The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are not well understood. Psychological, genetic and environmental factors may all play a part in a person’s condition. However, for most sufferers, diet can have an enormous impact on the severity of the symptoms.
Consequently, most doctors will ask their patient to keep track of what they eat and which – if any – symptoms subsequently occurred.
1) Greasy Food
Hypersensitivity in the digestive tract may be a contributory factor in some people’s IBS, and certain types of food can increase the body’s gastrocolic reflex.
The primary cause of this are greasy foods such as french fries and pizza. Many IBS sufferers find that fried food or fatty meat either triggers a flare up, or at least exacerbates their intestinal contractions.
2) Whole Grains
In general, whole grains are considered an important part of a healthy diet. But for IBS sufferers, high fiber foods can be problematic. This is likely due to an increased sensitivity to grains such as barley, rye and wheat, which in some individuals can cause the immune system to attack the body’s small intestine. Therefore, many people with IBS could benefit from avoiding bran products.
3) Dairy Products
Although not all IBS sufferers are lactose intolerant, dairy products can be a trigger in some people. People who cannot properly digest lactose can suffer cramping and diarrhea if they eat milk, ice cream or cheese. Sufferers should try switching to alternatives such as soy for a short period, to see if their IBS symptoms improve.
Vegetables are a very important source of nutrients, and should not be cut out of the diet altogether. But you may find that your body finds certain types of vegetable much harder to digest. Common culprits include red peppers, cabbage, broccoli and onions.
Similarly, raw fruit can worsen cramps during an IBS flare up. Citrus fruits such as tangerines and oranges are particularly hard on the digestive system. If you are going through a period of digestive discomfort, try to stick to canned or cooked fruit to avoid worsening your IBS symptoms.
If you are looking at your diet for IBS triggers, do not forget to consider what you are drinking and the impact that it may be having on your symptoms. Certain types of drink are commonly implicated in digestive problems.
Any type of carbonated drink or soda should be avoided if bloating is a problem for you, as should alcohol. If you are a tea or coffee drinker, you should also reduce your caffeine intake and drink no more than three cups per day.
7) Artificial Sweeteners
Many people purchase sugar substitutes, believing them to be a healthy alternative. However, they are often poorly tolerated by the body if you suffer from bloating or gas.
8) Seeds and Nuts
Although there is only an anecdotal link between nuts and IBS, many sufferers are convinced that it contributes to their condition. This is particularly the case if a sufferer also has divericulosis.
Although most IBS sufferers would prefer not to hear it, chocolate can aggravate the digestive tract. If you cannot bear to cut it out of your diet entirely, at least try to limit your intake.
Last of all, spicy food is a big trigger for IBS. In most cases, this is believed to be due to a reaction between nerve fibers in the digestive tract and chili peppers.
Your doctor can give you more advice about identifying IBS triggers in your diet.