Edit Content

Are These 14 Foods Triggering Your IBS?

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you know that there are common foods that can trigger a flare-up. By avoiding these food triggers, you may be able to effectively manage the gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea that commonly accompany IBS.  

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. It’s a chronic condition that requires long-term management and is more common in women, people under 50, or those that have a history of IBS. 

The cause of IBS is not known. However, it’s been well established that food plays a large role in triggering symptoms of IBS. It’s common for people with IBS to experience various gut symptoms after eating certain foods. Knowing what foods trigger your symptoms can help you plan a long-term strategy and food plan.  This can take some of the worry out of having IBS

It’s important to note that triggers vary from person to person.  Foods that you may find problematic may not be an issue for others. In addition, other factors, such as stress can also play a role in flare-ups. Everyone’s digestion and food tolerance is different. 

Try keeping a food diary to note what foods tend to make your IBS symptoms worse. This will help you as you start to create a plan moving forward. 

Food And Ingredients That Can Worsen IBS Symptoms

While different people will react differently to the foods on this list, the foods below have been known to trigger symptoms of IBS. 

  1. High-Fructose Foods. It probably makes sense to avoid high-fructose foods such as corn syrup, which can worsen IBS symptoms. But surprisingly some fruits that contain a lot of fructose can be problematic too. Fruits like apples, peaches, pears, and dried fruits are naturally high in fructose and should be avoided.
  2. High-Fat Foods. Foods high in fat, such as fried foods or fast foods, heavy creams, or gravies aren’t healthy for anyone. But they can be especially problematic in people with IBS. These foods are hard to digest and can trigger IBS symptoms. Try to stick to healthier fats.
  3. Dairy Products Containing Lactose. Things such as milk, cheese, and ice cream can all trigger IBS flare-ups. This is especially true if you are lactose intolerant. Try non-dairy alternatives to see if symptoms improve.  
  4. Gluten-Containing Foods. In some people with IBS, foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye, may cause some digestion issues leading to abdominal pain, bloating or gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Even if you don’t test positive for Celiac Disease, you may have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. Some people find that following a gluten-free diet helps to reduce symptoms. If you think you may be gluten intolerant, talk to your doctor.
  5. Caffeine. Found in things like coffee, tea, and chocolate, caffeine can speed up your gut motility. People with IBS may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, causing them to experience stomach pain and diarrhea.
  6. Carbonated Beverages. All that bubbling and fizzing that happens in your glass can also lead to a build-up of gas in your digestive tract. Additionally, many carbonated beverages, such as soda, are full of sugar (or artificial sugar if you’re drinking diet), and potentially caffeine, which can lead to cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
  7. Chocolate. Chocolate can be irritating to people with IBS because it typically is high in fat and sugar, and often contains lactose and caffeine. 
  8. Alcohol. Not only does alcohol cause dehydration, which can cause digestion issues, but different types of alcohol contain some of the other no-nos on this list: beer often contains gluten, and mixed drinks and most wines contain a large amount of sugar. Try gluten-free beer, or stick with clear liquors mixed with low or no-sugar mixers, like seltzer.
  9. Artificial Sweeteners (such as sorbitol and xylitol). Things like sugar-free chewing gum or candy, or sugar-free drinks contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. These are known irritants to IBS sufferers and can trigger gas and other symptoms.
  10. Certain Vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale are high in nutrients. But, they are notoriously hard to digest and can lead to gas and bloating. Cooking these foods can help break these foods down a bit. Try roasting or sauteeing them if you find you don’t have a tolerance for them raw.  
  11. Garlic And Onions. Garlic and onions contain fructans, which are a type of carbohydrate that can be triggering for some people with IBS, causing painful gas and stomach cramping. 
  12. Beans And Legumes. For many people, beans can be a great source of fiber and protein. However, for some people with IBS, beans can be hard to digest and can result in excess gas. 
  13. Spicy Foods. Even if you don’t have IBS, chances are you’ve experienced some gastrointestinal problems from eating spicy foods from time to time. Spicy foods may increase the symptoms of people with IBS because they may be more sensitive to capsaicin, the substance found in hot peppers.
  14. Large Meals. Eating large meals puts extra pressure on your digestive tract. This can lead to IBS flare-ups if your gut is already sensitive.  Breaking your meals up into 4-6 smaller meals during the day can help avoid this. 

While you’ll eventually want to develop your own food plan, it can be hard to know where to start. It’s also hard to know what foods to avoid, especially if you’ve just been diagnosed. Chances are you’ve probably noticed symptoms after consuming some of the foods in the list above. While this list of problematic food is a general guide, it’s not exhaustive. And, you may even find that you tolerate some of these foods well. 

Our best advice is to speak with your doctor, or a dietician, to come up with a food plan that’s specific to your needs. Your doctor may have you eliminate groups of foods to see if you notice a reduction in symptoms, then slowly add them back in to see if those symptoms reappear. This is called an elimination diet and is helpful when determining what foods are triggering your symptoms so that you know to avoid them in the future. 

Need help finding a doctor to treat your IBS? Visit NAFC’s Doctor Finder tool to find an expert in your area.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles

man and woman in bed facing away from each other.

Will BPH Impact My Sex Life?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, commonly referred to as BPH, is a common condition affecting many men as they age. As the prostate gland enlarges, it can

man and woman in bed facing away from each other.

Will BPH Impact My Sex Life?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, commonly referred to as BPH, is a common condition affecting many men as they age. As the prostate gland enlarges, it can

NAFC Newsletters

Sign Up For The NAFC Newsletter, Get Free Stuff!

NAFC’s weekly newsletter provides articles from experts, patients and product experts to provide tips on how to manage bladder, bowel and pelvic health conditions. Sign up to receive free ebooks, tools and special offers on incontinence products!

We use cookies to collect and analyze information related to the use and performance of our website in order to provide functionalities related to social networks, and to adequately improve and personalize the content and advertising on our website. More information