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40+ Common IBS Triggers

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. But there are a few common dietary disruptors that seem to affect more people than others. In this guide, we’re going over a few of them to help you develop an IBS diet plan and lifestyle that keeps your gut happy.

FODMAP Foods

The acronym FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are the names of carbohydrates (sugars) found naturally in our foods. Unfortunately, these carbs are slowly absorbed or poorly digested in the intestines, which leads to a litany of digestive disruptions. As these foods move through the small intestine, they fail to properly break down food and drag water into the gut, which causes feelings of fullness or bloating. They’re also highly fermentable, which can contribute to persistent gas.

The most common FODMAP foods include those high in lactose, fructose and artificial sweeteners. Trying a low-FODMAP meal plan is a great way to identify which of these foods is your most likely trigger(s). The most likely FODMAP culprits include:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Artichoke 
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Mangoes
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Artichoke
  • Avocadoes
  • Blackberries
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Lychee
  • Celery
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • White bread
  • Rye bread
  • Wheat pasta
  • Mushrooms
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Xylitol
  • Maltitol
  • Isomalt
  • Honey
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios

Gluten

Though gluten and FODMAPs behave similarly in the digestive tract, they are two very different things. FODMAPs include the poorly digested sugar fructan, which is found in the wheat, barley and rye in many bread products. On the other hand, gluten—one of the most notorious triggers of digestive woes—is a group of proteins found in these same foods. Poor gluten digestion is to blame for serious conditions, including Celiac disease. 

gluten free diet concept
Source: Oleksandra Naumenko/Shutterstock.com

Gluten is not a FODMAP, but that doesn’t mean that those with IBS aren’t sensitive to it. In fact, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that a low-gluten or gluten-free diet may be beneficial when reducing symptoms associated with IBS. This is because many people with IBS have a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which causes them to experience pain, bloating, fatigue, constipation and diarrhea when they eat gluten products.

Other Foods

There are a multitude of foods and beverages that don’t fall into the above categories which may be causing you to experience heightened IBS symptoms. For example, caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and soda can be major triggers, especially for those with IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea). What’s more, many people find that consuming processed foods—potato chips, frozen meals, fried chicken, snack foods, etc.—can worsen IBS because they tend to contain large amounts of salt, sugar and fat.

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 surprisingly closely linked.

squeezing stress ball
Source: Obak/Shutterstock.com

Known as the gut-brain axis (GBA), this relationship manages communication between the nervous system and the intestinal functions. When you feel anxious, the altered gut microbiota sends signals to the brain, leading to a heightened stress response while also worsening the sensitivity of IBS symptoms, including pain, gas and diarrhea.

Taking steps to alleviate stressors within your life can drastically improve the side 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. 

Identifying Your Triggers

IBS is among the most common gut disorders, affecting an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the population. For most people, there are specific things that cause symptoms to flare up. Oftentimes, they’re seemingly innocuous, like fresh garlic or honey. Other times, they’re harder to identify. Being armed with the right information and trying a low-FODMAP meal delivery plan can help you regain control of your symptoms by identifying specific triggers. ModifyHealth is here to help!