The Worst Foods for IBS

"Eating should be effortless," says Steven Lamm, M.D., house doctor on ABC's The View and author of the forthcoming book No Guts, No Glory (April 2012).

"You shouldn't have to feel bloated or gassy or [experience] any discomfort after you eat. You should be able to eat normally, digest your food, and feel well."

But, for the one in five Americans with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), that's not the case. They experience wide ranging digestive symptoms such as abdominal cramping, gassiness, bloating, and periods of diarrhea and constipation.

In general, Lamm advises a patient with IBS to add a little more fiber and a little more water to their diets. Also, going to the bathroom on a more regular basis helps. Designate a time when you're in the privacy of your home (and you're not rushed) to go to the bathroom. There is no cure for IBS. Symptoms are treated with dietary and lifestyle changes.

A lot of IBS sufferers may feel a lot better if they take milk or gluten out of their diets, says Lamm. He believes a lot of people with IBS have some food intolerances that have yet to be diagnosed. Whether it's milk or gluten or fructose, there is something in the diet that is inducing the problem. But don't just eliminate whole food groups. Talk to your doctor before trying an elimination diet.

6 Symptom-Producing Foods

Everyone's IBS triggers are different. Consider keeping a diary to pinpoint what bothers you. And while no one food can be to blame for IBS symptoms, there are the usual offenders. Here is a list of some common foods that may aggravate your condition:


A common cause of discomfort in IBS sufferers, dairy products such as cheese, milk, and ice cream, as well as foods that contain dairy, such as creamy soups and salad dressings, may need to be avoided. The lactose in dairy seems to be the problem, so yogurt (which has enzymes that aid in digestion) may be tolerable.


Even if you don't test positive for celiac disease, you can still have a difficult time digesting foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat and wheat flour. Lamm says that a lot of patients with IBS see improvements when they eliminate gluten and dairy from their diets.

Highly Processed Foods

Foods that are highly processed (think snack foods and processed meats) are difficult for your body to digest and may exasperate symptoms.


Any type of sweeteners, including honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave, sorbitol, and malitol, can cause digestive distress. That goes for sugar-free candy and gum, too. They contain sorbitol—which may cause gas and cramping.

Carbonated and Caffeinated Beverages

Effervescent drinks, such as seltzer or soda, can introduce air into the digestive system, causing symptoms. Caffeinated drinks have also been known to cause bloating. What's a better beverage for gut health? Lamm suggests starting the day, or even a meal, with a cup of tea or hot water with lemon to jumpstart the digestive tract.


Cocktails may also present a problem for IBS sufferers. The alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor may irritate the digestive tract and lead to symptoms.




Steven Lamm, M.D., internist and faculty member at New York University School of Medicine.