21/02/2023 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

IBS Diet Plan: Foods to eat and 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.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Plan to manage your IBS symptoms
Dr. Jilas PaingeeriDr. Jilas Paingeeri
Dr. Jilas Paingeeri
Dental Surgeon, Research Associate
Medically Cited
Fact Checked

Table of Content

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the common digestive problems that affect the gastrointestinal tract. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Various factors, such as stress, diet, and lifestyle, can cause IBS. Symptoms of IBS can range from mild to severe and vary from person to person.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it is believed to be related to an imbalance in the gut bacteria or an overactive immune system response. Treatment for IBS usually involves dietary changes (following an irritable bowel syndrome diet plan), medications, and lifestyle modifications. Managing symptoms of IBS can help reduce discomfort and improve quality of life.

What are the Symptoms of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized by 

  • abdominal pain

  • bloating

  • constipation,

  • diarrhea

IBS can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other digestive disorders. However, certain signs and symptoms can help you identify if you have IBS.

Common symptoms of IBS include

  • abdominal pain or cramping

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • constipation or diarrhea (or both)

  • mucus in the stool,

  • changes in bowel habits.

Other symptoms may include 

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

  • anxiety, or depression. 

If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, you must speak with your doctor about possible diagnosis and treatment options for IBS.

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of IBS is not known. Factors that seem to play a role include

1. Muscle contractions in the intestine

The intestines' walls are lined with muscle layers that contract as they move food through your digestive tract. Contractions that are stronger and last longer than usual cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Weak contractions can delay food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.

2. Nervous system problems 

Problems with the nerves in your digestive system may cause discomfort when the abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can make your body overreact to changes that typically occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

3. Severe infection

IBS can develop after gastroenteritis or severe diarrhea caused by bacteria or a virus. IBS might also be associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).

4. Early life stress

People exposed to stressful events, especially in childhood, grow to have more symptoms of IBS.

5. Changes in gut microbes

Examples include changes in bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which typically reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Studies indicate that the microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in people who don't have IBS.

Triggers of IBS

IBS symptoms can be triggered by:

1. Food 

The position of food allergy or intolerance in IBS is not fully understood. A true food allergy rarely induces IBS. But many people have worse IBS symptoms when they consume certain foods or beverages. These include dairy products, citrus fruits, cabbage, wheat, and carbonated drinks.

2. Stress

Most people with IBS experience more-frequent symptoms during periods of increased stress. Though stress may make symptoms worse, it does not cause them.

Types of IBS

There are three main types of IBS: 

  • IBS-C (constipation-predominant)

  • IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant)

  • IBS-M (mixed).

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

Moreover, there is evidence that most people with IBS will alternate between types over time. Understanding the different types of IBS can help you better manage your condition and find relief from your symptoms.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Plan

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Plan

To manage your IBS symptoms, it is important to follow an IBS diet plan (irritable bowel syndrome diet plan) that is tailored to your individual needs. Here are some of the most common diets to help ease IBS symptoms.

1. Low FODMAP diet

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” They are carbohydrates that are difficult for the intestines to digest. These carbs pull more water into the bowel, increase gas, and cause bloating, pain, and diarrhea after consuming these foods.

Temporarily restricting high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks can improve the IBS symptoms. Then, you gradually reintroduce the foods to find which ones cause issues.

A low FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet. A research review found that people who followed a low FODMAP diet had less pain and bloating than others on a regular diet.

Foods to avoid include

  • sweeteners

  • high fructose corn syrup

  • wheat-based bread, cereals, and pasta

  • legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils)

  • lactose (milk, cheese, yogurt), only if lactose intolerant. 

  • certain fruits (peaches, pears, watermelon, apples, mangoes, plums)

  • certain vegetables (asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, onions)

Though this diet eliminates some fruits, vegetables, and dairy, it doesn’t remove all foods from these categories.

Low FODMAP foods you can eat on this diet include

  • quinoa or rice

  • fruits like oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and grapes

  • lactose-free milk or other alternatives, like rice or almond milk

  • Meat

  • eggs

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

Low-FODMAP diet side effects include nutritional inadequacy and fostering disordered eating. It is best to speak with a dietitian before beginning this diet.

2. Gluten-free diet

Gluten is a protein in grain products such as pasta and bread. The protein could damage the intestines in people with gluten intolerance.

People with an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten can also experience IBS. In such cases, a gluten-free diet can reduce symptoms.

A study involving 41 people with IBS found that following a gluten-free diet for 6 weeks lowered their symptoms. Eliminate rye, wheat, and barley from the diet to check whether gastrointestinal problems improve. Common foods containing these ingredients include

  • bread

  • crackers

  • pasta

  • some sauces

  • beer

  • malt vinegar,

  • cereal.

However, the gluten-free diet has many risks. The common gluten-free diet side effects include nutritional deficiency of iron, calcium, folate, and vitamins.

3. Low-fat diet

Regularly eating high-fat foods may also worsen symptoms in people with IBS. Experts normally recommend a low-fat diet for people with IBS, which may involve eating less than 27 grams of fat per day.

Though more research is needed on the diet’s effectiveness for people with IBS, following a low-fat diet is good for the heart and may improve uncomfortable bowel symptoms.

Instead of eating animal fats and fried foods, focus on

  • vegetables

  • Grains

  • lean meats

  • low-fat dairy products,

  • fruits

4. High-fiber diet

Fiber helps aid bowel movement by adding bulk to your stool and making it softer. Fiber-rich foods are nutritional and help prevent constipation (IBS-C).

Adults, including those with IBS, need around 25 to 31 grams of fiber daily, depending on age and sex. 

There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber is commonly found in beans, fruit, and oats.

  • Insoluble fiber is commonly found in grains and vegetables.

Many foods contain both types of fiber.

Research suggests that fibers that ferment easily in the body can lead to more gas, a symptom of IBS.

However, if you experience gas or bloating from consuming more fiber, increase your intake slowly by around 2 to 3 grams per day.

5. Low-fiber diet

Though fiber can help some people with IBS, increasing fiber intake can aggravate symptoms if you frequently have gas and diarrhea.

Instead of significantly reducing the fiber intake, focus on sources of soluble fiber found in produce items such as

  • Carrots

  • oatmeal

  • berries,

  • peas.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber adds extra bulk. 

Common sources of insoluble fiber include

  • Nuts

  • whole grains,

  • Tomatoes

  • green beans

  • zucchini,

  • broccoli.

You’ll also likely decrease your fiber intake by following a low FODMAP diet as it can be challenging to find much high fiber, low FODMAP foods. A few examples include

  • Carrots

  • kiwis,

  • berries.

What to Eat for IBS-D?

Smart eating practices can make your life a little easier when you have irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea or IBS-D.

Don't avoid fiber if you have IBS-D. Simply consume more soluble fiber than insoluble fiber, as soluble fiber stays in the gut longer, which helps the colon to work normally.

Good sources of soluble fiber include

  • Peas,

  • Beans,

  • Oats,

  • Citrus fruits,

  • Barley,

  • Apples,

  • Carrots.

Insoluble fiber is seen in

  • Whole-wheat flour,

  • Beans

  • Wheat bran,

  • Cauliflower,

  • Nuts,

  • Potatoes,

  • Green beans.

It is also essential to drink sufficient liquids to increase your fiber intake.

Moreover, while you figure out your triggers, you might need to take special care with foods known to induce symptoms in some people with the same condition. These foods include

  • fatty foods or fried foods

  • Broccoli, cabbage, and onions,

  • dairy products

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine 

  • Carbonated sodas

  • Gluten

  • Chocolate

  • Sorbitol - a sugar substitute found in gum and mints, 

  • Fructose - a sugar in honey and some fruits

What to Eat for IBS-C?

Here is what you can eat if you have IBS-C

Boost fiber

Fiber helps stools to pass easily. It helps many people with IBS-C symptoms. Fiber-rich food includes

1. Whole-grains

You can get 4 grams of fiber easily with a serving of whole grains, such as

  • 1 - 2 slices of whole-grain bread

  • 9 Reduced-Fat Triscuits,

  • 1 cup of brown rice.

However, it is important to ensure you are not gluten sensitive.

2. Fruits

Fruits have both fiber and extra water. Here are a few examples:

  •  Apple 

  •  Banana

  •  Pear

  •  Strawberries

3. Vegetables 

  • 2 cups raw spinach leaves = 3 grams of fiber

  • 1 cup carrot slices (cooked) = 5 grams of fiber

  • 1 sweet potato = 4 grams of fiber

  • 1 cup broccoli (cooked) = 4.5 grams of fiber

  • 1 cup cauliflower (cooked) = 3 grams of fiber

4. Beans

1/2 cup of beans can get you to 6 or more grams of fiber

Foods to avoid with IBS

The foods to avoid rely on the IBS diet plan (irritable bowel syndrome diet plan) you follow for IBS and the foods you can’t tolerate. They include

1. Fruits

  • peaches, 

  • mangoes, 

  • watermelon, 

  • pears, apples, 

  • nectarines

  • plums, 

2. Vegetables

  • Artichokes

  • broccoli, 

  • onions

  • Brussels sprouts, 

  • Asparagus

3. Legumes

  • kidney beans,

  • Lentils

  • chickpeas

4. Sweeteners

  • high fructose corn syrup

  • xylitol, 

  • sorbitol, 

5. Other foods

  • wheat products

  • milk products,

  • coffee, 

  • Alcohol

  • Nuts

Study your symptoms and talk with your doctor before beginning a new diet.

Take-Home Points

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder affecting millions worldwide. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea.

  • To manage IBS symptoms, following an IBS diet plan (irritable bowel syndrome diet plan) that includes foods that are easy to digest and avoids certain carbohydrates is important. The right foods can help reduce abdominal pain, bloating, and gas symptoms. 

  • It is also important to avoid certain trigger foods that can worsen IBS symptoms.


FAQ on irritable bowel syndrome diet plan

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