IBS

IBS

Kirsty BoultonApril 08, 2021

Which foods trigger IBS?

If you suffer from IBS, you may be frustrated in trying to figure out what some of your food triggers are. Whilst the underlying cause of IBS isn't well understood and, the cause of IBS isn't thought to be food alone, some foods, including the following, are thought to still give rise to flare-ups in symptoms:

  1. Gluten
  2. Dairy
  3. Fibre-rich foods
  4. Processed foods
  5. Drinks
  6. Spicy foods

Here I explore these food groups in more detail; outlining why they could be exacerbating your symptom, and, of course, what can be done to help.

1. Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in a variety of grains including wheat, barley and rye. Gluten may exacerbate symptoms in people with a sensitive gut as it belongs to the FODMAP group of foods. This means it is only partially digested by the time it reaches the large intestine which can prove tricky for many people who suffer from the symptoms of IBS.

What to eat instead?

Some naturally, gluten-free grains include buckwheat, rice, millet and quinoa. Try including some more of these options instead of only opting for marked 'gluten-free' packet options, which may have the addition of other troublesome ingredients, including some additives.

2. Dairy

Dairy generally also falls into the FODMAP category of foods as the milk sugar 'lactose' may pose problems for some. This is thought to be due to the improper breakdown of lactose in some people which can be further exacerbated by a lack of the enzyme lactase.

What to eat instead?

Fermented dairy options should be a better choice, especially if you suspect you could be sensitive to the lactose content of milk. Cheeses naturally lower in lactose can include cheddar, swiss cheese and parmesan, plus unsweetened Greek yoghurt is also a great option.

Again, don't be tempted by products marketed as 'low-lactose', as these items are likely to be more processed and may contain some unwanted extras.

3. Fibre-rich foods

Whether or not you should include fibre in your diet if you have IBS is a subject of much debate and may be a confusing concept for many. See, fibre is a healthy element of our diets and we are encouraged to include at least 30g of dietary fibre daily. However, for someone with IBS, you may have noticed that dietary fibre itself can act as a trigger, why?

High fibre foods often fall into the FODMAP categories and this can cause havoc with a sensitive gut. Some common culprits can include cruciferous veg including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, beans and legumes. These are super healthy options and so it shouldn't be a long-term solution to cut them out, however, limiting the quantity of some of these high FODMAP, fibre-rich foods may a helpful approach until your gut becomes a little more tolerant.

What to eat instead?

Low FODMAP options can still be a crucial source of dietary fibre, some of my favourites include kiwi, flaxseeds, oats, nuts, rice and quinoa. Visit our page on 'FODMAP friendly foods' for more information on this.

4. Processed foods

If you suffer at the hands of IBS it might be worth considering how many processed foods you consume daily. Processed or packaged foods can often contain hidden ingredients including fats, additives and sugars which could be throwing your gut into turmoil. If you have IBS-C (constipation-dominant symptoms), then the lack of fibre in these foods could be making you feel more bagged up than ever. Then, if you experience IBS-D (diarrhoea-dominant symptoms), all the fats and added extras that these foods contain could be irritating your gut, speeding up transit time and ultimately send you running to the loo more often than ever.

Finally, the lack of fibre in these foods also means that you're less likely to feel fuller for longer, and this can create habits such as grazing. This can result in your gut never getting much of a chance to rest and ultimately heal.

What to eat instead?

Consider some of your current 'go-to foods' and why not explore the option of switching to less processed versions? Opting for oats rather than cereal in the morning, sourdough bread instead of a regular packaged loaf or getting experimental in the kitchen and trying to cook a little more, can all be some useful ways to start tweaking your current habits.

5. Drinks

It isn't just what we eat that can act as a trigger for IBS, but also what we drink. Drinks can easily slip through the net and add up by the end of the day. Some of the worst offenders can include those with artificial sweeteners, as well as caffeinated or alcoholic options.

Sweeteners, once again, often fall within the FODMAP category and are worryingly often glorified in 'low-sugar' juice options. Next, caffeine activates your body's stress response which ultimately risks switching off your digestion and affecting its efficacy. Whilst, finally, alcohol can disrupt the balance of your good gut bacteria. All of these areas are thought to have a potential role in the underling mechanisms involved in IBS.

What to drink instead?

As boring as it sounds, switching to water could make a real difference. Between eating and sipping away all day, your gut may not be getting much time to rest and ultimately repair.

Consuming more water between meals can really help to manage a number of IBS symptoms and by choosing water, you're omitting other drink options which could be being quite disruptive. Whilst cutting out all of your favourite drinks at once just isn't practical, making small switches towards bigger goals can make the world of difference.

6. Spicy foods

If you suffer from IBS you may have noticed you experience a flare-up after having a particularly spicy meal. Spicy foods can be irritating to our gut, especially if we aren't used to them and we are particularly sensitive anyway.

What to eat instead?

Spices are actually very good for us, but just in moderation. Most spices are actually considered to be anti-inflammatory so can be a welcome addition to any IBS diet, but perhaps some take-homes would be to work on turning down the temperature slightly. Some milder spices to work on incorporating more of can include: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom.

It’s not all about the food, but about digestion too

One mistake we often make when approaching IBS is to only work on cutting out foods, rather than considering our digestion as a whole and trying to address some of the underlying problems that may be at play. Remember, IBS is only an umbrella term for digestion malfunction, so this means each case is individual and we should listen to our bodies and consider what individual changes could help.

Diet, lifestyle, stress management techniques, better sleep, probiotics and other digestive supplements may work well together, in order to help approach IBS in a more multi-disciplinary way.

 

My Self-Care Tip: My two-product approach for managing IBS

Here I explain how my two product picks: Silicol Gel and Digestisan can be used in combination to help manage the symptoms of IBS.

 

Use Silicol Gel to help manage IBS:


Use Silicol Gel® to help manage the symptoms of IBS including nausea, flatulence, stomach ache, diarrhoea and discomfort
Silicol Gel® can also be used to help manage other digestive symptoms including heartburn and acid reflux.