Discover which foods make your symptoms flare-up and how to avoid them.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects as many as 1 in 5 adults, causing a variety of symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, bloating and gas. Each person with IBS has different symptoms that may be triggered by different foods or other factors. Below are some of the most common ones.

Foods that may make IBS diarrhea worse:

  • Fried foods
  • Fatty foods
  • Dairy (especially if you are lactose intolerant)
  • Foods containing wheat (if you are gluten-sensitive)
  • Too much fiber (especially from fruit/vegetable skin)
  • Chocolate
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Foods that may make IBS constipation worse:

  • Processed foods (cookies, chips)
  • Refined grains (white flour)
  • Dairy (especially cheese)
  • Too much protein
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

If you’re not sure what foods are triggering your symptoms, try the elimination approach. Make a list of foods you suspect may be causing your symptoms and eliminate one food at a time for 12 weeks to see if it makes a difference in how you feel.

Other tips for managing IBS symptoms:

  • Eat multiple small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Don’t eat too quickly.
  • Limit processed foods, which can contain unsuspecting ingredients that trigger IBS flare-ups.
  • Eat soluble fiber instead of insoluble fiber to ease constipation without bloating or diarrhea.
  • Try ginger, peppermint or chamomile, which may improve various digestion issues.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen symptoms.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety, which have been shown to trigger IBS flare-ups.


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Date Last Reviewed: January 3, 2022

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

Dietary Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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