Foods to Avoid with IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Common Food Triggers

Fatty foods such as milk, cheese, pies and cakes are delicious, but difficult for our bodies to digest. Our body breaks down fats using bile, a fluid that can irritate the lining of the stomach and cause cramping, spasms and diarrhea, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine whereby patients experience bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. The condition is chronic and caused by diet, stress and hormones. It is estimated that twenty percent of Americans have irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors recommend changes in diet and lifestyle for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Certain foods have been found to trigger episodes and food allergies and intolerance play a role. Below are some of the common food culprits.

Foods to Avoid with IBS


Grains such as rye, barley and wheat contain gluten, a protein that can irritate the intestines in some people. Half of patients with irritable bowel syndrome have reported a gluten-intolerance. Gluten-free products such as cereals, breads and other baked goods are recommended.


Many people with irritable bowel syndrome are lactose-intolerant. Milk contains fat, which is difficult for the body to digest. Fortunately, there are many dairy-alternatives available, such as soy, almond and rice variations. Low-fat or non-fat milk may be digestible for some with IBS.


Though beans are filled with protein and fiber, they can be too much of a good thing for those with IBS. Beans can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea and should be eaten in moderation if they are one of your IBS triggers.


Caffeine, particularly coffee, is known for causing diarrhea in people without IBS. For people with IBS, it can cause painful bowel movements, a sense of urgency and abdominal spasms. Coffee beans contain certain enzymes that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Decaf coffee is not recommended, as it contains those enzymes as well. Instead of coffee, try a tea such as peppermint leaf, which has been shown to prevent spasms and cramps.


Alcohol can cause the stomach to produce more acid than normal, which can irritate the digestive system. Even one alcoholic drink can cause IBS symptoms in some people. Those with a wheat intolerance should avoid beer, lager and ale.

Fried Food

Fried foods such a french fries or fried chicken can be hard on just about everyone’s stomach. For those with IBS, fried food can exacerbate symptoms and cause painful bouts of the condition.

Every person is different and will have different food triggers. To identify the foods that irritate your IBS, try keeping a food diary. Note what you eat and what the effects were, if any. Large meals, particularly high-fat and eaten quickly, can irritate the bowels. Smaller meals, several times a day can aid digestion. A low-FODMAP diet is recommended for those with irritable bowel syndrome. FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in foods and include fructose (fruits, high-fructose corn syrup), lactose (dairy), fructans (wheat), galactans (beans) and polycols (sweeteners). An example of a low-FODMAP diet consists of gluten-free products, dairy alternatives, protein such as chicken or fish and a vegetable such as spinach, carrot or celery. Talk to your doctor about food recommendations.