If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you know that symptoms can come on suddenly. Gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are common among IBS sufferers, and these symptoms can be painful and embarrassing. While there is no cure for IBS, the most effective treatment is a combination of daily modifications that are the result of trial and error.
Although each case of IBS is unique, certain foods can aggravate the condition. If you learn what foods do not agree with your digestive system, you could reduce the risk of flare-ups by eliminating those foods from your diet. Here are some common foods that can make IBS worse, along with substitutions that may be gentler on your system.
As much as you might crave a glass of cold milk or a hot fudge sundae, the lactose in milk products may not agree with your gut. Almost half of the world’s population is somewhat lactose intolerant, and IBS can make it even worse. Thankfully, there are many substitutes for dairy products. Try almond milk, soy ice cream, lactose-free yogurt and sour cream made with tofu.
Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are high in sulfur and can cause bloating and gas. Try some of these vegetables to see if they are easier to digest: carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini, green beans, celery and squash.
Fruits that are high in fructose can exacerbate IBS symptoms. You may want to substitute apples, pears, watermelon and dried fruit with fruits lower in fructose, such as bananas, grapes, kiwi, citrus, cantaloupe and berries.
Beans contain saccharides that are not digestible, so don’t be surprised if you can’t tolerate baked beans, chick peas, lentils and soybeans. You may find that you can digest oats, rice, quinoa or millet much easier.
Artificial sweeteners can cause digestive problems, so avoid sweeteners that end in “ol.” These sweeteners are often used in gum and candy, so read food labels carefully and avoid products that contain sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol and xylitol. Natural sweeteners like honey, stevia and maple syrup are best (Source: Cleveland Clinic).
The best diet to alleviate your IBS symptoms will be unique to you, so keep a daily food journal and pay attention to your body. Remember to schedule regular visits with your doctor to monitor your IBS, and share any new symptoms or concerns at each appointment.