16 Foods to Avoid if You Have IBS

Janis

By Janis | Updated March 24, 2023

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a distressing and occasionally painful medical condition characterized by digestive symptoms. While these symptoms can differ among individuals, the majority of people with IBS often experience bloating and cramping triggered by specific foods.

Physicians typically advise individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to increase their intake of soluble fiber and reduce insoluble fiber consumption.

While trigger foods can differ among those with the condition, there is a shared list of items that often cause unpleasant and painful symptoms.

Fried Foods

Fried foods can wreak havoc on anyone’s digestive system, particularly for individuals with a spastic colon. High-fat content is usually the main issue, making it crucial to avoid or limit consumption of foods such as french fries and chicken fingers.

To satisfy cravings for popular fast-foods, consider opting for baked or grilled foods instead.

Fried Foods

Dairy Products

It’s not uncommon for individuals, even those without IBS, to experience discomfort after consuming dairy products. Lactose intolerance and IBS symptoms often overlap, making it difficult for some people to determine the root cause of their discomfort.

Milk, which is high in fat, can exacerbate diarrhea and other IBS-related issues. Additionally, dairy fat may lead to loose stools and irritation.

For those looking to avoid dairy, alternatives like almond, coconut, and hemp milk can be easily substituted in many recipes.

Dairy Products

High-Fat Foods

When individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) consume fatty foods, it can trigger their colon and digestive system to start working. Regrettably, the intake of excessive fatty foods often leads to cramping, bloating, and alternating periods of constipation and diarrhea in those with IBS.

As the food travels through the gastrointestinal tract, the colon contracts, trapping gas and fecal matter, which can result in embarrassing or painful consequences.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that people with IBS avoid consuming fatty meats as much as possible.

High Fat Foods

Red Meat

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it’s important to avoid red meat, as it can trigger symptoms such as gas, bloating, nausea, and constipation. This includes ground beef, hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, roast beef, ham, bacon, and salami, all of which lack fiber and have low water content.

These factors can cause contractions and spasms in the colon. Additionally, processed meats contain additives and nitrates, which can further aggravate a sensitive gut.

To maintain a balanced diet, opt for leaner alternatives such as poultry and fish, as individuals with IBS generally tolerate these better.

Red Meat

Wheat and Gluten

Gluten intolerance is not limited to individuals with Celiac disease, a severe allergy to the protein. In fact, numerous people struggle to digest gluten, a protein commonly found in wheat and other ingredients.

Although Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Celiac disease may present similar symptoms, the issues caused by IBS are not related to the autoimmune system.

Adopting a gluten-free diet may involve diligently checking food labels, but fortunately there is an abundance of gluten-free alternatives available in today’s market.

Wheat and Gluten

Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeine, a well-known gastrointestinal stimulant, should be avoided by individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and those susceptible to symptoms such as diarrhea.

Beverages like coffee, soft drinks, and black or green tea contain enough caffeine to rapidly irritate the digestive system. While caffeine offers numerous health benefits, it is advisable for people with IBS to explore alternatives.

Additionally, avoiding carbonated drinks can help prevent gas and bloating, which are common issues for those with IBS.

Caffeinated Beverages

Chocolate

Although dark chocolate is often praised for its numerous health benefits, it is a known trigger for uncomfortable IBS symptoms and other conditions such as migraines. Consuming small amounts of chocolate may not cause significant side effects, but excessive intake can disrupt the digestive system.

Milk chocolate, which contains a blend of cocoa butter and sugar, tends to be more problematic than its very dark counterpart. So for individuals with IBS, it’s essential to be mindful of chocolate consumption.

Chocolate

Alcohol

Alcohol is a gut stimulant that, once ingested, can rapidly disrupt the digestive system by accelerating its processes, leading to bloating, gas, distention, and discomfort. The effects can be exacerbated by soda-based cocktails due to the added carbonation.

Beer, which combines alcohol with carbonation and gluten, could be the worst option for individuals with IBS.

It is advisable for people with or without IBS to consume alcohol in moderation. Those with IBS may occasionally indulge in distilled alcohol such as gin, vodka, scotch, whiskey, and rye, or wine, as these are less likely to trigger gastrointestinal issues.

Alcohol

Beans

Beans are renowned for being a heart-healthy food and an excellent source of plant-based protein, making them a particularly important component of many vegan and vegetarian diets.

However, individuals who experience digestive issues may need to limit their intake of pulses like beans, as they can often cause bloating, gas, and cramping. Despite their impressive nutritional profile, many people look for ways to mitigate these side effects.

Soaking beans overnight or cooking them in pressure cookers can help eliminate the compounds that contribute to gas, while cooking at higher temperatures can also alleviate IBS symptoms. That said, it’s best to avoid soy, black, fava, kidney, and navy beans, as they are high in fructans and can cause excessive bloating.

Beans

Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all nutritious and widely enjoyed vegetables; however, they are notorious for causing gas and bloating, particularly when eaten raw.

These cruciferous veggies are high in sulfur, which produces hydrogen sulfide when broken down in the colon.

Additionally, they contain a compound called raffinose that humans are unable to digest. As a result, raffinose passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested, and when it reaches the colon, the organ has to work harder to break it down. This extra effort can lead to uncomfortable bloating and gas, making these vegetables less ideal for those with IBS.

Alleviation of IBS

In the subsequent sections, we look at how you can avoid the worst effects of IBS. We also explore lifestyle and environmental factors that can exacerbate or even contribute to the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Cruciferous Vegetables

Stress and Anxiety

There is substantial evidence suggesting stress can trigger symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in many individuals. Moreover, the frequent co-occurrence of stress and anxiety disorders with IBS hints at a deeper connection between the two.

Health experts advise individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to explore various methods for lowering stress levels. Some effective strategies include taking brief breaks, practicing meditation or other mindfulness techniques, and enjoying a soothing hot bath.

Stress and Anxiety

Certain Medications

Certain medications have been linked to an increased risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and may exacerbate existing symptoms. Common culprits include certain antibiotics and medications known to cause diarrhea or other gastrointestinal disturbances.

Certain medications, such as cough syrup or gel capsules, may contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol known to exacerbate diarrhea and other digestive issues.

It is important for individuals with IBS to be cautious when consuming these products to avoid worsening their symptoms.

Certain Medications

Menstrual Cycle

Research indicates that the severity of IBS symptoms can vary in tandem with a woman’s menstrual cycle, suggesting that hormones may play a role in influencing IBS.

This connection could also be attributed to the myriad physical changes experienced during menstruation, including alterations in stool consistency and the frequency of bowel movements.

The menstrual cycle can often lead to significant discomfort and stress, which may exacerbate IBS symptoms. It’s essential for individuals with IBS to be mindful of their diet during this time to help manage their condition effectively.

Menstrual Cycle

Food Temperature

For centuries, people have believed that the temperature of the food we consume can impact our health. Modern research now suggests that eating or drinking extremely hot substances may not only increase an individual’s risk of cancer but also lead to gastric upset. However, the complete scope of these potential effects remains to be fully explored.

Research indicates that individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may be particularly sensitive to temperature extremes. Consuming either very hot or very cold foods could potentially trigger or exacerbate IBS symptoms and abdominal discomfort.

Food Temperature

Sedentary Lifestyle

A lack of exercise may also contribute to an IBS flare-up. It’s common for individuals with IBS to increase their fiber intake to help manage their symptoms. However, leading a sedentary lifestyle can slow down the passage of food and waste through the digestive system.

Combined with a high-fiber diet and insufficient physical activity, this could result in distal colon distension and exacerbate IBS symptoms.

Additionally, stress plays a significant role in IBS symptoms. Engaging in regular exercise can be an effective way to alleviate stress and potentially improve one’s condition.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Inadequate Sleep

Individuals suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) frequently encounter sleep disruptions caused by abdominal discomfort or constant bowel movements. However, studies indicate that the relationship between sleep and IBS might be more intricate than initially thought.

It is widely accepted among experts that poor sleep quality can exacerbate IBS symptoms, and vice versa. Consulting with a doctor to address and manage sleep issues may significantly aid in alleviating symptoms.

Inadequate Sleep