How to Avoid the Foods that Trigger Irritable Bowel Symptoms

Page content

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, you’ve probably noticed that certain foods affect how you feel. These foods, commonly called “trigger foods” often make the already problematic symptoms of IBS worse. While different foods can affect each person with IBS differently, there are some guidelines that can help you to control your symptoms. When determining which foods to avoid with irritable bowel syndrome, start by looking at your current symptoms.


Some foods are more likely to cause flatulence and exacerbate other symptoms. Foods such as broccoli, beans and cabbage can lead to discomfort. Soft drinks or other carbonated beverages can also lead to excess gas buildup in your system. Other foods that may irritate your digestive system and cause flatulence are dairy products, such as milk, cheese or yogurt.


Certain foods are more likely to lead to diarrhea if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Foods such as cauliflower and broccoli can cause diarrhea. Fatty or greasy foods, such as french fries, mayonnaise or bacon, can also lead to digestive discomfort. Artificial sweeteners, excess sugar and chocolate can cause this symptom, as can nuts, raw produce, whole grain products and spicy foods. Red wine and coffee can also be added to this list.


Eating a low fiber diet can lead to constipation, another IBS symptom. A diet with a lot of dairy products can lead to irregular bowel movements. Processed foods, or foods high in sodium and sugar, may cause constipation. Fried foods can also lead to constipation in irritable bowel syndrome sufferers.

Things to Consider

When you’re looking at foods to avoid with irritable bowel syndrome, it is important to remember that not everyone will be affected by these foods the same way. While you might have no problems eating dairy or refined sugars, someone else may need to avoid these foods if they are trying to manage their condition. Also, the foods that cause constipation in one person might cause diarrhea in another.

When you are trying to determine which foods you need to avoid, it helps to keep a food journal. Write down what you eat throughout the day, and how you are feeling after eating those foods. If you notice that certain items in your diet are causing discomfort, try eliminating them entirely. For example, if fresh vegetables are causing problems, stop eating them. Then, slowly introduce one vegetable at a time until you figure out which ones are causing the problems.

Timing also plays a role in which foods will affect your IBS. Eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day, as opposed to three large meals, will be easier for your digestive system to handle, leading to less discomfort. You should also drink at least eight glasses of water each day and eat plenty of foods that are high in fiber. This will help to keep your digestive tract working smoothly.

References Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Accessed from:

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet. Accessed from:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Accessed from: