22/09/2023 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

IBS Diet Plan: What Foods to eat and What Foods to Avoid?

Discover Irritable Bowel Syndrome diet plan: Know how to make dietary changes to reduce IBS symptoms and improve digestion from our dietary Experts.

IBS Diet Plan What Foods to eat and What Foods to Avoid
Mohammad AqdusMohammad Aqdus
Mohammad Aqdus
Medical Student, Research Associate
Medically Cited
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Table of Content

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive issue that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It's characterised by pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Several factors, including stress, diet and lifestyle choices can contribute to the development of IBS. The symptoms of IBS can vary in intensity, from mild to severe. May differ from person to person.

While the exact cause of IBS remains unknown it's believed to be associated with an imbalance in gut bacteria or an active immune system response. Treatment for IBS generally involves making adjustments (following a bowel syndrome diet plan), taking medications if necessary and implementing lifestyle changes. Managing the symptoms of IBS can help alleviate discomfort and enhance quality of life.

What are the Symptoms of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterised by symptoms, including;

  • Pain

  • Bloating

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhoea

Diagnosing IBS can be challenging as its symptoms often overlap with those of other digestive disorders. However, some signs and indications can aid in identifying whether you might have IBS.

Common symptoms of IBS include

  • Feeling pain or cramps, in the abdomen

  • Experiencing bloating

  • Having gas

  • Dealing with constipation, diarrhoea or both

  • Noticing mucus in the stool

  • Observing changes in bowel habits

Other symptoms may include 

  • Feeling fatigued

  • Experiencing nausea

  • Having headaches

  • Dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression

If you frequently experience any of these symptoms it is important to consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment options for IBS.

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) remains unknown. However certain factors appear to have contributed to its development;

1. Intestinal Muscle Contractions; The walls of the intestines are lined with muscles that contract to propel food through the tract. When these contractions become stronger and longer than usual it can result in bloating, gas and diarrhoea. On the other hand, weak contractions can lead to delayed food passage and the formation of dry stools.

2. Nervous System Issues; Problems with the nerves in the system can cause discomfort when the abdomen stretches due to gas or stool. Inefficient communication between the brain and intestines may cause a response to digestive processes leading to pain, diarrhoea or constipation.

3. Infection; IBS may develop following a bout of gastroenteritis or severe diarrhoea caused by bacteria or viruses. It is also possible that an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines could be associated with IBS symptoms.

4. Life Stress; Individuals who have experienced stressful events during childhood are more likely to exhibit symptoms associated with IBS later in life.

5. Alterations in Gut Microbes; Changes in the composition of bacteria, fungi and viruses residing within the intestines can significantly impact health. Potentially contribute to IBS development. Research suggests that the composition of microbes, in individuals with bowel syndrome (IBS) may vary compared to those without the condition.

Triggers of IBS

IBS symptoms can be triggered by factors;

1. Food

The relationship between food allergies or intolerances and IBS is not yet fully understood. It's rare for a food allergy to directly cause IBS. Many individuals notice that certain foods or beverages worsen their IBS symptoms. Some examples include dairy products, citrus fruits, cabbage, wheat and carbonated drinks.

2. Stress

During periods of stress, most people with IBS experience frequent symptoms. While stress can exacerbate symptoms it is not the root cause.

Types of IBS

There are three types of IBS;

  • Constipation predominant (IBS C)

  • Diarrhoea predominant (IBS D)

  • Mixed (IBS M)

Each type of IBS has its distinct set of symptoms and treatment options.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that individuals with IBS may alternate between these types over time. Understanding the subtypes of IBS can assist you in managing your condition and finding relief from your symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Plan

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Plan

1. Low FODMAP diet

FODMAPs, which stands for "fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols " are carbohydrates that can be challenging for the intestines to digest. Consuming these carbs can lead to increased water absorption, in the bowel, gas production, bloating, pain and diarrhoea.

Temporarily reducing FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks has been found to improve IBS symptoms. Afterwards, you gradually reintroduce these foods to identify which ones may trigger issues.

A low FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet that has shown results. Studies have indicated that individuals who followed this approach experienced reduced pain and bloating compared to those on a diet.

Foods to avoid include;

  • Sweeteners

  • corn syrup

  • Wheat-based bread, cereals and pasta

  • Legumes (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils)

  • Lactose-containing products (milk, cheese, yoghurt) only if lactose intolerant

  • Specific fruits (such as peaches, pears, watermelon, apples, mangoes, plums)

  • Certain vegetables (including asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions)

Although this diet does restrict fruits, vegetables and dairy products it doesn't eliminate all foods from these categories.

Some examples of FODMAP foods that you can include in this diet are;

  •  Quinoa or rice

  •  Fruits such, as oranges, strawberries, blueberries and grapes

  •  Lactose-free milk or alternatives like rice or almond milk

  •  Meat

  •  Eggs

  •  Vegetables like carrots, green beans, eggplant, pumpkin and zucchini.

It's important to note that there may be some side effects associated with following a low FODMAP diet. These can include deficiencies and the potential for developing disordered eating habits. To ensure you approach this diet safely and effectively it's recommended to consult with a registered dietitian.

2. Following gluten a free diet

Gluten, a protein found in grains, like pasta and bread can be problematic for individuals with intolerance. It can cause damage to their intestines.

Individuals with gluten intolerance may also experience symptoms of bowel syndrome (IBS). In these cases adopting a diet has been shown to alleviate symptoms.

A study conducted on 41 IBS patients revealed that adhering to a diet for six weeks led to a reduction in their symptoms. 

To determine if gastrointestinal problems improve it is recommended to eliminate rye, wheat and barley from the diet. Foods commonly containing these ingredients include bread, crackers, pasta, certain sauces, beer, malt vinegar and cereal.

However, it's important to note that the gluten-free diet comes with its set of risks. Nutritional deficiencies of iron, calcium, folate and vitamins are side effects associated with this type of diet.

3. Opting for a low-fat diet

Consuming high-fat foods regularly can exacerbate symptoms for individuals with IBS. It is generally recommended by experts that people with IBS follow a diet which involves consuming less than 27 grams of fat per day.

Further research is still needed to understand the effectiveness of this approach for individuals, with IBS specifically; following a low-fat diet not only benefits heart health but may also help alleviate uncomfortable bowel symptoms.

By consuming fats, from animals and indulging in fried foods it is advisable to prioritise the consumption of vegetables, grains, lean meats, fat dairy products and fruits.

4. ncluding fibre, in your diet

Adding fibre to your meals can assist in promoting bowel movements by increasing the volume and softness of your stool. Foods that are rich in fibre not only provide nutrients but also help prevent constipation, especially for those with IBS C.

For adults, including individuals with IBS, it is recommended to consume approximately 25 to 31 grams of fibre per day depending on age and gender.

There are two types of fibre;

  • Soluble fibre is commonly found in foods like beans, fruits and oats.

  • Insoluble fibre is commonly found in grains and vegetables.

Many foods contain a combination of both types of fibre.

Research suggests that certain types of fibres can lead to increased gas production, which is a symptom associated with IBS. If you experience gas or bloating when consuming levels of fibre it's advisable to increase your intake by about 2 to 3 grams per day.

5. Lowering your intake of high-fibre foods

While increasing fibre can be beneficial for some individuals with IBS it can worsen symptoms if you frequently experience gas and diarrhoea. To reduce overall fibre intake it may be helpful to focus on sources of soluble fibres found in produce items, such as carrots, oatmeal, berries and peas.

Soluble fibres dissolve in water while insoluble fibres provide bulk.

Insoluble fibre can be found in sources such as:

  • nuts

  • whole grains

  • tomatoes

  • green beans

  • zucchini 

  • broccoli. 

Following a FODMAP diet might reduce your fibre intake since it can be difficult to find fibre, low FODMAP foods. 

Some examples of foods include:

  • carrots

  • kiwis 

  • berries.

When it comes to managing bowel syndrome with diarrhoea (IBS D), adopting eating habits can make your life a little easier.

What to Eat for IBS-D?

If you have IBS D there's no need to completely avoid fibre. Instead focus on consuming soluble fibre, rather than insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre stays in the gut for a time which helps regulate the functioning of the colon.

Some excellent sources of fibre are:

  • peas

  • beans

  • oats

  • citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, barley, apples and carrots.

Insoluble fibre is found in:

  • whole wheat flour

  • beans (such as kidney beans or black beans)

  • wheat bran

  • cauliflower

  • nuts like almonds or walnuts

  • potatoes 

  • green beans.

Remember to increase your fluid intake while incorporating fibre into your diet.

Additionally identifying your triggers for IBS symptoms may require some trial and error on your part. It's important to be cautious with foods known to induce symptoms in individuals with this condition. Such foods include:

  • fatty or fried foods

  • cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage

  • dairy products

  • alcohol

  • caffeine

  • sodas

  •  gluten-containing products

  • chocolate

  • sorbitol (a sugar substitute often found in gum and mints)

  • fructose (a type of sugar present in honey and some fruits).

What to Eat for IBS-C?

Wondering what to eat if you have IBS C? Here's a list of options;

Increase your fibre intake. Fibre aids in smooth stool passage. Can alleviate IBS C symptoms. Incorporate these fibre foods into your diet;

  • Whole grains; Include servings of whole grain foods like 1-2 slices of whole grain bread, 9 Reduced Fat Triscuits or 1 cup of rice for an intake of around 4 grams of fibre. Just make sure you're not sensitive to gluten.

  • Fruits; Enjoy fruits that provide both fibre and extra hydration such as apples, bananas, pears and strawberries.

  • Vegetables; Consider incorporating these veggies into your meals to boost your fibre intake;

  •  2 cups of spinach leaves equal about 3 grams of fibre.

  •  Enjoying one cup of cooked carrot slices will give you 5 grams of fibre.

  • A sweet potato provides around 4 grams of fibre.

  • Include one cup each of cooked broccoli (4.5 grams) and cauliflower (3 grams), for added variety.

  • Beans; Consuming half a cup can offer you an amount—around 6 or more grams—of dietary fibre.

Foods to avoid with IBS

In terms of foods to avoid with IBS it's best to exercise caution and listen to your body's needs.

The foods that should be avoided are determined by the diet plan for bowel syndrome (IBS) that you follow as well as your personal food intolerances. These include;


  • Peaches

  • Mangoes

  • Watermelon

  • Pears

  • Apples

  • Nectarines

  • Plums


  • Artichokes

  • Broccoli

  • Onions

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Asparagus


  • Kidney beans

  • Lentils

  • Chickpeas


  • Corn syrup 

  •  Xylitol 

  •  Sorbitol 

Other foods; 

  • Wheat products 

  • Milk products 

  • Coffee 

  • Alcohol 

  • Nuts

It is important to observe your symptoms and consult with your doctor before embarking on any diet plan.

Take-Home Points

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by pain, bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhoea.

  • To effectively manage IBS symptoms it's essential to follow a balanced IBS diet plan. This diet focuses on consuming foods while avoiding specific carbohydrates. By incorporating the foods into your diet you can alleviate pain bloating and gas symptoms.

  • Additionally, it's crucial to steer clear of trigger foods that have the potential to exacerbate IBS symptoms.


FAQ on irritable bowel syndrome diet plan

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