IBS-C Part 3: How much and how often to eat (What's best)

Turns out, this is gonna be one long series of many posts, because there's still so much to cover, from:

  • what to eat
  • how to eat
  • how to cure persistent food intolerances
  • how to deal with too much or too little stomach acid 
  • how to have and maintain a diverse gut microbiota
  • and other lifestyle habits that need to be addressed

In this post, I will cover meal frequency and portions. 

IBS-C Treatment Part 1 - My Story here.

IBS-C Treatment Part 2 - Gut Cleanse here.

How many meals a day should you eat?

Everyone is different of course, but when you're dealing with IBS with constipation, I don't recommend to graze all day with small meals because then you're putting your digestive system to work all day long. This is why we are feeling tired all day, and our body has a hard time digesting everything.

For optimal digestion, you want to have several hours of rest between meals. Your digestive system should have a few hours of rest AFTER full digestion of the last meal before eating the second one.

That means:

  • No snacking in between meals. 
  • Have 2 meals a day tops. You can either incorporate them both in a small feeding window and do intermittent fasting, or you can have one meal in the morning and one in the early afternoon.
  • Do NOT eat late at night. That's when your digestive system slows down. The earliest you have your meals during the day, the better.
  • Keep a food journal to identify foods that take forever to digest. If it takes all day, change way of cooking or minimize quantity.
  • I personally like to eat one meal a day, meaning I eat 2 different dishes but within a one-hour or 2-hour window early in the morning, and then fast for the rest of the day (which ends up around 22-25 hours of fasting).
  • A good intermittent fasting regimen that you can try is to have a 4-hour eating window, with 2 main meals spaced out, and fast for 20 hours. This is the optimal amount of fasting for most people to reap the most benefits from intermittent fasting, including better digestion.

The optimal meal volume

Now when I talk about meal portions, I'm not talking about calories. This isn't about losing weight or gaining muscle. This is about finding the optimal amount of food you put in your stomach, in one sitting, to aid digestion and prevent flare ups. Unfortunately, this is a bit tricky to figure out, because we are all different, but I'll try to explain how and why so you can make the necessary adjustments.

Why does that matter?

When dealing with constipation, the last thing you want to do is put small amounts of food in your mouth every 1-2 hours.
In order to get things moving (bowel movement) you should eat large meals. What that will do is stretch the stomach, and force the organs to make space (digest and defecate).

But, here's the thing though. You shouldn't overeat either because that will also irritate your stomach with bloating and trapped gas.

So how to find balance?

  1. Don't drink water right before, during or right after your meals.
  2. Your meal should make you feel satiated and full.
  3. BUT you shouldn't eat until you can't breathe anymore, nor put yourself in what they call a food coma. 
  4. This might take a few tries and with different foods to figure out when to stop eating, but one good indication for me is when the food stops tasting the same. After breaking my fast, the food tastes amazing. But as you keep eating, the intensity of the flavor slowly fades away. When the food starts feeling bland / tasteless, it’s a signal for me to stop eating.
  5. To accomplish that, you must practice mindful eating. You need to get rid of your electronic devices for the duration of your meals, don't engage in intense conversations, and just focus on your food. 
  6. Take the time to chew fully your food and slowly. Not only this aids digestion, but your brain will recognize and signal you when you’re full.

All of what I mentioned might take several tries and food combinations to get right. Some foods have more volume than others, and some feel heavier on the stomach and digestion process too, so you may need to play around with what works for you.

I accomplish the above by focusing in macronutrients and dividing my plate in 3 categories (protein, veggies, the rest healthy carbs/fat), not calories. A gigantic bowl of salad with only 150kcal and nothing but leafy greens for example could give me a huge flare up for days. Whereas my 600 calorie salad (with some chicken or tuna, olives, nuts etc) does not bother me at all. 

IBS-C Part 4: The dangers of restrictive diets and processed foods here.

Disclaimer: This YT channel & Blog are a documentation of my health journey. The content is based on what worked for me and is for informational purposes only, not a replacement for medical advice from a professional. I’m NOT a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, coach, nor a personal trainer. Furthermore, we are all different and my results may not reflect your own. Any action you take upon the information provided by ZenGainz is strictly at your own risk.