40+ Common IBS Triggers
IBS symptoms can be triggered by a combination of things including hormones, genetics, and diet. From sugar-free candy to seemingly harmless fruits and veggies, some surprising food items can trigger bouts of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Don’t get us wrong—every IBS sufferer is different, and everyone has their own set of problem foods and beverages. But there are a few common themes. In this guide, we’ll go over a few of the most common dietary culprits to help you develop an IBS diet plan that keeps your gut happy. And we’ll touch on managing stress, too, because that is another very common IBS trigger.
FODMAPs are IBS symptom triggers found in a wide variety of foods. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. FODMAPs are certain types of sugars and fibers that can be rapidly fermented by your gut bacteria. FODMAPs can be a source of intestinal gas, and can also pull extra water into the intestines. These effects are normal to a point, but for people with IBS they can be excessive or can trigger about of IBS symptoms.
Trying a Low-FODMAP Diet is the best way to find out if FODMAPs are symptom triggers for you. If symptoms disappear or greatly improve while you are following a low FODMAP meal plan, you will know!
Here is a list of foods that contain a lot of FODMAPs. It important to know that foods can be high, medium, or low in FODMAPs depending on the serving size. Some of the foods listed have low FODMAP serving sizes that aren't likely to aggravate your IBS symptoms, so you can still eat small servings of them on a low FODMAP diet. For example, ¼ cup of lentils is considered low FODMAP but more than that is not. Check out the Monash University Low FODMAP App for details and serving sizes.
- Beans (legumes)
- Bread made with wheat or rye
- Cottage Cheese (unless lactose-free)
- Cow’s milk (unless lactose-free)
- Dried Fruit
- Pasta made with wheat
- Yogurt (unless lactose-free)
Gluten in foods is another possible trigger IBS symptoms. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. An auto-immune response to gluten is to blame for celiac disease. But even people who don’t have celiac disease can have gastrointestinal symptoms due to a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat intolerance.
The gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye) also contain FODMAPs. In the United States, wheat products like bread, crackers, pizza, pasta, cookies, and pastries are major sources of a particular type of FODMAP known as fructans. Several studies have shown that fructans are more likely than gluten to be an IBS trigger. A low-FODMAP diet is a good place to start trying to sort out which is the culprit.
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Other Foods and Beverages
There are a multitude of foods and beverages which may be causing you to experience heightened IBS symptoms. Consider some of the following:
- Caffeine is a well-known trigger for having a bowel movement. This can be a useful part of the bowel routine for some people, but too much caffeine can trigger IBS symptoms for others.
- Alcohol is a gut irritant. In addition, some alcoholic beverages are sources of FODMAPs (watch out for those mixers) or gluten (beer).
- High fat meals. Too much fat consumed all at once is hard to digest, and is a common trigger for digestive distress.
- Spicy foods have a reputation as IBS triggers. They are also usually full of onions and garlic, which are high in FODMAPs, so they may not be as bad for IBS as they are cracked up to be.
- Too much or not enough fiber. Most Americans do not eat enough fiber. On the other hand, some people with IBS find that their symptoms are triggered by too much fiber. The type of fiber matters, too. Too much fiber of the high FODMAP types are very common IBS symptom triggers.
- Not enough water. Hard and dry stools can happen when your body is not well hydrated.
Over- or Under-Eating
People with IBS benefit from following a regular, consistent meal pattern, with enough food and water at each meal to get good nutrition without overdoing it. When you skip meals, you may find yourself overeating later, which can lead to consuming large amounts of FODMAPs, gluten, and fat at one time. You can expect overly large meals to lead to more food-related IBS symptoms than smaller meals.
The hormonal ups and downs of menstruation can lead to IBS-like symptoms or make IBS symptoms feel worse. These commonly occur just before or during the first day or two of your cycle.
Stress and Anxiety
If you’ve ever experienced gastronomic distress before a big presentation or job interview, you’re not imagining things! That’s because, the systems that control the brain and the digestive tract are closely linked.
Known as the gut-brain axis, this relationship manages communication between the nervous system and the intestinal functions. Stress can stimulate symptom flare-ups in IBS; bouts of IBS are stressful. This can become a vicious cycle at times. When you feel anxious, it increased your sensitivity to IBS symptoms, including pain, gas and diarrhea. Stress can make it more difficult to eat right, too, which can have secondary effects on your IBS.
Taking steps to alleviate stress within your life can drastically improve effects of IBS. A few simple things you can do to help manage stress—and, in turn, your symptoms of IBS—include practicing mindfulness meditation, exercising and talking with a therapist.
We Can Help With Identifying Your Triggers
If you suspect that your IBS symptoms are triggered by food, there are things you can do to figure out what those foods are. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if trying a FODMAP Elimination Diet would be a great first step for you.
Being armed with the right information and trying a low-FODMAP meal delivery plan can help you regain control of your symptoms and identify your IBS food triggers. ModifyHealth makes the Low FODMAP diet easy by providing you with fully prepared Low FODMAP meals which will allow you to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet and identify which foods are causing your symptoms to flare up.