How To Avoid Irritable Bowel Syndrome Trigger Foods

Every Person With IBS Is Different, And Has Different Triggers

Broccoli is a very healthful food that gets quite a bad rep because it also causes gas. Photo © Colin Higgins

There is no one diet used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), because every person with IBS responds to food differently. However, there are some common trigger foods that most often bother people who have IBS. Many people with IBS find that staying away from their particular trigger foods can help avoid the symptoms of IBS.

Determining your trigger foods can be an exercise in trial and error.

While frustrating at times, it is well worth the effort to find out what foods will work for, and against, a healthy digestive system. Once the particulars are worked out, it can make mealtime much more pleasant, not to mention easier bowel movements.

How To Avoid IBS Trigger Foods

  1. Keep a food and symptom diary. The biggest and most important clue to finding those foods that trigger symptoms is going to be keeping track of foods at every meal and snack. It is very easy to forget what you have eaten during the day. Update the food and symptom diary several times a day so nothing gets forgotten.
  2. Read labels. Before anything goes into your mouth, read the ingredient label to ensure you understand all the ingredients. This also includes supplements and over-the-counter medicines, which may have all manner of additives.
  3. Avoid alcohol. It may not be easy to skip the drinks when everyone else is having a glass of wine with dinner, but you'll feel better if you do. This is especially true for carbonated mixed drinks and beer. Some people may be able to tolerate a certain amount of alcohol, or just particular types, but while learning trigger foods, it's best to avoid drinking.
  1. Avoid artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. This includes additives such as sorbitol and artificial fat such as olestra. Sorbitol and other substances like it, is found in a surprising number of foods and over-the-counter-medications. The simpler the ingredient list on the food label, the better, because some additives are known to cause gastrointestinal distress.
  1. Avoid coffee. I know — people think they can't live without a morning coffee, but after getting through the first few days and overcoming the caffeine withdrawal, the IBS symptoms will likely improve.
  2. Avoid dairy. For those that are lactose intolerant, and most people over the age of 2 are, avoiding cow's milk is going to be a major help in lessening symptoms of gas and bloating. Be aware that milk goes under many names on ingredient labels, including casein and whey.
  3. Avoid red meat. Steaks, burgers, and other types of red meats are another type of food that is difficult to avoid in the Western diet. However, many people with IBS find their symptoms are set off by red meat, and that avoiding it can be helpful.
  4. Avoid fried foods. Saying goodbye to fried foods is almost a no-brainer because it's well-known that these foods are not healthful. Anything deep fried is not going to be good for the body and especially not the digestive tract, and most people will be better off leaving these foods behind.
  5. Avoid eating large meals. Eating smaller meals more frequently, or "grazing" throughout the day may help to avoid setting off IBS symptoms. Many people find that IBS symptoms, and especially pain and bloating, tend to be worse after eating a heavy meal.
  1. Eat low fat. This is good advice for anyone, and especially for people who have IBS. Fat is not absorbed well in the digestive tract, so it's best to limit how much is eaten. When a food is not absorbed, it can lead to diarrhea.
  2. Avoid gassy foods. Many people with IBS find that gas and bloating is a problem. When IBS tends to cause a troublesome amount of gas, avoid gassy foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, onions, brussels sprouts, and garlic.

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