For anyone dealing with the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of IBS, certain food guidelines may help. As each person is different, food also affects people differently. The best way to know for sure what foods may trigger your IBS symptoms is to keep a food diary. This will allow you to better see how different foods affect you and IBS. That being said, there are foods that after careful research has been found to cause IBS symptoms. In general, it’s best to avoid or be careful of portions of the following foods:
- Milk and Dairy: these are very commonly found to cause problems for people with IBS
- Foods High in Insoluble Fiber: this can include high fiber breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta and breads, etc.
- Raw and Cruciferous vegetables: this includes vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Wheat: Unrelated to insoluble fibers, gluten is also known to cause IBS symptoms
- Sweeteners: many types of sweeteners including honey, sugar, agave, or high fructose corn syrup are known to upset the intestinal tract. Even some fresh fruits can have high levels of sugar such as apples, pears, cherries and nectarines.
- Beans and Lentils: Beans and lentils tend to be more difficult to digest and thus cause gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
- Garlic and Onions: These are also known as “allium” vegetables and can really irritate your digestive tract. Instead of these vegetables, consider using fresh or dried herbs or olive oil to season your meals.
- Carbonated, Caffeinated, and Alcoholic Beverages: Soda and seltzer is known to cause gas and bloating which can affect IBS symptoms as well. Coffee and alcohol also cause problems for IBS.
- Fatty Foods and Red Meat: In general, it is best to avoid eating foods high in fat but especially for people with IBS. Red meat is also a common trigger; choose proteins lower in fat such as turkey or chicken.
- Chocolate: Chocolate has been found to not only trigger IBS symptoms but also migraines in some people.
- Condiments: Some condiments such as ketchup, pickle relish, soy sauce, chutney and barbecue sauce can cause IBS symptoms.
In general, the best foods for IBS health are those that are gentle and mild. If you have experienced extreme symptoms, it might be best to first follow an elimination diet for five to seven days. An elimination diet is a set of meal plans that avoid all potentially negative foods and then slowly reintroduces them one by one. This allows you to better identify exactly which foods might be triggers for your IBS symptoms. Even further, diarrhea predominant IBS should avoid all trigger foods and fiber, constipation predominant IBS should avoid trigger foods but incorporate soluble and insoluble fibers. Some people with IBS find that their symptoms begin to improve as they learn more about their condition and how foods can trigger specific symptoms. However, a certain diet is really only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to resolving or “curing” IBS. Being sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water and exercising regularly are just a few other suggestions. Some people have found that using an over-the-counter medication such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol can help control their IBS symptoms. However, it is also common that these medications only provide a temporary relief. IBS has recently come under more serious focus in research as an estimated 20% of Americans are dealing with the complications of IBS.