Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 1 in 20 Americans and causes abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. If you are one of the 5% of individuals who have IBS, you may find that lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, stress management, proper hydration, and a well-balanced diet can help you manage your symptoms.
But what exactly constitutes a well-balanced diet? For those with IBS, certain foods (even healthy ones) can exacerbate your symptoms.
In this blog, Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our team at Atlantic Medical Group, highlight some of those dietary triggers you should avoid if you have IBS.
Gluten is a group of proteins in wheat, barley, and rye, and it’s most known for causing trouble for people with celiac disease. But research shows that gluten can cause issues for those with IBS. Trying gluten-free foods can alleviate symptoms in some people with IBS.
Avoid any products with wheat, barley, or rye flours. Instead, look for packages marked gluten-free or made with oats, buckwheat flour, almond flour, coconut flour, or quinoa.
Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, can trigger IBS flare-ups. If you find that dairy doesn’t agree well with your stomach, consider switching to dairy-free products such as:
- Coconut milk or almond milk
- Coconut yogurt
- Vegan cheese
If you cut out dairy, be sure to add plenty of calcium-rich foods to your diet. Calcium is a very important nutrient, but it’s not just in dairy products. You can find it in canned salmon (with the bones), dark leafy greens, and nuts and seeds.
Even though fried foods might taste delicious, they aren’t healthy for anyone, whether or not you have IBS. Fried foods are high in fat and can trigger painful symptoms in those with IBS. Consider swapping your fried favorites for a baked version:
- Replace fried fish with baked or steamed fish
- Replace fried chicken with baked
- Grill, broil, roast, or steam veggies
Keep a food log to track which foods cause the most issues for you.
Beans are a heart-friendly food rich in fiber and protein, but unfortunately, they can cause gas, bloating, and cramping if you have IBS. That’s because beans contain oligosaccharides, a compound that contributes to the gassiness.
Avoid beans and lentils if they cause problems. Or try soaking beans before cooking them. This helps your body digest them easier. If you try soaking them but still struggle with gassiness and bloating, it may be best to avoid them altogether.
Researchers found that four (or more) servings of processed foods per day increases the risk of developing IBS as well as high blood pressure and obesity. Examples of processed food include prepackaged meals, frozen dinners, chips, candy, processed meat, and fried foods.
Food isn’t the only dietary trigger. What you drink can also exacerbate IBS symptoms. Some of the most common drinks that trigger IBS include:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Drinks with artificial sweeteners
Drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your body. Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
When dietary changes alone aren’t enough
Changing your diet can help you manage some of the more unpleasant IBS symptoms, but sometimes that’s just not enough. At Atlanta Medical Group, Dr. Ibegbu is an expert when it comes to helping patients manage IBS.
In addition to recommending the appropriate dietary changes, he can also prescribe medications 一 antibiotics, fiber supplements, or antispasmodics 一 to help you find relief. Call our office in Kinston or Jacksonville, North Carolina, to schedule your appointment.