IBS: Does the condition cause weight gain? What you need to know

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhoea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term but how does the condition affect weight?

Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t cause a significant change in appetite.

However, the condition may make some people feel less hungry because of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain after eating.

For others, IBS can increase food cravings due to stress and anxiety that interfere with normal GI functioning and digestive health.

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Weight gain doesn’t directly result from IBS, but it may be associated with stress related to the condition.

Stress triggers inflammatory responses throughout the body, including in the gut.

Inflammation can affect your body’s ability to digest food properly, which can lead to uncomfortable digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea.

There are a number of possible explanations as to why IBS might result in weight gain.

“A change in diet in an attempt to reduce symptoms can be a factor,” said nutritionist Emma Thornton.

She added: “Many types of fruit and vegetables can actually act as triggers in IBS as they often contain indigestible components which undergo fermentation in the large intestine.

“As a result of recurring flare ups you might be tempted to replace fruit and vegetables with carbohydrate sources instead, such as potatoes or rice (which are generally more calorie dense and hold a lower nutritional value) which can cause weight gain.

“Mental factors may also have a role to play.

“IBS is often linked to psychological issues such as anxiety or depression which can be associated with emotional eating.”

How to manage condition

Diets high in fruits and vegetables can support weight loss.

Choosing foods which are low in FODMAPs is key.

FODMAP is a type of carb that may trigger IBS symptoms with examples including carrots, broccoli, blueberries, and bananas.

Finding ways to help reduce your stress levels is also key for managing both IBS and weight gain.

This can include more exercise, reducing your caffeine intake and practicing calming practices such as meditation.

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