6 Common IBS Trigger Foods
Written by Charlyn Ooi
Learning to identify your triggers is a crucial step in managing your irritable bowel symptoms. The exact causes of irritable bowel is still unknown, though we know that there are some common dietary triggers that can cause flare-ups in IBS sufferers. The 6 most common food triggers include:
- High FODMAP foods
- High fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated drinks
1. High FODMAP Foods
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermentable Oligosacchardies Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols
It is a group of short-chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in the small intestines, passing through to the large intestines where they are fermented by the bacteria in the large bowel. In individuals who have difficulty tolerating FODMAPs, it can cause symptoms such as bloating, excess wind, abdominal cramping, constipation and/or diarrhoea.
Examples of high FODMAP foods include onions, garlic, mushrooms, legumes, dairy, honey, some fruits, wheat and sweeteners. Limiting the intake of high FODMAP foods have been clinically proven to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms in up to 75% of IBS sufferers1.
Following a low FODMAP diet for 2 to 6 weeks can help to significantly reduce or resolve symptoms in individuals with intolerances to FODMAPs.
Keen to learn more? Read about our FODMAP Focus Program here. We will also be looking at the low FODMAP diet in more detail on the next blog which will go live soon.
2. High fat foods
Foods that are high in fats take a much longer time to travel through your gut and slows down digestion. It can cause nausea, bloating, wind, diarrhea or constipation.
Moderation is the key here. We recommend that you limit intake of fried foods, chips, pies, sausages, full-fat dairy products and creamy food. Try other cooking methods such as grilling, steaming, poaching or roasting your meat on a rack.
3. Spicy foods
Spicy food can irritate the gut and cause diarrhea, reflux and indigestion.
Avoid having large amounts of spicy food with chilli. To flavour your foods, try adding lemon juice, herbs or spices like ginger, coriander, turmeric and cumin.
Alcohol is another gut irritant that can cause tummy cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Excess alcohol consumption can also cause weight gain and affect your liver.
Limiting the intake of alcohol is beneficial for your general health. If you do decide to drink, ensure that you do not exceed 2 standard drinks per day, less is better. It is also advisable that you maintain at least 2 alcohol free days per week.
Is caffeine a friend or foe? Caffeine can stimulate gut motility and cause diarrhoea in some individuals.
Limit yourself to no more than 3 cups of caffeinated drinks per day. Remember that caffeine is also found in coffee, tea, chocolates, soft drinks and energy drinks.
6. Carbonated drinks
Fizzy drinks can cause bloating, burping and excess wind.
Limit your intake of carbonated drinks such as soft drinks, soda water and beer. Choose water as your main drink.
Take Home Message
My top dietary tips for managing IBS are:
- Trial a low FODMAP diet for 2 to 6 weeks, 4 weeks is generally a good period of time
- Limit gut irritants such as spicy food, alcohol and caffeine
- Moderate intake of high fat foods and limit fast food consumption
- Avoid fizzy drinks
It is important to note that symptoms can vary between individuals and there is no on-size-fits-all approach when it comes to IBS management. Get to know your body well so you can identify what are your triggers. If you suspect that certain foods trigger your symptoms, completing a food and symptom diary can be useful. It is important that you see your doctor before embarking on any elimination diet to rule out any other medical conditions that can present similarly to IBS.
The low FODMAP diet is complex and it is important that you see a FODMAP trained dietitian for guidance and support. At SDC, we specialise in gut health and are very passionate about helping people with IBS live better through dietary and lifestyle changes. Charlyn is a Monash University FODMAP Certified Dietitian with years of experience in supporting clients on the low FODMAP diet. She will work closely with you to implement the low FODMAP diet and guide you through the challenge phases, holding your hand through the whole journey.
Looking for more support with managing your IBS? Get in touch now to book an appointment.
What’s Coming Next
On the next blog, we will be discussing the low FODMAP diet in more detail. Stay tuned for more practical tips on managing your IBS.
Shepherd SJ, Parker FJ, Muir JG and Gibson, PR 2008. Dietary triggers of abdominal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome – randomised placebo-controlled evidence. Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 6(7):765-771.