IBS symptoms and the 37 trigger foods you should avoid

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system.

It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. According to Bupa, around four in 10 Brits suffer from digestive problems and about two in 10 people have been diagnosed with IBS – with many more not even aware they have it.

This IBS Awareness Month, nutritional experts at Origym have warned of the most stomach cramping foods you need to be aware of and revealed why they may be an IBS trigger.

The seven most gut-wrenching food types – and which are the worst contenders

Food that is typically high in fat, wheat and sugars are some of the worst contenders for causing an inflated belly. Nutritional experts at Origym have listed the drinks and dishes you’ll want to avoid overindulging in if you struggle with IBS or have a sensitive stomach.

1. Fatty foods

A greasy takeaway is something most of us can’t get enough of, but the high-fat content that features in some of these fatty foods can contribute to stomach problems and digestion issues. We all love a cheeseburger, but burgers contain some of the highest fat content.

This can contribute to excessive gas and can strengthen intestinal contractions triggering IBS.

Worst contenders:

  • Burgers

  • Fried chicken

  • Chips fried in oil

  • Pizza

  • Sausages

  • Fatty cuts of meat

2. Gluten

Often named a hidden intolerance, many people who suffer from gluten allergies or sensitivities aren’t aware of their intolerance. But as a common ingredient in lots of food, gluten may cause a serious immune reaction for IBS and celiac disease sufferers and those with a sensitive gut.

The gluten protein found in grains like rye, wheat, and barley, can trigger IBS symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and cramps. Some of the worst contenders are:

  • Bread

  • Cereal

  • Yorkshire Puddings

  • Pastries

  • Pasta

  • Dough

3. Dairy

Generally, those suffering from IBS are also lactose intolerant and as a result, consuming dairy products often triggers their symptoms. According to Bupa, between one and two in every 10 people in the UK has lactose intolerance, so you could be affected without knowing.

If you have stomach discomfort after eating dairy, it could mean your small intestine cannot absorb lactose properly. Dairy will then move to the colon undigested and cause bacteria to ferment triggering gut cramps and gas.

If this sounds like you, try avoiding the following foods:

4. Spicy foods

The abdominal cramps that follow after eating spicy foods can cause many to avoid them completely. Often, the main cause of these gut symptoms is chilli peppers and when they are present in food, may cause stomach pain in people with IBS or intolerances.

Not only that, but the overconsumption of spicy food can also activate indigestion and other gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting.

These are some of the worst contenders:

  • Chilli peppers

  • Jalapenos

  • Curries

  • Chorizo

  • Jerk chicken

  • Salsa

5. High-FODMAP foods

High FODMAP foods are fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) known as fructans. They cause excessive gas, especially to those with IBS or a sensitive digestive lining.

In small doses, high FODMAP foods can go unnoticed but if you want to prevent bloating then it may be worth avoiding too many of these ingredients.

Often found in fruit and veg, the natural sugars that feature within can ferment in the small intestine and cause excessive bowel movements in some people. Try eliminating specific high FODMAP foods from your diet to see which are the worst triggers or swap the following ingredients for another healthy alternative:

  • Cauliflower

  • Leeks

  • Mushrooms

  • Onions

  • Peas

  • Apples

  • Blackberries

  • Cherries

  • Mango

  • Peaches

  • Plums

6. Sweeteners

Unfortunately, ‘sugar-free’ foods can cause you an upset stomach. Mostly found in diet foods or sugar-free alternatives, food and drink containing sweeteners can be poorly tolerated by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

For some of us, the artificial sweeteners in ‘sugar-free’ products, such as aspartame, sucralose, maltitol and sorbitol, can be hard for people with a sensitive stomach to digest. It can also sometimes cause a laxative effect.

Worst contenders:

7. Caffeine

Strong coffee is an essential part of most people’s mornings, but those suffering from IBS don’t always feel the ‘pick me up’ benefits. If you’ve detected a flare-up of unpleasant gut symptoms after consuming caffeine, then you could be part of the two in 10.

Many IBS sufferers cite caffeine as a trigger for nausea, diarrhoea or gut pain.

Try to eliminate or reduce your intake of the following and see if your IBS symptoms improve:

  • Coffee

  • Cola

  • Tea

  • Energy drinks

  • Some pain relief tablets

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