Health Care

Best and Worst Foods for IBS

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Millions of people experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Though it generally isn’t a serious condition, it can impact how you enjoy your food since what you eat can cause flare-ups. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to keep IBS in check, including eating a specific diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. From low FODMAP diets to healthy preparations, learn the best and worst foods for IBS so you can feel your best.

What is IBS?

Usually developing in adults over age 40, IBS is a common health condition that affects your stomach and large intestine (gastrointestinal tract) for days, weeks or months at a time. In general, the condition tends to affect women twice as often as men and can run in families.

The exact cause of IBS has not yet been determined, but according to recent studies, it appears to be related to an oversensitivity of the nerves in your gut.

While it isn’t usually a serious health matter, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms — including daily bloating, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea — that can keep you from the activities you love.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Backache
  • Headache
  • Mucus in your stool
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping

It’s also quite common for people with IBS to report stress as a trigger for their IBS symptoms.

Most people with IBS can manage the condition on their own by making lifestyle changes and avoiding foods that trigger their symptoms. But when you still can’t get relief, it’s time to get medical care. Your gastroenterologist will talk with you about your health history and symptoms and conduct a physical exam to diagnose your condition — and, in some cases, can prescribe medication to help you find relief.

Best Foods for IBS

Many people with IBS find relief with a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides and polyols, which are different kinds of carbohydrates that can be hard to digest. Eating low-FODMAP foods can help reduce IBS symptoms like bloating, gas and bowel issues.

Low-FODMAP foods include:

  • Certain vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Grains like rice, oats and quinoa
  • Lactose-free milk or non-dairy milk
  • Low-fructose fruits such as bananas, berries, cantaloupes and citrus
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Vegetables like carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, spinach and squash

Worst Foods for IBS

The foods that are worst for IBS are often high-FODMAP foods like:

  • Beans, which can cause gas and bloating even in people without IBS
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts
  • High-fructose fruits, like apples, pears, watermelon and stone fruits
  • Lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products like cottage cheese and ice cream
  • Most sugar substitutes, including those found in gum and some candies

Staying Healthy with IBS

The same diet doesn’t work for everyone with IBS, and you may have to experiment to learn which groups of foods work best to keep you feeling well. Your doctor may recommend trying an elimination diet for IBS, where you stop eating one certain type of food for a short period and monitor how you feel — helping you make informed decisions about which foods trigger symptoms and should be eliminated from your diet.

Once you’ve found a diet that works well for you, you may need to follow it for your entire life to feel your best.

People with IBS can take other steps to control flare-ups as well, including:

  • Avoiding caffeine and alcoholic drinks
  • Eating more fiber or taking a fiber supplement
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Getting plenty of water
  • Staying active
  • Stopping smoking

Food Should Make You Feel Good

IBS doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your food. But when it does, AdventHealth is here to help. With whole-person treatment, our compassionate team is ready to help you feel whole. Learn more.

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