6 Foods to Avoid When You Have IBS

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  • Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects the large intestine (gut), foods do not cause IBS. However, foods can trigger symptoms like cramping and bloating. When it comes to foods to avoid with IBS, you should only avoid those foods you know trigger your IBS symptoms. To figure out your food triggers for IBS, keep a food diary. While there is no single "foods to avoid list for IBS," your doctor may recommend you start identifying your IBS trigger foods by eliminating the following foods from your diet (one at a time) to see if your symptoms improve.

  • 1
    Whole Grain Foods
    bowl of whole wheat pasta

    The insoluble fiber contained in whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, and other foods makes the list of foods to avoid bloating when you have a bowel condition like IBS. While it’s true the soluble type of fiber contained in fruits and beans also can cause excessive gas production accompanied by bloating, the usual culprit in this scenario seems to be insoluble fiber. However, if eliminating whole grain foods from your diet doesn’t improve your IBS symptoms, then you can add them back into your diet. Insoluble fiber plays an important role in moving digested food through the intestine, so don’t avoid eating it unnecessarily.

  • 2
    wheat intolerance

    Some people with IBS also exhibit an intolerance to gluten (a substance found in wheat, barley and rye), so you can try eliminating gluten to see if it improves your symptoms. You’ll find gluten in wheat products like bread and pasta, both whole grain and white, but be aware it also sneaks into processed foods like salad dressings, so read labels carefully. If you find eliminating gluten for your IBS doesn’t improve your symptoms, then feel free to add wheat products back into your diet.

  • 3
    Fried and Fatty Foods

    For many people, fried foods reside at the very top of their personal list of food triggers list for IBS. The excessive fat concentration found in french fries and other deep-fried foods—along with generally fatty meals that contain lots of cheese, butter, and so on—can trigger serious IBS symptoms like cramping and bloating. Since people should avoid eating high-fat meals, anyway, you can’t lose by eliminating fried and fatty foods from your IBS diet to see if your symptoms improve. You’ll be healthier overall, regardless.

  • 4
    Hands Holding Tea Cup

    As a stimulant, caffeine can irritate the bowel and send it into spasm. To find out if caffeine triggers your IBS, you can slowly reduce the amount of caffeine you consume each day from coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, and other sources. By slowly tapering off caffeine, you should avoid any withdrawal symptoms like headache and irritability. You can replace your caffeine habit with decaffeinated varieties of your favorite beverages, or drink more water—which is healthy for your gut and your entire body.

  • 5
    two pints of beer in pub

    Alcohol from beer, wine and spirits irritates the bowel’s lining even in people without IBS, so it stands to reason that eliminating it from your diet may improve your IBS symptoms. Alcohol consumption causes intestinal inflammation in several ways, including stimulating the stomach to produce excessive amounts of acid that get dumped into the bowels. Eliminating alcohol from all sources for a few weeks might relieve IBS symptoms, including gut irritation and diarrhea. If it doesn’t, you can feel free to enjoy that evening glass of wine again.

  • 6
    FODMAP Foods
    Cheese and Crackers

    FODMAP is an acronym that stands for "fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols." But all you need to know is that FODMAP refers to foods that contain certain short-chain carbohydrates (specifically lactose, fructose and sorbitol) the body sometimes finds difficult to digest. FODMAPs occur in a huge array of dairy products, fruits, grains, and packaged foods. Before embarking on a low-FODMAP diet, talk with your doctor about its benefits and potential effects on your overall nutrition.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 24
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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