If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may feel like you’re taking a chance every time you sit down to eat. That’s because there are a lot of foods to consider when you’re trying to figure out what not to eat.
Irritable bowel syndrome is actually a group of symptoms that occur together. These include abdominal pain and changes in your bowel movements, which may be diarrhea, constipation or both. With IBS, you have these symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract, which can be frustrating.
But determining what you can and can’t eat helps. That’s where the low FODMAP diet comes in. A team of researchers from Monash University’s Department of Gastroenterology studied the management of IBS through dietary treatment. They uncovered a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, or just indigestible for some people. They are “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols" or FODMAP for short. High FODMAP foods are not good for people with IBS. It’s a plan you can use to build a balanced diet, yet control the gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS.
So, let’s take a look at what not to eat with irritable bowel syndrome.
Most Common FODMAP Carbohydrates
Avoiding the side effects of trigger foods starts with an understanding of what is in the food you’re eating. This helps determine what not to eat. Here’s a list of the most common FODMAP carbohydrates:
- Fructose: This simple sugar is found in many fruits, table sugar and added sugars.
- Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
- Fructans: Found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
- Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
- Polyols: These are mainly sugar alcohols often used as artificial sweeteners.
Now let’s look at some specific examples of food and drink you should avoid with IBS.
Lactose in Dairy Products
Trying to decide what not to eat with irritable bowel syndrome starts with dairy consumption. Lactose is known to trigger IBS. You’ll want to avoid lactose-containing dairy products such as milk, ice cream, sour cream and cottage cheese.
Fruits That Trigger IBS
It’s hard to believe that something so good for us can cause so many problems for people with IBS. The fruits to avoid if you have irritable bowel syndrome include apples, pears and watermelon.
All three contain elevated levels of oligos, fructose or polyols and can cause diarrhea. This includes dried fruits. Bananas, blueberries and raspberries are better for your belly.
Vegetables To Avoid With IBS
When deciding what not to eat with irritable bowel syndrome, vegetables also make the list. Broccoli and cauliflower are the ones to watch. Cauliflower contains a high content of polyol-mannitol and the broccoli heads are high FODMAP, but the stalks are considered low.
Determining what not to eat with irritable bowel syndrome also applies to drinks. Carbonation contributes to gas and bloating because if you can’t pass it, it accumulates.
Sweeteners commonly found in carbonated drinks can trigger IBS symptoms because of their laxative effects. You’ll also have to be careful about checking labels of other drinks such as teas, juices and sodas for high fructose corn syrup. People with IBS typically turn to sugar-free drinks, but your best bet is to drink lots of water every day.
There are lots of diet options that will help you avoid the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The key is knowing which foods will agree with your body. You can try increasing your fiber and soluble fiber intake for better digestion. Whole-grain cereals, breads and beans are also low FODMAP options.
You can find more healthy eating tips in our guide “Eating Healthy on a Busy Schedule.” Inside you’ll also find how to make fast food options work for you.