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Common Ibs Trigger Foods


There is no guarantee that a single food item is going to be a trigger food for everyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but there are certain foods that are common triggers for symptoms across the board for many different people.  These are only ideas for foods to avoid; you should test them out yourself and observe how they impact your condition, since some of them may do nothing negative to you.  Also be alert for other foods which cause you problems which aren’t on this list; a food that most people are fine with may cause you distress…often a food dairy can help you discover which foods fall into this category.

Common stressors are:


  • Dairy products.  Dairy products upset plenty of people with and without IBS since lactose intolerance is actually the norm for many healthy human adults.  If you’re lactose tolerant and you’re an adult, count yourself lucky.  Even if you do have lactose problems, you may not be intolerant of all dairy products; you might have problems with milk and cheese but do fine with yogurt and butter for example.  Keeping a food journal can help you figure out whether lactose is triggering your IBS or not, and if so, what types of dairy are okay for your system and which aren’t. Many have found raw dairy to be fine when they could not handle pasteurized at all…again, we are all individuals so see how it is with you.


  • Certain high-fiber foods, specifically those with insoluble fiber.  Not that fiber isn’t good for you overall, but don’t be surprised if foods like high-fiber cereal, popcorn, nuts, seeds, crackers, or breads trigger your symptoms.  As with dairy, some high-fiber foods may cause you problems while others may have no effect on you.  And as with dairy, this doesn’t affect everyone.


  • Fructose.  This could come in the form of sugar, fruit juice, honey, or artificial sweetener.  Sugar in particular is prone to giving people problems.  Try Stevia as a natural, herbal alternative which is much healthier for you.  And if you do eat sugary food, you’ll probably have an easier time digesting it if you also eat other food at the same time. Many with IBS have found that Agave is particularly bothersome as well.


  • Garlic or onions.  These foods are both good for you, but they can be a bit strong and acerbic for some people with IBS.  Both are usually easier to digest if cooked first, and they may be fine if you moderate how much you eat.  On that note, spicy food is another trigger for a lot of people with IBS.  You may want to try ordering milder versions of the dishes you enjoy to see if you fare better.


  • Fatty foods or foods with unhealthy oils.  Fat and oil can both trigger IBS symptoms.  Look for leaner meat, cut out the fried foods, and also think about investing in a healthy cooking oil like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, which is less likely to cause you gas, bloating, cramping, and other symptoms.


  • Alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee.  Both caffeine and alcohol are common IBS triggers and carbonated drinks.  Think about what you’re drinking and not just what you’re eating.


Once again, there are no hard rules on IBS triggers.  You may have no problem with some, most or all of these foods and have problems with others not listed here, but most people with IBS can probably look at this list and remember some incidents which demonstrate that these foods indeed have caused issues.  You may not need to entirely cut them out of your diet either, but consider moderating them instead.  And some you may be able to eat like normal.  Also look for highly acidic foods in your diet and try replacing them with more alkaline foods.  That’s one way you can help to regulate your stomach acid and avoid extra gas and heartburn.


Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom

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