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IBS Food Triggers that Aren’t High FODMAP 

Have you followed the low FODMAP diet ‘perfectly’ and still experience IBS symptoms? Sometimes there are other foods that can set off our symptoms too. And sometimes, our symptoms aren’t related to food at all. Stay tuned for a second post about non-food-related IBS triggers!

Although we hear a lot about FODMAP foods and how they impact our gut health, there are some low FODMAP foods and beverages that should still be limited, as they can impair the function of the gut in other ways.

IBS is a complex condition in which the low FODMAP diet is very helpful, but not a cure for IBS. When it comes to managing IBS, often times several management strategies are required. We often need to think of the bigger picture!

We review here some foods that are low FODMAP, but can still contribute to symptoms.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially in excess, can impact the mucous and cells that line our gut. In turn, this causes inflammation and can prevent us from absorbing nutrients. Alcohol has also been shown to change the overall quantity and diversity of bacteria in our gut. It can alter the ratio between good and bad bacteria, meaning we may be more susceptible to pathogens.1 Try abstaining from alcohol for at least 1 month to see if symptoms improve.

Spicy foods

Although most herbs and spices are considered low FODMAP, with the exception of onions and garlic, some people with IBS are sensitive to spicy cuisine in general. In particular, chilli peppers contain a natural chemical called capsaicin which has been shown to aggravate IBS symptoms in some individuals.2 Foods that contain chillies are sriracha sauce, chipotle seasonings, and some curry dishes.

High fat foods

Foods with a higher fat content can impact the speed at which we digest foods. In people who experience more diarrhea with their IBS, fatty foods can worsen that diarrhea. However, high fat foods have also been shown to slow motility in those that have IBS-C. Remember, high fat foods are not always deep fried. Even “healthy” foods with more fat like avocado, plant-based cooking oils, coconut products and meats can be a trigger.

Caffeine

Have you ever drank a cup of coffee and then had to rush to the washroom? Caffeine does in fact speed the motility of the gastrointestinal tract, which often leads to urgency and diarrhea! Common sources of caffeine include coffee, black and green teas, chocolate, energy drinks, and soda.

Carbonated beverages

Drinks that fizz can potentially impact our gut in a few ways. For starters, carbonated drinks often contain problematic ingredients such as caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, or polyols. In addition to this, the carbonation can cause gas to travel to the gut, which contributes to bloating and abdominal discomfort.

Fiber

(and not enough of it) Fiber is the fuel that our good gut bacteria feed on and it helps to keep us regular. However, following the low FODMAP diet or a modified version can be quite limiting when it comes to sources of fibre. In particular, eliminating FODMAPs means avoiding many different fruits, vegetables, and grains. When managing your IBS through diet, try to routinely eat non-triggering foods that also provide fibre. Some great examples are: bananas, berries, chia seeds, oats, and leafy green veggies. If you struggle to eat enough fiber, talk to your dietitian or doctor about introducing a fiber supplement.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Engen, P.A., Green, S.J., Voigt, R.M., Forsyth, C.B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2015). The gastrointestinal microbiome: alcohol effects on the composition of intestinal microbiota. Alcohol Research Current Reviews. 37(2): 223-236
  2. McNamara, Lyndal. “Using Herbs & Spices on a Low FODMAP Diet.” Monash University. 08 November 2017. Web.

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