this site? Different people with IBS have told me that chia gel helps them – it is very nutritious and it contains soluble fibre which helps the bowel to work properly. Personally, I like chia gel a lot, but not everyone does!

    That being said, if there are stress or trauma issues that need to be dealt with, it’s unlikely that a single food or nutrient is going to be enough.

  7. Hi- I have never been a meat-eater as such. I have eaten for a few years awhile ago as a vegetarian. I eat very little dairy as I am lactose intolerant. I found tht when my IBS was at its worst, I could not eat beans at all, even the little red lentils. That was a horror to me, because I have always eaten a lot of dried beans. I do not eat much bread at all,and am eating gluten-free these days. I have always eaten organic wheat,and most other grains. I am fairly strict – just beginning to experiment with things on the gaps diet that are not recommended, and find I am able to tolerate some things now. I have read some things about combinations – but it is not easy to pair with GAPS, I find. I am on vacation and my e mail is somewhqt primitive- bettr after the end of the month. Audrey

  8. I don’t not know about everyone else, but for me I have gained more relief from IBS symptons, by following a paleo diet, and eliminating gluten, and most dairy from my diet, than any other treatment I have tried. While my diet is still a work in progress, I finally feel like I am making progess and moving forward

  9. I did Paleo for about 5 months. For the first month it improved my IBS, but then it took a turn for the worse and I was constantly going over in my heard what I ate to figure out if I have food sensitivities or problems with FODMAPs. Whereas before I had mild IBS-D, when I was on Paleo I started developing stomach aches, terrible gas and alternating between diarrhea and constipation. I was pretty convinced I might have small bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). I eventually started looking further than Paleo at the IBS forums and reading up about the benefits of soluble fiber changed everything for me! Introducing oats and rice back into my life has completely stabilized my bowel movements, and has meant that foods that caused me problems before I can now stomach again. There is a lot about nutrition that I learned from Paleo and I love the focus on eating whole foods, and there are a lot of great recipes out there. Eating Paleo did wonders for my skin and weight (I was as slim as when I was a teenager!), but it just did not agree with my tummy so I am much happier now with rice and oats in my diet.

  10. Hi Julia,As you mentioned, it sounds like you are a person who needs soluble fiber – which tends to be very important for people with IBS. I think your approach is a good one – trying different dietary strategies and doing lots of research – because no single method of eating seems to work for everyone.It’s interesting that the oats and rice stabilized you enough that you could add foods back in that had been problematic. That’s very good news.

  11. All IBS patients are similar and different at the same time. Therefore each patient should learn the best diet for him/her.Paleo diet is good but for me but animal fat and oil from nuts are not. FFODMAPS is ok but I cannot eat dairy products such as yogurt, and strawberries.

  12. All IBS patients are similar and different at the same time. Therefore each patient should learn the best diet for him/her.Paleo diet is good but for me animal fat and oil from nuts are not. FFODMAPS is ok but I cannot eat dairy products such as yogurt, and strawberries

  13. Hi Maria,Yes, I totally agree that each person has to find out what works best for their body.There’s also considerable evidence that much IBS is trauma-related, which is why Kathy and I developed the No IBS Program. For many people who can’t seem to find the right diet, the reason is because they need to address the emotional causes of IBS and the brain patterns that are triggering IBS symptoms. These patterns can definitely be changed and, once they are, the likelihood of symptoms decreases significantly.I wonder if dairy products and strawberries could be feeding SIBO – which might be causing the problem for you?Thanks for your input.

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