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18 Worst Trigger Foods for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that affects up to 20 percent of people worldwide. It can cause bloating and cramps, as well as diarrhea or constipation. Many foods can trigger IBS symptoms, so it’s important to know which ones to avoid in order to keep your gut healthy and pain-free. Here are the 17 worst trigger foods for irritable bowel syndrome, so you can make sure you stay away from them.

  1. Dairy: Dairy products contain lactose, a sugar that many people with IBS cannot digest properly. This can irritate the intestines and lead to stomach discomfort, cramping, bloating and diarrhea after eating dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  2. Wheat and Gluten: Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, can irritate the intestines of people with IBS. It’s best to avoid breads, pastas, cereals, and other products made from grains that contain gluten.
  3. Processed Foods: Processed foods are often high in fat and sugar, which can irritate the digestive system and cause symptoms like bloating or diarrhea. Avoiding packaged snacks like chips and crackers is recommended for those with IBS.
  4. Fried Foods: Fried foods are difficult to digest because they take longer to move through the stomach than unprocessed foods do. Eating greasy fried items such as French fries or fried chicken can lead to uncomfortable symptoms for people with IBS.
  5. Spicy Foods: Spicy foods, especially those containing peppers and hot sauces, can irritate the intestines and cause stomach pain or cramping in people with IBS. It’s best to avoid them if possible.
  6. Artificial Sweeteners: Certain artificial sweeteners like mannitol, and xylitol are harder for the body to break down than regular sugar. Eating large amounts of these sweeteners can irritate the digestive system and lead to bloating and cramps in people with IBS.
  7. Alcohol: Alcohol irritates the lining of the intestines and is also a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more often. This can lead to dehydration and worsen IBS symptoms, so it’s best to avoid alcohol if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
  8. Caffeinated Beverages: Caffeine is a stimulant that can irritate the intestines and cause stomach pain, cramps, bloating, and diarrhea in people with IBS. Avoiding coffee, tea, soda, and other caffeinated beverages is recommended for those with this condition.
  9. Fructose: Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruits like apples and pears as well as honey and some processed foods like ice cream and candy bars. Eating too much fructose can irritate the digestive system and lead to uncomfortable symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
  10. Legumes: Legumes like beans, lentils, and peas contain indigestible sugars called oligosaccharides that can irritate the intestines and cause gas, bloating, and cramps in people with IBS.
  11. High-Fat Foods: Eating too much fat at one time can irritate the digestive system and lead to uncomfortable symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s best to avoid fatty foods such as butter, bacon, and whole milk if you have this condition.
  12. Refined Carbohydrates: Foods made from white flour like white breads, cakes, cookies and pastries are harder for the body to break down and can irritate the intestines of people with IBS. Eating refined carbohydrates in excess is not recommended for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
  13. Garlic & Onion: Both garlic and onion are high in fructans, a type of carbohydrate that’s hard to digest and can lead to gas, bloating, and abdominal pain in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
  14. Corn: Corn contains fermentable oligosaccharide polyols (FODMAPs) which some people have trouble digesting. Eating corn can irritate the digestive system and lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating, and cramping for those with IBS.
  15. Sorbitol: Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener found in some sugar-free products like chewing gum and candy. Eating too much of it can irritate the digestive system, leading to uncomfortable symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
  16. Red meat is high in saturated fat, which can irritate the digestive tract and lead to symptoms like constipation or diarrhea in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating large quantities of red meat can also increase intestinal inflammation, leading to further discomfort. Additionally, red meats like beef and pork are difficult for the body to break down, taking longer to move through the stomach than other sources of protein. This can prolong digestion and cause bloating and cramps for those with IBS. As such, it’s best to limit your intake of red meat if you have irritable bowel syndrome. Try replacing some of your red meat consumption with lean proteins that are easier for the body to digest.
  17. Chocolate: Chocolate contains caffeine as well as fatty acids that can irritate the intestines and lead to stomach pain, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
  18. Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain a type of carbohydrate called raffinose that’s difficult for the body to break down. As a result, eating these vegetables can irritate the intestines and lead to uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, and cramping in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, cruciferous vegetables are high in dietary fiber which can be difficult for those with IBS to digest. To make them easier to digest, try lightly steaming or boiling your cruciferous vegetables before consuming them. This will help break down their cell walls and minimize their irritant potential. Some of the other cruciferous veggies include cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes and bok choy.

Next, learn about the 6 lifestyle and environmental triggers that can cause irritable bowel syndrome symptoms to worsen or even develop:

  1. Food temperature is an important factor to consider when it comes to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Uncomfortably hot or cold beverages and meals can cause abdominal cramps, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Eating food that is too hot or cold can irritate the lining of the digestive tract and cause gas, pain and diarrhea.
  2. Lack of exercise is another common irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trigger. Research has found that being physically active can help reduce symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Studies suggest that regular exercise may reduce the severity and frequency of IBS-related discomfort due to its ability to alleviate stress, boost serotonin levels in the brain, and improve gut motility. Stress is an important irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trigger that can worsen symptoms. Stress can lead to an increase in abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Research has found that reducing stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises may help reduce IBS-related symptoms.
  3. Certain drugs can act as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) triggers, such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antibiotics. Opioids, for example, have been found to cause abdominal discomfort and constipation in some individuals with IBS. NSAIDs can irritate the lining of the digestive tract.
  4. Stress and anxiety can be a major irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trigger. In fact, studies have found that psychological distress and stress are linked to an increase in IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating. Stress triggers a release of hormones such as cortisol, which can irritate the digestive system and lead to IBS.
  5. Menstruation can be a major irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trigger, especially during times of increased tension and stress. During the period leading up to menstruation, many women experience an increase in IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Research has found that over 70% of women with IBS experience symptoms in the days leading up to their period.
  6. Not enough sleep is a common irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) trigger that can increase symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Research has found that individuals with IBS often do not get enough sleep, and too little sleep can worsen symptoms. Studies suggest that getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night can help reduce IBS symptoms.

Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be difficult due to its chronic and unpredictable symptoms. While there is no one-size-fits-all cure for IBS, following a healthy diet and avoiding the foods that trigger your symptoms is a good place to start.

In this article, we’ve outlined seventeen of the most common food triggers for IBS and given tips on how to avoid them. If you’re struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, try eliminating the foods mentioned in this article from your diet and see if it makes a difference in your symptoms.

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