As a rule, the best way to ensure an all-around healthy diet is to eat a wide range of foods. However, when you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), there are some foods that can cause irritation. This can lead to painful cramps and a bloated stomach.

Not everyone with IBS reacts the same to potentially triggering foods. So, what causes painful symptoms in one person may be fine for another. However, particular foods that are well-known to cause discomfort for people with IBS. Read on to find out about the common trigger foods for IBS, along with ideas for suitable replacements and alternatives.


Dairy has a very high-fat content. Therefore, it can commonly cause diarrhea in people with IBS. If dairy is causing an upset stomach, the patient can first try switching to a dairy product containing a reduced amount of fat.


However, some people with IBS also have an intolerance to lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. If the patient also has lactose intolerance, they need to remove lactose from their diet altogether. They could either switch to dairy products with the lactose removed or try soy-based dairy replacements such as soy milk, yogurt, and cream.

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Fructose is a sugar found in fruit. Eating very high levels of fructose can trigger IBS symptoms in some patients. Apples, pears and many dried fruits contain levels of fructose high enough to cause many people issues.


However, fruits contain fiber and vitamins that are an important part of a healthy diet. Instead of cutting fruit out altogether, it's a good idea to switch to fruits with lower levels of fructose. Bananas, citrus fruits, blueberries strawberries, and grapes are all examples of fruits low in fructose.

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Fried foods

When food is fried, it absorbs some of the cooking oil, raising the overall fat content. Fatty foods can cause diarrhea for people with IBS. Frying foods can also change the chemical structure of the meal, making it tougher to process and therefore a potential trigger for IBS symptoms.


As an alternative to frying, it is recommended to try to use different cooking methods that don't require adding extra fat, such as baking, grilling, steaming or boiling.

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Beans have a reputation for causing uncomfortable gas. This is because they contain high levels of saccharides, which cannot be digested. Therefore, eating beans and legumes can cause painful wind and bloating for people with IBS.


While all forms of beans contain saccharides, people with IBS could try bulking out soups and stews with whole grains such as oats or quinoa. These foods are easier for the body to digest.

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Artificial Sweeteners

Not all artificial sweeteners are known to cause issues for people with IBS. Sweeteners called 'polyols' are the types of sugar substitute best avoided, and they come under various names such as sorbitol and xylitol. If a sweetener has a name ending in 'ol', it is probably a polyol. These sugar substitutes are commonly used in gums and candies.


Instead of consuming these sweeteners, it is better for IBS symptoms to consume real sugars such as honey or maple syrup in sensible amounts, or use sweeteners that are not part of the polyol group.

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Chocolate bars and products can worsen IBS symptoms for some people because they contain very high levels of sugar, caffeine, and fat. Some people also find that chocolate affects their digestion and makes them constipated.


Instead, people with IBS may find that they can tolerate lower sugar and fat chocolate alternatives more readily. However, it is important to check that the chocolate doesn't contain the polyol sweeteners that can cause symptoms. Some people also find dairy-free chocolate substitutes easier to digest.

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Many people with IBS find that processing alcohol can make their symptoms worse. The high levels of sugar contained in alcohol can also cause bloating and cramps.


The simplest solution is to cut out or limit the amount of alcohol consumed. If the patient wants to consume alcohol, it's best to choose a beverage containing relatively low sugar levels. Red wine, spirits (not sweetened liqueurs) and prosecco are examples of alcoholic drinks containing lower levels of sugar.

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Some Vegetables

For people with IBS, certain vegetables can cause a flare-up of symptoms. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage are known to cause bloating and diarrhea for some patients. Sprouts, onions, and asparagus can also cause symptoms to worsen.


As vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet, people with IBS should try eating vegetables that are easier for them to digest. Spinach, yams, celery, carrots, and squash are all examples of vegetables that are preferable for people with IBS.

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Many popular beverages contain high levels of caffeine. These include coffee, some teas, cola, some sodas and energy drinks. While caffeine can give people an energy boost, it also stimulates the digestive system. This can cause diarrhea and other symptoms for people with IBS.


As an alternative, many soft drinks manufacturers offer versions of their beverages with lower caffeine, or with the caffeine eliminated altogether. Caffeine-free tea and coffee provide a good alternative to regular hot drinks. Many herbal teas are also naturally free from caffeine.

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Insoluble fiber

Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and is vital for proper digestion. However, insoluble fiber can cause digestive issues for people with IBS and can trigger episodes of diarrhea. Foods high in insoluble fiber can also cause bloating.


Instead, people with IBS may tolerate sources of soluble fiber more readily. Foods containing soluble fiber include whole grains, root vegetables, and some fruits.

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