Featured Article: 10 Foods to avoid if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? If so, chances are that you are familiar with the irritating and uncomfortable symptoms associated with this gastrointestinal disorder. IBS can be a difficult condition to live with, but there is hope for relief. In this article, we will discuss 10 specific types of foods that should generally be avoided if you want to avoid IBS.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, often referred to as IBS, is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. It's a bit of a nuisance, to be honest, because its symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. People who have IBS often experience cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation, or their combination [1].

The thing about IBS is that it's a chronic condition, meaning you'll need to manage it long-term. However, the silver lining here is that while it can be seriously inconvenient and uncomfortable, IBS doesn't lead to more serious diseases, like cancer. It's important to remember that even though the symptoms can be a real pain, there are ways to manage them and live a comfortable, healthy life.


What Are the Worst Foods for IBS?

IBS is easily manageable with medication however, if you are trying to avoid meds at all, you can manage your IBS by avoiding the foods that can exacerbate the condition. Some of the foods you can avoid are:



Avoiding lactose can be a game-changer in managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). When you have IBS, your gut can be extra sensitive, and lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products, can be tough for your digestive system to break down. This difficulty can trigger those unpleasant IBS symptoms, like bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowel habits. So, steering clear of lactose might help keep your gut feeling comfortable and IBS in check.


Carbonated drinks

Avoiding carbonated drinks can not only manage IBS but a number of gut-related health conditions. These fizzy beverages hold a generous amount of carbon dioxide, which can lead to a buildup of gas in the stomach. This excess gas can flare up IBS symptoms, causing discomforts like bloating, abdominal pain, and even changes in bowel movements. Swapping out carbonated drinks for other hydration sources like water, herbal tea, or natural juices can greatly relieve these symptoms and help keep IBS under control.



Caffeine can trigger abdominal pain and gas in people living with IBS, it can also make it harder to control loose stools [2]. Additionally, if you find that you are drinking a lot of caffeine, it can be difficult to break the habit and find healthier alternatives.

So instead of relying on caffeine for energy, try some natural alternatives such as green tea or herbal teas. Not only are they much better and more sustainable sources of energy than caffeine, but they also contain many health benefits that can help you manage your IBS symptoms.



Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye and can be difficult to digest for some people. Studies have suggested that eliminating gluten can help reduce the symptoms of IBS such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea [3] [4]. It may be worth discussing with your doctor if this is an appropriate change for you.

When trying to avoid gluten, look out for common foods that contain wheat, barley, or rye. While this may seem like a daunting task at first, there are plenty of alternative options available. For instance, swapping out wheat-based products such as bread and pasta for gluten-free versions made with rice or quinoa can be a great start.


Fried Foods

Fried foods should be avoided for people with IBS for several reasons. First, fried food is usually high in fat and calories which can lead to digestive issues like bloating, feeling full quickly, and constipation.

In addition, since fried food is cooked at high temperatures it can also cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Lastly, because fried food is so heavily processed, many of the nutrients have been stripped away.


Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are a great source of protein, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, for those with IBS, they can be difficult to digest. Beans and legumes contain high levels of insoluble fiber which can cause uncomfortable bloating, gas, and diarrhea in people with IBS [5]. To minimize symptoms, it's important to incorporate beans and legumes into your diet gradually, starting with small amounts.



Alcohol can worsen IBS symptoms, so it's important to avoid drinking if you suffer from the condition. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it draws water out of your body and can lead to dehydration.

Studies have suggested that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is highly associated with IBS [6]. Dehydration can cause constipation, as well as abdominal pain and cramps. Additionally, alcohol irritates the digestive system and increases acid production, which can make IBS symptoms worse. For people with IBS, it's best to say no to alcohol or consume it in very limited quantities.


Sugar-Free Sweeteners

These sweeteners are often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugary sweets, but they can cause more harm than good in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Many sugar-free sweeteners contain artificial ingredients that can trigger gastrointestinal issues, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

Even sweeteners that are labeled as "natural" can cause IBS symptoms due to the amount of sugar and alcohol they contain. It's best to avoid these types of sweeteners altogether and stick with natural sugar sources such as honey or maple syrup.



In conclusion, eating the right foods is essential for IBS patients. Focusing on a low-FODMAP diet has been found to be beneficial in relieving the symptoms of IBS. It is important to shake up your diet every so often with fresh, seasonal ingredients, lean proteins and nutritious grains and adding in healthier swaps for those trigger foods can also help.

People with IBS should stay away from lactose, carbonated drinks, caffeine, gluten, fried food, beans/legumes, alcohol and sugar-free sweeteners when having an IBS flare-up or to better manage their condition further.



  1. Saha L. Irritable bowel syndrome: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and evidence-based medicine. World J Gastroenterol 2014;20:6759–73. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v20.i22.6759. 
  2. Koochakpoor G, Salari-Moghaddam A, Keshteli AH, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults. Front Nutr 2021;8:632469. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.632469. 
  3. Algera JP, Magnusson MK, Öhman L, Störsrud S, Simrén M, Törnblom H. Randomised controlled trial: effects of gluten‐free diet on symptoms and the gut microenvironment in irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2022;56:1318–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.17239. 
  4. Saadati S, Sadeghi A, Mohaghegh-Shalmani H, Rostami-Nejad M, Elli L, Asadzadeh-Aghdaei H, et al. Effects of a gluten challenge in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized single-blind controlled clinical trial. Sci Rep 2022;12:4960. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-09055-6.
  5. Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! World J Gastroenterol 2017;23:3771–83. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771. 
  6. Hsu T-Y, He G-Y, Wang Y-C, Chen C-Y, Wang S-H, Chen W-K, et al. Alcohol Use Disorder Increases the Risk of Irritable Bowel Disease. Medicine (Baltimore) 2015;94:e2334. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000002334. 
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