Are Meal Replacement Drinks Safe for IBS?

Because so many people with IBS struggle with what to drink, and not just what to eat, they often turn to meal replacement drinks. This seems like a logical idea, but unfortunately, most meal replacement or supplemental nutrition shakes have ingredients that can seriously worsen IBS.

Among the most common brands, virtually all Boost drinks contain dairy, and most varieties have artificial flavors, artificial colors, and can be very high in fat as well.

Ensure brand drinks contain dairy, most are fairly high in fat, and some varieties have caffeine and artificial flavors. Both Boost and Ensure also typically use corn syrup as a sweetener, which can cause problems for IBS folks who are sensitive to fructose.

Even Modulen, a nutritional drink marketed for inflammatory bowel disease patients, contains casein (a dairy protein), milk fat, and a fat content that is far too high for maintaining digestive stability in IBS. Modulen also contains Transforming Growth Factor-ß2 (TGF-ß2), from cow's milk, which doesn't sound like something I'd like to drink even if I didn't have IBS.

The best choice among the canned drinks, though not a great one, seems to be SlimFast soy fruit shakes. These contain no dairy and are very low in fat, and they also have a decent amount of soluble fiber. Unfortunately, they're sweetened with fructose. This means that while they may be a tolerable drink for some, for others who are prone to diarrhea, gas, or bloating from fructose, they're not a safe bet.

The optimal solution for a meal replacement beverage is to simply make your own. While this isn't as convenient or quick as buying a canned drink, at least you can control the ingredients and ensure that your digestion stays stable. Try whipping up a fast fruit smoothie in the blender with rice, oat, soy, or almond milk (and additional rice protein powder if you like), bananas or mangoes, peaches, cherries, blueberries, or strawberries. Blitz until very smooth to break down the insoluble fiber. Add Acacia Tummy Fiber for extra soluble fiber and a super creamy texture. You can even throw in a small handful of instant oatmeal and blend that in. If you need extra calories add a teaspoon of nut butter, olive oil, or flax oil as well.

Choose whatever combination of fruits you find most tolerable, and add a bit of sugar, stevia, maple syrup, or honey for extra sweetness if you wish. No drink will ever really replace the complete nutrition you should get from a full meal, but if you're trying to add extra calories to your diet or simply need some fast energy, a homemade smoothie is a much healthier and safer choice than any of the commercial canned beverages.


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