Common Foods That Trigger IBS

Each person with IBS has different symptoms and triggers, but here are some foods to avoid.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic condition that causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, bloating and gas. As many as 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have symptoms of IBS although the condition is not formally diagnosed in all people who experience bothersome symptoms.  

Each person with IBS has different symptoms. Some people tend to be bothered by constipation while others have diarrhea. There are times when symptoms flare up and times when symptoms may improve or even disappear completely. No matter what type of symptoms you have or how often they occur, these tips may help you better manage IBS symptoms:

  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger your IBS.
    Foods that may make IBS constipation worse:
    • Processed foods (cookies, chips)
    • Refined grains (white flour) in breads and cereals
    • Dairy products (especially cheese)
    • High protein diets
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    Foods that may make IBS diarrhea worse:
    • Too much insoluble fiber (such as from the skin of fruits and vegetables)
    • Fried foods
    • Dairy foods, especially if you are lactose intolerant
    • Foods with wheat if you are gluten-sensitive
    • Chocolate
    • Large meals
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
  • If you’re not sure what triggers your symptoms, try the elimination approach. Make a list of foods you suspect may be causing symptoms and eliminate one food at a time for 12 weeks to see if it makes a difference in how you feel.
  • Limit processed foods, which often contain unsuspecting ingredients that trigger IBS flare-ups.
  • Eat multiple small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals.
  • Don’t eat too quickly.
  • If you’re constipated, increase the amount of soluble fiber in your diet instead of insoluble fiber. It will help ease constipation without bloating or diarrhea.
  • Try ginger, peppermint or chamomile – theymay improve a variety of digestion issues.
  • Don’t smoke – smoking may worsen symptoms.
  • Find ways to manage stress and anxiety, which can trigger flare-ups.

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Date Last Reviewed: January 30, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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