Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Potentially Bothersome Foods

The majority of research on specific foods and their effects on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not conclusive. However, some foods are more often implicated as potentially bothersome to people suffering from IBS. The following list is not a recommendation of foods that all people with IBS should avoid. It is a brief listing of foods that some people with IBS find exacerbates their condition. A careful look at diet history and continual recording of food and symptoms is recommended.  

In most cases, the symptoms will occur within 3 days of eating the suspected food. In addition, you should not conclude that a food is likely to have caused symptoms unless the symptoms occur on three separate occasions following ingestion of the specific food. If you want to remove a suspected food from your diet, you should eliminate it for 2 weeks and then try to reintroduce it to your normal diet. If it is not obvious that the food is harmful when included in the diet, and if improvement is not seen when it is excluded, it is not necessary to continue to eliminate the food. 

If a food does indeed seem to cause bothersome symptoms, perhaps this is not a permanent problem. You may, after 3-6 months, want to add the food back into their diet to see if symptoms still occur.  

Potentially bothersome foods

The following foods are potentially bothersome for some people with IBS:

  • Fried foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Caffeine:
    • Coffee
    •  Tea
    •  Chocolate
    •  Cola
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Gas-producing foods:
    •  Beans
    •  Brussels sprouts
    •  Onions
    •  Celery
    •  Carrots
    •  Raisins
    •  Bananas
    •  Prune juice
    •  Apricots
    •  Wheat germ
    •  Bagels
  • Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol:
    •  Sugarless food products
    •  Some varieties of fruit*
  • Fructose:
    •  Honey
    •  Fruits
    •  Fruit juices
    •  Table sugar
    •  High-fructose corn syrup*
  • Fructans:
    •  Wheat
    •  Onions
  • Lactose:
    •  Milk
    •  Dairy foods
  • Insoluble fiber:
    •  Whole-wheat flour
    •  Bran
    •  Wheat
    •  Edible seeds
    •  Mature vegetables
  • High-protein foods:
    •  Meat
    •  Poultry
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

 *Note: Fruits containing both fructose and sorbitol are especially likely to cause symptoms in sensitive individuals. Examples of fruits containing both fructose and sorbitol include cherries, apples, and pears.


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