Foods to Avoid Due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Other Digestive Disorders

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Knowing Your Triggers

Irritable bowel syndrome is a digestive disorder. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. One in five Americans suffer from IBS symptoms (National, 2007). If you are one of them, you can control your symptoms by avoiding foods that make your symptoms worse.

Since different foods bother different people, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (a division of the national institute of health) recommends keeping a food and symptom diary, in which you record everything you eat and the IBS symptoms you experience. This can help you identify which foods to avoid due to irritable bowel syndrome, though, for the sake of nutrition, you shouldn’t cut out a certain food unless it has caused you problems more than once (Family, 2010). You may also want to try limiting or avoiding the following foods.

Foods High in Fat

Fast food, donuts and other high fat foods aren’t just bad for your general health, they are especially problematic if you have IBS because they are generally low in fiber. Fiber is essential to help prevent IBS flare-ups because it helps sweep potential irritants out of the colon before they cause problems, and because it keeps the colon full, which helps prevent cramping (Yeager, 2006).

Certain Beverages

If you have IBS, consider avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks (Family , 2010). Caffeine causes the colon to contract (Yeager, 2006), which can cause cramps or worsen diarrhea. Alcohol dehydrates you, which can worsen constipation (Yeager 2010). Instead, drink lots of water, which keeps stools soft and helps them move through your colon (National, 2007).

Gas-Producing Foods

Many people who have IBS suffer from gas. If gas is a problem for you, consider limiting or avoiding foods known to cause gas. Beans are the most famous gas-producers, but cabbage, other vegetables, and even dairy products (especially if you are lactose-intolerant) can also cause gas (Family , 2010). Also consider avoiding sugar-free gum and candies, as the sweeteners used in them can also cause gas for some individuals (Yeager, 2006).

Foods Containing Gluten

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder which occurs when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, damage the lining of the intestine. Sometimes individuals with irritable bowel syndrome suffer from very mild celiac disease (National, 2007). Consider removing all gluten from your diet for a few weeks to see if it helps your symptoms. Fortunately, as awareness of celiac disorder grows, more and more gluten-free products, including breads, pasta and crackers, are showing up on grocery-store shelves.


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2007, September). Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Retrieved 28 October 2010 from

Yeager, S. (2006). The doctor’s book of food remedies. New York, NY: Roadale.

Family Doctor Staff. (2010, October). Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Tips on Controlling Your Symptoms. Retrieved 28 October 2010 from