Food to Avoid With Irritable Bowel Syndrome


According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, an estimated 20 percent of Americans suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. Specific foods affect everyone differently but having a general guideline of foods to avoid can help you to manage your symptoms.

High Fat Foods

Foods with a high fat content tend to increase the frequency of bowel movements since they speed up peristalsis (part of the digestion process). Limit your intake of red meat (ground beef, steak, hot dogs, luncheon meats and bacon), dark meat poultry, poultry skin, full-fat dairy products, egg yolks, fried foods, store-bought banana chips, oils, mayonnaise, coconut milk, shortening, chocolate, salad dressing, Cool Whip, tartar sauce, olives, nut butters, pastries, pie crust, solid carob, coconut and chips (with the exception of baked chips).

Artificial Fats and Sweeteners

Artificial fats (like olestra) may result in gas, diarrhea and indigestion even in healthy consumers. Consumers with IBS are more susceptible to these side effects. Some products are being made with olestra (like corn chips, snack foods and potato chips). Artificial sweeteners (like sorbitol, aspartame, mannitol, saccharin and sucralose) can result in diarrhea and gas even in healthy consumers. Consumers with IBS are even more susceptible to adverse effects like abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea and pain. Many products are made with artificial sweeteners including soda, gum, baked goods, snack items and candy.

Dairy Products

This is a category which differs for many people and will be dependent on how your body reacts to specific product. Eliminate your exposure to dairy products for approximately seven days. Afterward, slowly experiment (one product at a time) to determine what works and what doesn’t. Dairy products may trigger your IBS symptoms regardless of whether or not you are lactose intolerant. Proteins like casein and whey, which are found in dairy products, can stimulate the GI (gastrointestinal tract) and cause symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain and increased gas.

Gassy Vegetables

Green, leafy vegetables are chock-full of vitamins and antioxidants. They can also cause abdominal discomfort and gas in IBS sufferers. Similarly to dairy, you should eliminate all gassy vegetables for approximately one week (like garlic, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beans, asparagus and broccoli) and slowly add them back one at a time to determine which foods work for your body and which ones trigger symptoms.


Fiber is invaluable for digestive health. Insoluble fiber contained in raw veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds can stimulate and irritate your GI tract, causing increased gas, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Foods with soluble fiber (like oatmeal, pasta, rice, sweet potatoes and baked potatoes) can soothe the GI tract. Experiment with different foods to see what may trigger your IBS symptoms and what you can tolerate.

Other GI Stimulants

Certain foods are well-known irritants to the GI tract including:

Coffee: It’s not the caffeine, but an enzyme in the brew that irritates the GI tract. Caffeine: This is a stimulant that causes GI contraction. This, in turn, increases the frequency and urgency of bowel movements. The diuretic effect of caffeine can exacerbate dehydration and can trigger IBS symptoms. Carbonated Beverages: The carbonation creates gas (from the gas bubbles) and can result in painful cramping and bloating. Alcohol: This irritates the GI tract, dehydrates your entire body and poses an increased risk of triggering symptoms.

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