14 Foods to Avoid With IBS – Dealing With IBS Food Sensitivities
There is no set diet that all IBS patients can follow, but there are some foods that crop up again and again when you ask IBS sufferers what makes them ill.
One survey of IBS sufferers found that the most commonly avoided foods were wheat, milk, fructose, caffeine, certain meats, fatty foods, alcohol, spices, dairy products, and grains.
Some of these foods naturally set off contractions within the intestines that can lead to diarrhea in sensitive people, while others contain ingredients such as sugars or stimulants that can lead to fermentation in the gut and therefore gas and bloating. It makes sense for any sufferer to try avoiding some of these most common culprits.
That said, it’s important to realize that IBS varies from person to person and what might make me ill could have no effect on you whatsoever. You will need to try out some of these suggestions on your symptoms to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
It’s also important that you end up with a diet that is still healthy and meeting all your nutritional needs, so please don’t cut out every item on this list! A trial and error approach (like an IBS elimination diet) where you avoid a particular food for a few weeks should be enough to see whether long-term avoidance is a good idea.
Soluble or Insoluble Fiber
Fiber is found in both soluble and insoluble forms. Each can relieve or aggravate IBS symptoms, so it’s important to know about both and in which foods they are found.
Soluble fiber helps with diarrhea because it removes excess water from the digestive tract. This slows down the passage of waste through the bowel.
Soluble fiber is found in carrots, mangos, grapefruit, oranges, berries, and psyllium husks.
While soluble fiber is helpful for diarrhea, it can worsen constipation. To combat constipation, you should increase your intake of insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber brings more water into the digestive tract, rather than removing it, like soluble fiber. This aids in relieving constipation but would make diarrhea worse.
If you want to add more insoluble fiber to your diet, you should eat grapes, cabbage, broccoli, and zucchini. Insoluble fiber is also found in whole grains, bran, rolled oats, and brown rice.
Fat and Grease
High fat, greasy foods such as burgers and red meat can cause significant problems. This is because fat is a stimulant to the digestive tract, causing the contractions in the gut to intensify and in turn leading to diarrhea.
This is particularly true for foods containing high levels of saturated fats. Look out for any of these nasties:
- Anything that is fried in oil or batter
- Red meat, including anything made from minced or ground beef, steak, bacon, sausages, and salami
- Darker meats from chicken and turkey
- Egg yolks
- Dairy products including milk, butter, cream, cheese, and ice cream (dairy products can also be a problem if you are sensitive to lactose)
- French fries
- Spreads and oils, including margarine and olive oil (I’m afraid virgin or extra virgin olive oil contain just as much fat as the regular kind)
- Doughnuts, cookies, and cakes
Dairy can be a double-edged sword because as well as their high-fat content, dairy foods also contain lactose. Lactose is a sugar present in milk and relies on the enzyme lactase for proper digestion.
If not enough lactase is produced then unabsorbed lactose can pass into the gut where it is fermented by bacteria, in turn producing gas and symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea.
Many people who have IBS are lactose intolerant. This means that they can’t fully digest the sugars in milk, called lactose.
Lactose intolerance is a disorder in its own right, separate from IBS, which can be diagnosed through a breath test or blood test.
Fortunately, many IBS sufferers find that they too benefit from at least limiting dairy foods or trying the lactose-free or lower fat versions. There are more dairy alternatives available, such as soy, rice, or nut milks. Also, many people with lactose intolerance can successfully digest yogurt.
Even if you are not lactose intolerant, the fat in dairy can cause diarrhea. You may consider consuming low-fat or non-fat dairy products to avoid this.
If you suspect that some grains don’t agree with you try avoiding anything containing wheat and gluten; corn and rice may be easier for you to tolerate.
You can also experiment with different types of bread, as a high fiber, seeded loaf may be better for those with constipation and a low fiber white loaf for those with diarrhea.
I hate to say that even a piece of fruit can make you ill, but for some IBS sufferers, it’s true. This may be due to the high fructose content of some fruits – fructose is a sugar that can be difficult for some people to absorb.
You may be better off with fruits that are low in FODMAPs and so cause less fermentation, so you could try avoiding some of these:
- apples and pears
- nectarines and peaches
The caffeine in tea, coffee, and cola doesn’t just stimulate your brain to wake up in the morning; it also stimulates your intestines, so too much caffeine can lead to diarrhea.
Be aware that chocolate also contains caffeine because of the cocoa content. Energy drinks are another significant source of caffeine that is probably best left on the shelf.
Caffeine stimulates the digestive system, which often leads to diarrhea for people with IBS. Because of this, you may want to avoid coffee and caffeinated soda, tea, and energy drinks.
Too much alcohol results in an upset stomach because alcohol is an irritant which our stomachs just don’t like. Drink too much, and your stomach will produce far more acid than usual, and this acid will lead to diarrhea, colon spasms, bloating and constipation.
Some people can tolerate drinking alcohol with IBS occasionally if they are careful about how they drink.
It may be helpful to avoid red wine and beer, as these beverages tend to aggravate IBS symptoms. You can also make sure to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
However, if you find yourself experiencing heightened IBS symptoms every time you drink alcohol, you may want to cut it out altogether.
Next page: What other foods to avoid with IBS are there? Onions, garlic, fried and processed foods, and five more foods to avoid.