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The #1 Best Eating Habit for a Healthier Gut, Says New Study

Consistency can go a long way.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is no fun, but the good news is that there are choices you can make both to reduce your odds of getting it and, if you do have it, to avoid more severe symptoms.The foods you eat, for one, can make a difference, with some foods helping to protect you from the condition and others putting you at increased risk.

However, recent research suggests that it's not just what you eat but also when and how you eat that can make a difference—a new study finds that sticking to a regular meal schedule is linked with lower risk of IBS.

In the study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared information from about 4,600 Iranian adults about their dietary habits to data about IBS prevalence and symptom severity. They found that those who stuck with a consistent meal pattern had a lower chance of coming down with IBS and, when they did have the disorder, tended to have less severe symptoms.

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"It's no surprise that consuming large meals in one sitting can cause digestive distress. I've also had clients who feel IBS spasms when going too long without eating," Dasha Agoulnik, MS, RD, registered dietitian and CEO of CorePerform, tells Eat This, Not That!. "Establishing patterns of regular meals can help decrease digestive burden and encourage proper digestive patterns."

Plus, there are a range of other ways that skipping meals could affect your body for the worse. You could mess with your blood sugar, you could feel tired, you could have trouble focusing on the things you need to get done and more.

When it comes to making gut-friendly dietary choices, Agoulnik recommends focusing on incorporating more fiber into your diet and hydrating.

"The most useful tip I have is to start with the basics: fiber and water," she suggests. "We want to aim for at least a 80/20 ratio of unprocessed foods to processed foods, and I recommend at least 4-6 servings of vegetables per day.

Additionally, she cautioned that, when you add more vegetables to your diet to boost your fiber intake, you also want to start drinking more water, or else you may be at risk of constipation.

For more on how to make food choices that will decrease your IBS symptoms, check out The #1 Best Diet for IBS, New Study Says.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more
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