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Food Triggers and IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a frustrating diagnosis that as many as 45 million Americans deal with. The condition causes belly pain and cramping, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and gas – all of which can be hard to manage. 

While stress, medications, and monthly periods can be major triggers, so can the foods you eat. Understanding more about these potentially aggravating foods and how to avoid them helps you make smart meal choices so you have fewer IBS flare-ups. 

At Digestive Disorders Associates, we can help you figure out which foods you’re sensitive to and alternatives for good health and enjoyment.

Food that may aggravate constipation

If you have IBS-C, your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms present mostly as constipation. In the case of IBS-C, a lack of high-fiber foods triggers your symptoms. Aim to add fibrous foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. If you don’t already eat a lot of fiber, add 2-3 grams daily until you reach the 25 grams per day that’s recommended for women or the 38 grams per day that’s recommended for men.

If you eat a lot of processed snack foods and refined-grain cereals and breads, talk to us about your diet. A high-protein eating plan may also be deficient in fiber and lead to constipation. Dairy commonly causes constipation, and this is particularly true of cheese. Alcohol and carbonated drinks may exacerbate IBS-C symptoms, too.

Foods that trigger diarrhea

IBS-D sufferers don’t struggle with feeling blocked up; instead they have uncomfortable diarrhea. Foods that can trigger diarrhea in IBS patients include the fiber found on the skin of fruits and vegetables. This is known as insoluble fiber and is particularly irritating to the digestive tract. Don’t avoid fiber altogether, however, as it’s a healthy part of your diet. Stick to soluble fiber found in fruit flesh, dried fruits, and oatmeal instead.

Many people with IBS are lactose intolerant, meaning that the naturally-occurring sugar in milk triggers diarrhea and cramping. We can help you design a dairy-free diet for a few months to see if your episodes of IBS ease up.

Many people are also sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. We can help you with a gluten-free diet as well to see if it helps with your IBS symptoms.

Those with IBS-D may also remove alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and chocolate from their diet, as these foods and drinks can lead to diarrhea. Fatty and fried foods are other common triggers.

Keep the temperature of your food relatively stable throughout a meal. For example, if you have a bowl of hot soup, don’t drink it with a large glass of iced tea. Temperature extremes at your meals irritate the digestive tract in IBS-D patients.

Foods that trigger bloating and gas

IBS sufferers may find they alternate between diarrhea and constipation – so no one diet prescription is exactly right. What most IBS sufferers do experience, however, is bloating and the uncomfortable (and embarrassing) passing of gas.

Certain vegetables, namely onions, brussels sprouts, celery, broccoli, and cabbage, can make you gassy and bloated. Wheat germ and raisins are other culprits. These foods are commonly hidden in meals, such as holiday stuffing, muffins, and stews. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a new food so you can avoid a surprising outbreak.

Here at Digestive Disorders Associates, our gastroenterologists help you determine your individual food (and other) triggers so you suffer IBS symptoms less often. While you can’t cure IBS, you can manage it successfully to feel better and function as normally as possible. Call our office in Annapolis, Maryland, or schedule online to start to take control of your IBS today.

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