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IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Triggers and Prevention

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Triggers and Prevention Overview

The exact role of food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not clearly understood. It is known that many people have more severe symptoms depending on their dietary intake of certain foods. An elimination diet (slowly eliminating foods from the diet, and noting any IBS symptom changes) may be helpful for some individuals with IBS to learn what foods trigger IBS symptoms, and what foods prevent triggers. Discuss any dietary changes with your healthcare professional.

Diet Triggers for IBS causing Constipation or Diarrhea

Many people suffering from IBS note very specific trigger foods that worsen their symptoms. The individual usually learns what trigger foods to avoid. Food diaries can be helpful in pinpointing the products causing a worsening of symptoms. People with IBS usually suffer both from diarrhea and constipation and different foods are often implicated as triggers.

IBS Diet and Diarrhea

  • Gluten free diets have been linked in some research to improved diarrhea symptoms; however, this has not been clearly established.
  • A subgroup of poorly absorbed carbohydrates referred to as FODMAPs (which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) causes symptoms in some people with IBS. FODMAPs are found in many products such as some grains (what, rye), fruits (found in pears, honey, and apples), vegetables (artichokes, onions, garlic), artificial sweeteners, and dairy products (lactose intolerance). Some individuals tend to be sensitive to only some FODMAPs. For some individuals, a diet high in FODMAPs may result in bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  • Foods high in fat can worsen diarrhea symptoms

IBS Diet and Constipation

  • In general foods that dehydrate can worsen the constipation symptoms of IBS.

As with all food intake, some foods might be tolerated in moderation but cause symptoms if ingested in excess.

One suggested approach is to remove a food or food category, watch and note symptoms, and slowly reintroduce the food back into the diet and track your symptoms (elimination diet).

Fiber products can help (in case of constipation) or worsen IBS (diarrhea).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/2/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about IBS Triggers (Irritable Bowel Syndrome Triggers and Prevention):

IBS Triggers and Prevention - Diarrhea and Constipation

What foods trigger diarrhea or constipation with IBS, and what foods do you avoid to prevent IBS triggers?

IBS Triggers and Prevention - Stress and Anxiety

Do stress or anxiety trigger IBS symptoms for you? If so, what do you to decrease your stress or anxiety?

IBS Triggers and Prevention - Drugs

What medications (OTC or prescription) trigger IBS symptoms for you, and what medications do you avoid to prevent IBS triggers?

IBS Triggers and Prevention - Menstruation

What do you to help relieve IBS symptoms during menstruation?

IBS Triggers and Prevention - Other

What triggers worsen your IBS symptoms?

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