For some people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), avoiding the foods that trigger symptoms is enough to reduce flare-ups without medication. But because symptoms of IBS vary between patients, knowing exactly which foods to avoid can be tricky to figure out.
The following list of potential IBS trigger foods may not apply to every person, but it’s a good place to start. If you want to be strategic about finding out which foods trigger your IBS symptoms, try using this list as a jumping-off point for the elimination approach. One at a time, avoid each “possible trigger” item listed below for 12 weeks. Keep notes, and use them to assess which foods might be best kept out of your diet.
Once you’ve eliminated the culprits, you may experience:
- More regularity
- Less cramping
- Less bloating
- Fewer flare-ups
If you have IBS, we know that’s music to your ears.
Possible trigger: Lactose
Many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant. If you take in more lactose (found in milk and other soft dairy products like cottage cheese, cream cheese, ice cream, and sour cream) than your intestines can handle, you’ll get gas and abdominal pain.
Try instead: Lactose-free milk, soymilk, oat milk, rice milk, or any lactose-free yogurt. You may also be ok with hard cheeses, brie, and camembert.
Possible trigger: Fructose
The sugar in apples, pears, watermelon, concentrated fruits, dried fruits and fruit juice may trigger IBS symptoms.
Try instead: Fruits lower in fructose, such as bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwis, strawberries, and cranberries.
Possible trigger: Grains
At least half of IBS patients are gluten-intolerant. The gluten found in products containing rye, wheat, and barley can damage your intestines and cause your IBS to flare up.
Try instead: Gluten-free products, such as pizza, pasta, cookies, and pastries.
Possible trigger: Fried foods
The high fat content in French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods may increase diarrhea in patients with IBS.
Try instead: Baked or grilled foods. It’s ok to treat yourself now and again to that fried chicken, but you might not want to once you experience the difference of eating fewer fried foods.
Possible trigger: Legumes
Beans (and this includes baked beans, chick peas, lentils, and soybeans) have high amounts of indigestible saccharides that cause gas, bloating, and cramps. This makes them a trigger for most people with IBS.
Try instead: Rice, oats, polenta. No, these aren’t great substitutes for beans, but you may be able to enjoy them without triggering your IBS symptoms.
Possible trigger: Coffee and carbonated drinks
You may not like to hear this, but your coffee could be exacerbating your IBS flare-ups. Carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, and chocolate might be culprits, too.
Try instead: Water and decaffeinated tea. Not fair to even consider the above as substitutes for coffee and soda, but your gastrointestinal system will thank you.
What if dietary changes don’t help?
If you find that eliminating potential trigger foods from your diet doesn’t reduce or eliminate your IBS flare-ups, talk to your doctor about other solutions. You can also call us at Precision Research Institute in San Diego County to see if you qualify for any of our studies related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We have three locations in El Cajon and La Mesa.