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10 foods you could try avoiding if you've got IBS

Prima (UK) logo Prima (UK) 30/12/2017 Catriona Harvey-Jenner

a woman using her legs © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) Anyone who suffers from IBS will understand how annoying it is, bloating to the size of a woman in the second trimester of her pregnancy after almost every damn meal.

We've heard before that cutting certain foods out of your diet won't necessarily help to stop IBS. 'It's important to understand that IBS can cause different symptoms for different people,' said Fiona Hunter, a nutritionist working with IBS relief brand Senocalm. 'Sufferers can react to different foods so there is no one-size-fits-all diet when it comes to IBS,' she explained.

If you've got a sensitive gut, the chances are you'll react to most foods, but Fiona does suggest that keeping a food diary is the best way to work out by process of elimination which ones might flare up your IBS more than others. 'Not everyone will react to every food on the list below,' she noted, advising people not to cut out everything, because that 'could leave you eating a very restrictive diet'.

Here are some of the worst offending foods (and drinks) when it comes to flaring up IBS: 

1. Onions

a close up of a red apple © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) Onions have been singled out because of how gassy they are, but they aren't the only veg that's guilty of that – cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are, too. Fiona explains the issues arise because some IBS sufferers have difficulty fully digesting these foods, meaning 'they pass into the large bowel where they are digested by the bacteria that we all have living in bowel'.

'A by- product of this digestion is gas, which can cause bloating and pain,' she explains.

2. Spicy foods

This one's probably kind of obvious. It's well known that chilli can irritate the lining of the gut, but it also 'speeds up gut transit time, increasing the risk of diarrhoea and pain,' said Fiona.

3. Fizzy Drinks

Fizzy drinks = gas. Gas = an increased risk of bloating. That's just how it is, unfortunately.

4. High fibre foods

High-fibre foods are notorious for getting your bowels moving, which is good in most instances, but not always if you've got IBS. 'Lentils, baked beans, wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals are all examples of high-fibre foods,' said Fiona, who explained: 'For some IBS sufferers a high-fibre diet can help ease symptoms like constipation, but for others high fibre foods can be a trigger because they can irritate the gut lining and can be difficult to digest.'

For this reason, the nutritionist advises to introduce more fibrous foods into your diet gradually if you're currently eating a relatively low-fibre diet – it'll give your body time to adapt.

5. Sugar-free sweets and gum

a close up of food © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) It might feel harmless, chewing a bit of sugar-free gum, but this can be one of the worst culprits for causing someone to bloat and experience IBS symptoms. Fiona explains this is because sugar free sweets and gum 'often contain sorbitol or other sugar substitutes which people with IBS find hard to digest'.

6. Alcohol

'Alcohol can irritate the lining of the gut and affect motility (an organism's ability to move food through its digestive tract) as well as the permeability of the gut lining,' explained Fiona.

She advised sufferers to avoid alcohol if possible, or to limit your intake to no more than two units a day, while ensuring you have at least two alcohol free days a week.

7. Fatty foods

a close up of a slice of pizza © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) They might be the tastiest, but high fat meals (think cheesy goodness, basically) can slow down gut motility and reduce the body's ability to get rid of gas. That means 'it builds up in the digestive tract, causing bloating and pain,' Fiona told Cosmopolitan UK

8. Caffeine

You might rely on your daily coffee like it's oxygen, but caffeine can be a no-no for some IBS sufferers. The reason being, caffeine 'causes increase in gastric acid secretion, which can have a laxative effect'.

If you're affected in this way, the nutritionist advises limiting your intake of caffeinated drinks to 'no more than three cups (or two mugs) day', and reminds us that caffeine can also be found in plain chocolate, energy drinks and cold remedies.

10 foods you could try avoiding if you've got IBS © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) 10 foods you could try avoiding if you've got IBS 9. Lactose /dairy products

'Milk and dairy products contain a type of sugar called lactose which needs to be broken down by the enzyme lactase before it can be absorbed,' explains Fiona.

But when a person's gut lining is damaged, it's common to lose the ability to produce lactase which means that the body can't digest or absorb lactose. This, in turn, means it passes into the large bowel – much like what happens with veg like onions and cauliflower – where the bacteria digesting it produces gas. 

10. Foods containing FODMAPs

If you're none-the-wiser about what FODMAPs are, they're 'foods which contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols'. Still no clue? Er, me neither. But Fiona enlightens us: 'They include garlic, bananas, wheat, apples and more'. You can read more about a low FODMAP diet on the NHS here.

Remember, just because a particular food or food group might cause your IBS to flare up, doesn't mean you have an allergy to it – that's a different thing entirely. But eliminating or reducing certain foods your gut is sensitive to could be one way to reduce the effects of IBS in your everyday life.

And on that note, nutritionist Fiona has a couple of other pearls of wisdom for how best to manage your IBS:

  • Eat regularly: 'Have three small meals with a couple of healthy snacks between. Skipping meals and leaving long gaps between meals can affect gut mobility, making it sluggish and increasing the risk of constipation. One study found that subjects with irregular eating habits were 3.2 times more likely to suffer from IBS than those with regular eating habits.'
  • Avoid large/heavy meals: 'This can overload the gut, increasing the risk of bloating and diarrhoea. IBS is between 2-4 times more common in binge eaters.'

Related: The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). (Provided by Mamamia)

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