11 Foods to Avoid When You Have IBS

Feb 02, 2023
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Bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea got you down? Relief may be as simple as avoiding these problematic foods.

If you’re one of the 10-15% of Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IB)S symptoms, you’re probably aware of certain trigger foods. Maybe you feel stomach pain after you eat fried food, or perhaps bread makes you feel like a lead balloon is sitting in your belly. 

Here at AZZ Medical Associates in Ewing, Hamilton Township, Brick Township, and Old Bridge, New Jersey, we have a team of experienced physicians who diagnose and treat IBS. While everyone’s IBS symptoms can vary, those who avoid certain trigger foods often have fewer symptoms. 

A 2017 World Journal of Gastroenterology study shared the dietary impact of common IBS triggers. You may already recognize that some give you stomach troubles, but others may surprise you. 

You can manage your IBS symptoms by identifying and avoiding the foods that trigger them. Start by eliminating them all and slowly adding them back one at a time, paying attention to how you feel after eating them. 

Some of these foods are high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, or FODMAPs for short. FODMAPs can be tough on your GI tract and turn up in otherwise healthy foods like some fruits and veggies. 

1. Apples, mangoes, and watermelon 

These are some of the fruits that can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. Along with pears, peaches, grapefruits, and apricots, they contain insoluble fiber, which can be challenging to digest, and they’re considered high in FODMAPs. 

2. Certain vegetables 

In general, vegetables are considered healthy, but garlic, onions, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can trigger IBS systems because they’re on the high FODMAP list. We recommend either reducing or eliminating such vegetables or trying them cooked since cooking vegetables makes them easier to digest.

3. Lactose 

 If you have IBS, cow’s milk, soft cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt may already be on your “avoid” list. The culprit is lactose, which can be difficult to digest. Alternatives like soy or almond milk and hard cheeses (like Parmesan) are easier on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

4. High fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners

High fructose corn syrup is on many lists of unhealthy foods, but you might not realize that it can lead to bloating and stomach discomfort. Other processed sweeteners like xylitol can also be problematic for sensitive digestive systems. For some people, even honey is off-limits. 

5. Legumes 

The humble lentil can trigger gassy IBS symptoms in some people. So can chickpeas, so if you have stomach pain after eating hummus, that could be the connection. Baked beans, kidney beans, and split peas make the list, too. 

6. Gluten 

Commonly associated with wheat and rye bread, gluten is also found in foods like soy sauce, BBQ sauces, and taco seasonings. Even meatless “meat” products can use gluten. You need to read the ingredient label carefully if your body has a strong negative reaction to gluten. 

7. Fried or greasy foods 

Coconut shrimp, greasy cheeseburgers, and deep-fried onion rings may be tasty, but they can wreak havoc on your digestive system and cause stomach pain. 

8. Spicy foods 

If you have IBS symptoms, you’ve probably learned that spicy food is not your friend. There’s an ingredient in chili peppers called capsaicin that can irritate your gut and send you scurrying to the bathroom soon after devouring that delicious curry. 

9. Carbonation 

Soda, sparkling water, and other carbonated beverages can make you feel bloated and gassy like those bubbles are dancing in your gut.

10. Alcohol 

Alcohol is a common stomach irritant on its own, and mixers like tonic water, soda, and fruit juice can also cause stomach irritation. 

11. Caffeine

Coffee is delicious, but it might trigger your IBS symptoms. So if you have a stomach ache after drinking your morning cup, try cutting back or switching to green tea. 

As you can see, there are many potential foods to avoid for IBS. However, everyone’s IBS food triggers are different, so keeping a food journal (notes on your phone work) of what you eat and how you feel afterward helps you and us identify the problems. We often recommend managing IBS symptoms through dietary changes, stress reduction, and medications.

Also, make sure you’re getting the right nutrition and not avoiding all fruits and vegetables. If you have questions about your IBS and which foods to avoid for your symptoms, contact us online or by phone to schedule your appointment. We also offer same-day and telehealth options.