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Foods to Avoid When You Have IBS

It’s estimated that about 32 million Americans experience irritable bowel syndrome. The symptoms vary, but often include diarrhea and/or constipation, cramping abdominal pain, gas and bloating. Most often caused by your body’s reaction to certain foods, stress can also worsen the symptoms of this chronic (long-term) condition. When you have IBS, a simple celebratory meal with friends or family can make you miserable for hours.

The providers at Rose City Urgent Care & Family Practice encourage our patients to manage their IBS symptoms with diet whenever possible. But it doesn’t have to be a bland, tasteless menu. Rather than diet restrictions, they recommend you make dietary exchanges that include flavorful, easily digested foods your taste buds will enjoy, and your stomach won’t reject.

Skip the milk, but don’t leave out the richness of dairy

Many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant. Lactose is abundant in cow’s milk, cottage cheese, and other soft cheeses, as well as ice cream and sour cream.

If you love milk, you can purchase lactose-free cow’s milk that’s treated with a lactase enzyme that breaks down the lactose, or use lactase tablets that you swallow with your first sip of milk. Food manufacturers also supply a wide array of lactose-free dairy substitutes, including “milk” made from rice, soy, almonds, or coconut.

Yogurt naturally contains less lactose than milk, and you may be able to add it to your sauces and dips to provide the richness of sour cream without the IBS side effects.

Don’t miss out on the flavor cheese adds to your foods. Hard cheeses such as cheddar and swiss add little to zero lactose to your diet, and a single serving replaces one of your daily dairy requirements. Another popular cheese that’s low in lactose is brie.

Monitor your fructose

Fruits are often recommended as part of an overall healthy nutrition plan, but some contain more fructose (fruit sugar) than others. Too much fructose in your diet can worsen IBS symptoms. And that includes the high-fructose corn syrup found in a myriad of products, such as soda, ketchup and barbecue sauces, and many packaged foods.

Some heavy hitters in the fructose department include pears, apples, and watermelon. Dried fruits and fruit juices also contain high levels of fructose. You can still include these fruits in your diet if you cut back on the portion size or opt instead for bananas, grapes, berries, kiwi, and other fruits that contain less fructose.

Use caution with honey, too, as it’s high in fructose, as are the fake maple syrups that are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. If you need a sweetener, plain old table sugar or real maple syrup should be safe for IBS sufferers.  

It’s important to know that some sugar substitutes, including sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol, are often a no-go and can increase the frequency or intensity of IBS issues. Some fruits naturally contain sorbitol -- apples, peaches, cherries, and watermelon, to name a few -- and you’re wise to eat small amounts to see how much you can tolerate without triggering your symptoms.

Cross a few vegetables off your list

If you have IBS, we recommend you avoid cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage or salads containing these vegetables, such as coleslaw. We also suggest you limit your intake of artichoke, onions, leeks, garlic, and asparagus.

While not true vegetables, beans and other legumes often worsen the gas and bloating associated with IBS.   

The list of vegetables you can enjoy is long and includes favorites such as green beans, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, zucchini, and other squashes.

Identify your triggers

Because foods that trigger IBS vary widely from individual to individual, we recommend our patients try to identify their danger foods by taking careful note of when and where their symptoms occur.

Some folks, for instance, are only bothered by eating lettuce at a restaurant. This may be due to a preservative used to keep the lettuce fresh that doesn’t agree with your digestive system. Sometimes it’s a spice or herb that’s part of a favorite family recipe that’s causing your abdominal cramping.

If you’d like more details and additional support regarding an IBS-friendly diet, please call today for an appointment or schedule your visit online.


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