An older man sits and writes in a journal while thinking of the foods that are safe for his gut.

Tips for Food Journaling With IBS

When you are living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can sometimes feel like what triggers a flare-up is a mystery. That’s why keeping a food and symptom journal can be a helpful tool in your IBS management toolkit.

Not sure how to start with food and symptom journaling? This article will review what to track and different methods of tracking so that you can take control of your IBS.

Why keep a food and symptom journal?

Do you remember exactly what you ate for lunch yesterday? I don’t! For people with IBS, keeping a food journal is an important way to keep track of which foods or other factors trigger their symptoms.

Another way keeping a food and symptom journal can help is when you are working with a doctor or dietitian. Keeping a journal that you can show to your healthcare provider makes it easier for us to identify trends and patterns. This can ultimately help you figure out your triggers so you can avoid or minimize them.

Finally, keeping a food and symptom journal that includes a space to record mood/exercise/activities throughout the day means we can make connections between non-food triggers and your symptoms. It is well known that stress can trigger IBS flares, so keeping track of your moods and stressors can help you identify whether stress is a factor for you.1

There’s an app for that!

If you like to have your food and symptom journal easily accessible, there’s no better option than using an app for your phone. Here are a few apps that were created specifically with digestive health in mind:

  • MyIBS – Symptom and Health Diary: This app, which was created by the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, allows you to track symptoms, bowel movements, food, stress, and more. It also allows you to track your medicines and supplements.
  • Bowelle – The IBS Tracker: The Bowelle app was specifically designed for people with IBS and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It allows you to track how you feel, what you eat, and your stress levels, bowel movements, and water intake. It shows what you have tracked on charts that help you see trends and possible IBS triggers.
  • Cara Care: IBS, FODMAP Tracker: The Cara app allows you to track food, water, bowel movements, stress, and symptoms. There’s also an option to pay for a personalized 12-week IBS plan. This includes access to a low FODMAP food list and 1-on-1 chat support with a dietitian.

IBS food journal

If you would prefer to handwrite your journal, no worries! has created a printable journal for you to track your daily intake, symptoms, and possible trigger foods.

What to record

For best results, track the following details as soon as they happen:

  • Food and drink (include the brand, amount, and time you ate)
  • Digestive symptoms
  • Bowel movements (time of day, Bristol Stool Chart classification, and urgency on a scale of 1 to 10)
  • Stress levels
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep
  • Medicines and supplements

It’s best to record things right away so you don’t forget! Don’t get hung up on creating the “perfect” food journal. There are going to be days that you don’t record everything, and that’s okay. You don’t need to wait for a new day or a new week to pick up your journal and get back to tracking.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to track everything forever. While it can be helpful to track food and symptoms at certain times (such as when you are working through the low FODMAP diet or during a flare-up), it’s not realistic to track everything, every day, forever. Once your symptoms are stable, you can stop journaling with the knowledge that if your symptoms come back, you can always restart your journal.


Food and symptom journaling can be an excellent way to figure out your IBS triggers. There are several tracking apps available, but if you prefer writing by hand, a paper journal is just fine!

Keeping a journal can be particularly useful if you’re working with a healthcare provider like a dietitian to get your IBS symptoms under control. Once you have gained control of your symptoms, you can put the journal away.

Do you food journal? What are your tips for successful food journaling? Let us know in the comments below!

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

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