Foods To Avoid To Ease IBS Symptoms And Their Substitutes

Our diet plays an important role to keep our body fit and healthy. The importance of a balanced diet is doubled if you have an underlying health condition.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a serious illness of the gastrointestinal tract and most IBS sufferers are undiagnosed.1 Approximately 35 million Americans are impacted by IBS.2


Cramps or abdominal pain, bloating, changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, and constipation are some of the common symptoms of the illness.

Sometimes, you may notice that some of these symptoms are triggered when you consume something that irritates your intestine. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of what you eat to avoid aggravating the uncomfortable symptoms.


Changing your eating habits by identifying those foods that trigger IBS symptoms is one of the first moves to make to ease IBS.3

Here is a list of food groups you should avoid if you are suffering from IBS. Before you make any changes to your diet, make sure you communicate them with your healthcare provider to make sure you are doing the right thing.


1. Dairy

High-lactose dairy products like milk can aggravate IBS symptoms

Most people who suffer from IBS symptoms are lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive. Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. Therefore, it is advised to avoid dairy products that have a high lactose content.


Some of the high-lactose foods include milk, yogurt, pudding, custard, ice cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and mascarpone, etc.4

Substitute: Some healthy substitutes for dairy products include lactose-free milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, lactose-free yogurt, hard cheeses such as feta and brie.


2. High-Fructose Foods

Apples and pears are high-fructose fruits that may aggravate IBS symptoms

Fructose is also known as fruit sugar and is a naturally-occurring sugar that is present in fruits, honey, and vegetables. Fructose is also found in commercially available sweeteners and added sugars like high fructose corn syrup.


If consumed in large amounts, fructose can cause diarrhea in certain people. If fructose is not absorbed well in the body, it gets fermented in the colon and produces gas, which causes symptoms like bloating in some people with IBS.

Therefore, it is important to keep a check on the portion of fruits you eat daily. It is good to have not more than three portions of fruit every day.5 In fact, a low-fructose diet has been found to improve IBS symptoms in some patients.6


Some of the high-fructose fruits that should be controlled include apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, pears, and watermelon.7 Apart from fruits, honey and agave nectar also contain fructose and should be taken in very small quantities.

Substitute: Some healthy replacements for high-fructose fruits include fruits like bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, oranges, and strawberries.

3. High-Fructan Foods

Onions and garlic are high-fructan vegetables that may trigger IBS symptoms

Fructans are a type of carbohydrates that are present in many foods that we consume every day. Fructans are not easily broken down by the human body as we lack the enzyme that is required for its breakdown.

Therefore, the fructans from foods are fermented in the colon. This leads to the production of gas and, for a normal individual, it may not seem to be a problem. However, for those with a sensitive digestive system, it may trigger their symptoms.

Fructans are present in fruits like dates, figs, plums; vegetables like garlic, leek, onions; grains like wheat, rye, barley; nuts like cashews, pistachios; and legumes like kidney beans, black beans.

It may be difficult to cut down on fructan completely; however, it is important to limit these foods. In other words, keep their serving portions small.

Substitute: Replace high-fructan vegetables with others like bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bok choy, carrots, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, lettuce, olives, parsnips, potatoes, spring onions, and turnips. Choose nuts like almonds, macadamia, peanuts, pine nuts, and walnuts and limit their quantities to 10–15 each.8

4. Sugar Alcohols

Artificial sweeteners containing sugar alcohols can trigger IBS symptoms

Sugar alcohols are also known as polyols and if you have IBS or a sensitive digestive system, it is best to stay away from these.

Certain sugar alcohols are present in fruits like apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums, and watermelon and vegetables like cauliflower, mushrooms, and snow peas.

However, most are produced commercially and cannot be digested by the human body. Some of the most common sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt that are present in sugar-free gum and mints and cough drops.

Eating a lot of these in a short period of time can cause gas and bloating symptoms, which are not good for IBS patients.9

Substitute: Depending on your IBS triggers, you can substitute sugar alcohols with coconut sugar or maple syrup or any other sweeteners (preferably natural) that do not aggravate your symptoms.

IBS symptoms vary from person to person and so do the foods that trigger them. So, it is important to find out what is causing your irritation to eliminate or limit the consumption.

It is important to know what you eat and it is important to know how and when to eat. Having regular meal patterns, chewing food properly, and avoiding late night snacks can help ease IBS symptoms.

Remember to communicate new changes made to your diet or routine with your doctor before you begin.