Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal condition that affects your large intestines. If you suffer from IBS, you often experience painful stomach irritation, cramps, and overall discomfort. You may experience constipation, diarrhea, or both, depending on the type of IBS that you are suffering from.
The cause of IBS is unknown, and there is no specific test that can be given to see if that is the condition causing your stomach issues. In most cases, tests are given, but that is to rule out other conditions and make sure that something more serious is not ailing you.
Since the cause of IBS is unknown, there is not a set treatment to help alleviate the symptoms either. Reducing your stress, monitoring your exercise, and watching the food that you eat can help reduce the symptoms.
What are some of the most common irritants?
Here are 11 foods that you will want to avoid when you are suffering from IBS.
1. Beans or Legumes
Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you … suffer from IBS symptoms. Beans are high in fiber, but they also contain indigestible saccharides that can trigger cramping, bloating, and excess gas.
Baked beans, lentils, chickpeas, and similar foods can trigger IBS symptoms that you are trying to avoid. The list includes kidney beans, pinto beans, and even peas, which means that that delicious bowl of split pea with ham may not be the best idea for you to eat.
The excess gas that these foods cause can lead to a painful digestive process that will leave you feeling like you should camp out in the bathroom. If you must eat these foods, try mashing them up so that they are easier to digest.
Any food that gives you gas and makes you feel bloated is probably something that you should avoid when you are suffering from IBS. Beans and lentils do not cause the same issues for everyone. The best way to monitor your food irritants is to keep a food diary to help you determine your specific triggers.
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2. Fried Foods
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a lot of fried foods, specifically fried foods at fast food restaurants, you tend to need to use the bathroom more frequently? Fried foods are delicious, but they are also high in fat. Having fried chicken and waffles may taste great at the time, but later you may feel bloated, experience stomach irritation, or even bouts of diarrhea.
French fries and a burger are quick and easy to make, but the excess grease that you are also ingesting does not digest as well in your system. You may find that baking your fries in the oven or grilling your chicken is a great alternative. Of course, it will not be as comforting as southern fried chicken, but teriyaki marinated grilled chicken breast tastes amazing, and it is much easier for your body to digest.
As a rule, those who are suffering from IBS symptoms should limit your fatty food intake. Unfortunately, this means that you should not eat a lot of fried foods, so start looking into recipes that will help you maintain a low-fat diet.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Your parents probably always told you that you need to eat your vegetables to remain healthy. Well, if you suffer from IBS, that is not always the case. Of course, you still need the nutrition that vegetables provide, but the ones that are high in fiber can irritate your digestive system.
Typically, these high in fiber vegetables are great for your digestion, but when you have IBS, the effects of the raffinose that is also found in these foods can cause you great amounts of pain and bowel discomfort. Raffinose is an indigestible sugar, and when cruciferous vegetables are eaten raw, the result is often not a pretty one.
The vegetables that fit into this category that cause the most gas are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, peppers, kale, brussel sprouts, shallots, leeks, and asparagus. Eating them raw is definitely a no-no, but preparing dishes made from these items like coleslaw and sauerkraut should typically be avoided as well.
Some of the smarter vegetable options that you can choose to eat as an IBS patient are beets, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, and squash.
4. Sugar Substitutes and Sweeteners
Anyone that experiences IBS symptoms will tell you that using sugar substitutes is often a very bad idea. Sweeteners such as polyol, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and several others should all be avoided. They are typically found in foods that are labeled “sugar-free,” so you know what to avoid when you are shopping.
They contain sugar alcohol, which is difficult for your body to digest. These artificial sweeteners can cause bloating and irritation as your body tries to digest the sugar substitutes. In some cases, these sweeteners can act as a laxative. Heavy diarrhea episodes can follow that cause you additional discomfort.
Remember that these sweeteners can be found in diet drinks and sugar-free gum, so you may want to limit those as well. All-in-all, when you have IBS, it is best to use natural sweeteners like raw sugar, honey, and even maple syrup.
5. Pitted Fruits
Most likely, you have heard that high fructose corn syrup is a substance that is hard to digest. As an IBS patient, any foods that are high in fructose are difficult to digest. This can cause bloating, stomach pain and discomfort, and irregular bowel movements.
Agave and honey can also affect some who suffer from IBS, so take note if your symptoms increase after having a bit of this type of sweetener in your tea. The best way to avoid this type of digestive irritation is to avoid high fructose altogether.
Fruits like peaches, plums, apples, pears, mangos, and cherries are all high in fructose, so they can cause a flare-up to occur in an IBS patient. Watermelon, grapes, and berries still have a lot of fructose, but the amount is much less in these fruits.
Citrus fruits are the best choice for non-fructose fruits, but blueberries, bananas, cantaloupes, strawberries, and kiwis are also great options for those who suffer from symptoms of IBS. For some, even citrus fruit can cause digestive issues. The high acidity in these fruits can cause you to experience a sour stomach as well as cramps. As always, keep a food diary to help you determine what triggers your individual symptoms.
About half of the population is born with the inability to metabolize lactate, which is unfortunate because most dairy products contain lactose. With so many individuals being lactose intolerant, it should come as no surprise that many of those who suffer from IBS also have issues digesting dairy products.
In addition, milk is high in fat, unless you opt to purchase the non-fat kind. This fat content is one of the main reasons that lactose intolerant individuals experience runny stool. The effects may not be full-blown diarrhea, but you will experience bloating, discomfort, and a lot of bathroom runs.
Milk is essential for your bones to get the calcium that your body needs, so if you cannot handle even small amounts of milk, then you need to consider taking a calcium supplement and trying alternatives that do not give you stomach pains.
You can try lactose-free milk, soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk. Some types of cheese are lower in lactose, so if your body can handle small amounts of lactose, then those cheeses can help you get the calcium that you need.
Some individuals claim that they cannot function properly without having a cup of coffee in the morning. If you have IBS, the idea of having a freshly brewed cup each and every day is a pipe dream that will only cause you a lot of pain and discomfort.
The caffeine that is found in coffee, tea, and some sodas basically serves as a stimulant that affects your intestines. When you drink caffeine as an IBS patient, you may experience diarrhea or runny stool as a result.
In fact, coffee specifically contains a GI irritant that can cause intense pain and spasms. It is also a drink that has a lot of acidity in it, so drinking a lot of it can result in heartburn and nausea. As an IBS patient, a good drink that can serve as a coffee or caffeinated tea substitute is actually decaffeinated tea.
The hot liquid can serve as a relief of symptoms that you may already be experiencing; in fact, peppermint tea is a soothing option that is sure to provide you with some relief.
8. Soda and Carbonated Beverages
As we discussed with coffee and tea, caffeine is a stimulant that can irritate our intestines, which means that caffeinated soda is a bad idea. There are other types of soda, but are they any better for your digestion?
Regular sodas typically contain high fructose corn syrup, which we have already talked about being bad for IBS patients. If you go the other way and drink diet sodas that lack high fructose corn syrup, you go into the realm of artificial sweeteners. Both of these options can cause gas, cramping, and bloating that will make you feel uncomfortable.
On top of all of these dietary issues that you want to avoid, soda has carbonation, which can stimulate your digestive system and cause spasms to occur, especially when your GI tract is already irritated. When you are an IBS patient, soda and other carbonated beverages are best left out of your diet.
Did you know that at least half of all of the individuals who suffer from IBS are gluten intolerant? Eating a lot of grains that contain gluten will only exacerbate the symptoms that you are already experiencing. Your body may even be responding to a gluten allergy that you may be unaware of.
Try to minimize the grains that you eat, especially wheat, barley, and rye to see if your symptoms improve. If they do get better when you stop eating grains and other foods with gluten in them, you may want to try a gluten-free diet to reduce the symptoms of your IBS.
If you must be on a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of options that allow you to eat the foods that you love. Gluten-free flour allows you to bake, make pizza at home, and make a fresh pasta dish. In addition, there are also options at restaurants now that accommodate this type of diet.
10. Spicy Food
There is nothing wrong with seasoning your food when you have IBS, but you need to create a savory flavor that is not spicy. Eating spicy food is delicious, but the heat that you create will irritate the lining of your stomach and cause you a lot of pain and discomfort.
This type of food can also cause heartburn and indigestion, which can trigger other symptoms. If you love heat in your food, then you must limit it to a small amount that you enjoy occasionally, and even then, your stomach may revolt against you.
Corn is one of the foods that your body has a hard time digesting, so when you have a GI issue like IBS, it is even more difficult to digest. It contains high amounts of fiber and sugar, both of which can cause symptoms to worsen. The best course of action for anyone suffering from IBS is to avoid eating corn altogether.
Speaking of corn, popcorn is not so great for an IBS patient to eat either. The salt, the fat, the butter, and the corn itself are all stimulants that can have you regretting buying popcorn at a movie theater.
Lifestyle and dietary changes offer the best relief for IBS; once you know the foods that trigger discomfort in your body, you can avoid eating them all together. Some nutritionists recommend a low FODMAP diet, which means that you limit your carb intake, but food intolerance can also cause flair-ups as well. If you suffer from IBS; hopefully, the list above has helped you pinpoint your problem foods.