IBS – Irritating foods to avoid


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects somewhere between 5-10% of the population. This digestive condition is uncomfortable and intrusive upon daily living. Those who suffer from IBS must be careful of certain foods that trigger disruption to digestion. Although having a complete list of possible foods to avoid for a person with IBS is practically impossible, at least eliminating foods that could pose problems is a proactive measure to keep IBS at bay. Attempting an elimination diet is a way to pinpoint what does and does not strike IBS issues to occur. The goal is to maintain regular bowel movements, have less bloating, and have less stomach cramping.

The most common foods that bring upon IBS symptoms are any processed foods, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and insoluble fiber. For others it can be fried foods and alcohol. Here are several foods that cause IBS flare ups:

1.      Processed foods – These are foods like frozen pizza, chips, cereals, hot dogs, fish sticks, granola bars, and sugary beverages. There are a lot of added sugars, fat, salt, and additives. Most of these are foods you don’t prepare yourself and come in a package.

2.      Cruciferous vegetables – These include brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. Most people have trouble with gas and bloating after eating these.

3.      Chocolate – The fat and sugar can be the IBS culprit. Typically, vegan options help with chocolate digestion.

4.      Garlic and onions – These have fructans and oligosaccharide which are good for flavor but not easy for intestines to break down. Gas and cramps may result.

5.      Caffeine – Coffee and caffeinated drinks have stimulants that activate diarrhea for people with IBS.

6.      Beans and legumes – Although they are a great source of fiber and some protein, they do have oligosaccharides which are resistant to digestive intestinal enzymes. Constipation may result from eating them.

7.      Sugar free sweeteners – Common triggers are foods and drinks that have aspartame, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, sorbitol, and sucralose. A lot of items that say “zero calories” have these sweeteners, and they can cause gas and laxative issues.

8.      Alcohol – Sometimes these do have gluten while others contain a lot of sugar. They can also cause dehydration which isn’t good for digestion either.

9.      Diary – Many of these items are high in fat and many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant.

10.  Fried foods – When food is fried, it changes its chemical makeup so it’s hard to digest. Baking is the better option.

11.  Insoluble fiber – There are 2 types of fiber. These include soluble fiber which is mainly in beans, fruits, and oat products. What needs to be avoided is insoluble fiber that is found in whole grain products and vegetables. Really highly concentrated fiber filled foods are hard for IBS.

12.  Gluten – Barely, wheat, and rye are the grains to be cautious of. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease worsen IBS symptoms.

IBS can limit food choices considerably. Food might taste good going down, but there can be a consequence to pay for the momentary enjoyment. Eating lean proteins and natural foods with soluble fiber and no sweeteners is the route to steer clear of IBS symptoms. Individuals vary in what they can tolerate and there is no cure all remedy for IBS. It’s a learned process of what can be eaten and successfully digested. We need all the nutrients we can get from our foods and our diet should help us feel better, not feel worse. Food is fuel for our bodies, but sometimes the body can be picky. Think of it as having a special diet, not a restrictive one.  

Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! – PMC (nih.gov)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Dietary Interventions – PMC (nih.gov)

5 Foods to Avoid if You Have IBS | Johns Hopkins Medicine

ACG Clinical Guideline: Management of Irritable Bowel Syndro… : Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology | ACG (lww.com)

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.