Foods to eat and avoid if you experience irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects your large intestine. It’s a chronic disorder, meaning that it can go away and come back throughout your life. People often have a “flare-up,” meaning their IBS symptoms come back after disappearing for a while. This can happen when they eat certain foods. This condition often means you’ll need long-term management or treatments. Some of the most common symptoms people experience with IBS include:
- Excess gas
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Diarrhea or constipation (you might experience both with IBS)
The good news is that IBS doesn’t affect the tissue in your bowels or lead to cancer in your digestive system. Learning more about this condition can help you manage it or help a loved one who has it.
Foods that trigger IBS
Some foods can worsen IBS symptoms. These “trigger foods” for IBS vary from person to person. While certain foods can cause severe symptoms in one person, another person can eat them without experiencing any discomfort. Food intolerance does seem to be a cause of IBS. Doctors aren’t quite sure what role foods play in the condition.
An elimination diet is a popular way for patients to figure out which foods trigger IBS symptoms. This means you stop eating certain foods for a period of time. Then, you start eating them again one at a time. This makes it easier to notice if you have a reaction to something you ate. Some of the more common foods that trigger IBS are:
- Dairy products
- High-protein diets
- High-fat and fried foods
- Coffee, soda and alcohol
- Processed foods (like chips and cookies)
- Refined grains (certain breads and cereals)
Foods to eat to avoid IBS symptoms
Dealing with IBS can be frustrating, especially if you feel you’re giving up all of your favorite foods. However, there are a lot of foods that you can still enjoy. They won’t cause your IBS to flare up.
Start by eating more fiber. Aim to have 2 to 3 more grams per day until you reach the recommended daily intake. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams per day, according to the FDA. It’s important to add the fiber slowly so that your body has time to get used to it. Otherwise, you might experience worse IBS symptoms.
Some of the best foods to eat to increase your fiber intake and avoid IBS symptoms include:
- Small servings of beans
- Whole grain breads, cereals and pastas
Avoid eating large amounts of vegetables that cause gas, such as broccoli or cabbage. Instead of frying your favorite foods, explore new ways to cook them. Baking, broiling, steaming and grilling foods with little to no oil allow you to create flavorful dishes. This can also reduce your chances of triggering an IBS episode.
Dried plums and prune juice can help relieve symptoms of constipation. It’s also important to stay hydrated and drink lots of plain water throughout the day.
Healthy lifestyle choices for IBS
Adopting a healthier lifestyle and improving your overall health can have a positive impact on your IBS. Poor eating habits, such as eating too quickly or eating while you drive, can trigger IBS. Carve out time to enjoy your meals without distractions to help your body digest better.
Stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms, especially constipation. If you have a lot of stress from school, work or other areas of your life, then you might not notice a big difference even if you cut out trigger foods. Get regular sleep, practice relaxation techniques or speak with a therapist to relieve stress.
Lack of exercise is another known cause of IBS. Strive to move more each day. Work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can help relieve constipation and stress.
Making healthier diet and lifestyle choices can greatly improve your quality of life. While you can manage certain symptoms on your own, there are times when it helps to talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Make an appointment with a primary care doctor or specialist by visiting Mercy.com.