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Foods to Eat and to Avoid When Living With IBS

Apr 21, 2021 09:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are not alone. IBS is common, with prevalence estimated at 10% to 15%, yet many people remain undiagnosed. Those with IBS feel that they are unable to eat various foods because of the negative way their bodies respond. While some foods may be problematic, there are still many foods that people with IBS can safely eat. April was designated as the IBS Awareness Month by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders organization. We’re highlighting which foods are great for those with IBS and which foods to avoid.

Milk and Lactose 

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, up to 70% of adults worldwide don’t produce large quantities of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down the sugar lactose in milk. This usually leads to these dairy products causing gas and bloating as the lactose gets broken down by bacteria in your colon. 

There are many great substitutes on the market for lactose-free milk, such as soy, oat, almond, and rice milk. Soft cheeses such as cottage and cream cheese tend to be higher in lactose than hard cheeses such as parmesan and roman. A great substitute for butter is a non-dairy spread like almond butter.


The sugar fructose often found in most fruits can cause some problems for those with IBS. Apples, peaches, pears, watermelon, and some dried fruits are high in fructose and should be avoided. Opt for fruits like blueberries, bananas, kiwi, oranges, grape, strawberries, honeydew, and cantaloupe, which are usually better tolerated by IBS suffers because of lower fructose levels.


Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, and kale have the power to trigger IBS. These vegetables contain raffinose, a type of carbohydrate our bodies don’t tolerate very well. Fortunately, a large number of vegetables tend to be well tolerated by people with IBS, such as carrots, squash, green beans, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.

Alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol is a known gut irritant, but not all alcohol. Beer and red wine are popular irritants for those with IBS. However, gin, whiskey, and tequila can be tolerated when not taken with sugary mixers. Caffeine is also a known stimulant, but sadly there isn’t a substitute for this. Sadly this also applies to caffeinated tea, soda, and energy drinks. If diarrhea is a symptom of your IBS, it may be wise to avoid caffeine.


About IBS



Very Well Health

 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.  

She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.