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5 Foods That Can Aggravate Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The last thing you want to do if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is to eat food that will worsen your symptoms. Knowing what foods to steer clear of is part of managing IBS effectively.

Dedicated to providing the best internal medicine care in Tarzana, California, Dr. Samuel I. Fink can help you rein in your IBS symptoms so they don’t control your life. While everyone reacts to foods differently, there are certain foods that are common culprits in triggering or worsening IBS symptoms. 

1. High-FODMAP foods

FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates that your gut absorbs poorly and can ferment, leading to gas, bloating, and discomfort. 

Many patients with IBS benefit from limiting their intake of high-FODMAP foods, such as onions, garlic, wheat, and pears. These foods are known to trigger IBS symptoms. 

Try following a low-FODMAP diet for several weeks before reintroducing high FODMAP foods one by one to learn which foods you can and can’t tolerate. This can go a long way in bringing your symptoms under control. 

2. Regular dairy foods

For individuals with IBS, dairy can be a double-edged sword. It's a primary source of calcium and protein but also contains lactose, a sugar that can be difficult to digest for those with lactose intolerance, a common condition among patients with IBS. 

Lactose intolerance can trigger bloating, gas, and other symptoms. Opting for lactose-free dairy products or plant-based alternatives like almond or soy milk can help you manage these symptoms.

3. Fried and fatty foods

Fried and fatty foods are notoriously hard on the digestive system. They can slow down the digestive process, making symptoms like stomach pain and constipation more likely. 

If you’re struggling with IBS symptoms, limit your intake of these foods and opt for cooking methods that use less fat — such as baking, grilling, or steaming — to prepare meals that are easier on your gut.

4. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and mannitol, which you often find in sugar-free gum, candies, and some processed foods, can cause diarrhea and gas in some patients with IBS. Your body doesn’t fully absorb these sugar alcohols, and they can draw water into your intestines, leading to gastrointestinal distress.

Reading labels and avoiding products containing these sweeteners can help prevent symptom flare-ups.

5. Caffeinated beverages

Caffeine does more than give you an energy boost. It stimulates the gastrointestinal system, increasing gastrointestinal motility. For people without IBS, this isn’t a problem. However, it can trigger symptoms like stomach cramps and diarrhea in IBS patients. 

Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, and some sodas and energy drinks. Switching to decaffeinated versions or choosing herbal teas can help avoid these effects and keep IBS symptoms in check.

Navigating dietary choices

Living with IBS requires a mindful approach to diet, as what you eat can significantly influence your symptoms and overall well-being. Keeping a food diary can be an invaluable tool in identifying personal triggers and understanding how different foods affect your body. 

While IBS can be challenging to live with, understanding and avoiding potential dietary triggers is a key step in managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Following a comprehensive treatment plan is the most effective approach in managing symptoms. Dr. Fink tailors your treatment to reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. 

Finding the right balance is key to living well with irritable bowel syndrome. For accurate IBS diagnosis and effective management, Call Samuel I. Fink, MD, to schedule an appointment.

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