Skip to content
Home » What Is The Best Diet For IBS

What Is The Best Diet For IBS

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be challenging and frustrating, especially when it comes to mealtimes. IBS is a complex digestive disorder characterized by a group of symptoms that affect the bowels, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

The unpredictable nature of IBS symptoms can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, making even simple activities like mealtimes a source of anxiety and discomfort. One of the key challenges faced by those with IBS is determining what to eat and what to avoid, as triggers can vary greatly from person to person. What may be soothing and beneficial for one person’s symptoms might exacerbate another’s.

A woman unhappily rests her forehead on her hand as she stares at the food and drink in front of her, stressed to eat

This individual variability adds an extra layer of complexity to managing IBS and underscores the importance of personalized diet approaches to find relief. So in today’s post, we’ll explore a comprehensive round-up of different diet approaches that have shown promise in providing relief for IBS flare-ups. By exploring various strategies and understanding their potential benefits, our goal is to empower people with IBS to make informed choices and discover the dietary approach that best suits their unique needs, preferences, and symptom patterns.

What Is The Best Diet For IBS?

Living with IBS can be frustrating due to the individual nature of triggers and symptoms. It can be challenging to know what to eat and what to avoid. However, several diet approaches have shown effectiveness in managing IBS symptoms. Let’s explore them in detail. 

Low FODMAP food options displayed on a countertop, including rice cakes, tomatoes, oranges, meat, blueberries, almonds and bananas, what is the best diet for IBS

Current recommendation from the American College of Gastroenterology recommends trialing the low FODMAP diet and improving dietary soluble fiber intake as main diet modifications for improving IBS symptoms.

Elimination Diets

Elimination diets involve temporarily removing certain foods from the diet and then systematically reintroducing them to identify trigger foods. 

The best elimination diets for IBS: 

  • Low FODMAP diet (A low FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet for IBS. Click here to learn more about all three phases of a low FODMAP diet, including reintroduction after elimination.)
  • Gluten-free diet with re-introduction
What Is The Best Diet For IBS

Common trigger foods for IBS include fried foods, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts), and high-fat foods. By eliminating these foods and reintroducing them one by one, individuals can identify specific triggers and also make informed decisions about what to include or avoid in their regular diet.

Low FODMAP Diet

The Low FODMAP diet is a widely recognized approach for managing IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, leading to symptoms in people with IBS. 

It is developed by Monash University in Australia and research also suggests it helps around 70-80% of IBS patients improve their IBS symptoms.

three phases of a low FODMAP diet, including Elimination, reintroduction, and personalization

The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet, it’s typically divided into 3 phases: 

  1. Elimination
  2. Reintroduction
  3. Personalization

The main goal of a low FODMAP diet is to identify and eliminate specific FODMAP triggers that can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Click here for more information on following a low FODMAP diet for IBS relief.

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet aims to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote digestive health. It eliminates complex carbohydrates, grains, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. It was created based on the understanding that undigested starch alters the gut microbiome and causes inflammation. And it aims to reduce inflammation in the gut to promote digestive health in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) patients.

A woman with a curly afro closes her eyes as she takes a big bite of a peach

The SCD focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and homemade yogurt. While research on the effectiveness of the SCD for IBS is limited, some individuals with IBS have reported improvements in their symptoms by following this diet. This diet is extremely restrictive, please do not attempt it on your own without the help of your healthcare provider or trained registered dietitian. 

Get our IBS Diet Guide and Low FODMAP Grocery List

The low FODMAP diet is the number 1 recommended diet for IBS. To assist you in navigating the low FODMAP diet, you can access a downloadable FREE Low FODMAP Grocery Chart in PDF format

Low FODMAP grocery list show case from the IBS Dietitian, including intro, meal planning templates, grocery lists and nutrition suggestions

This chart provides a comprehensive list of foods categorized according to their food groups, making it easier to plan meals and snacks.

For additional support, watch this free IBS webinar to learn more about successfully following a low FODMAP diet for IBS.

3 mistakes to avoid on the low fodmap diet for IBS freedom

Other IBS Diets & Diet Recommendations for IBS

Here are other diet recommendations for people with IBS. 

Increase Fiber in Diet

Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but the type and amount of fiber can impact IBS symptoms differently. Current American College of Gastroenterology guidelines recommend soluble fiber to be used to treat global IBS symptoms.

Just ripe banana bundles all lined up in a grocery store

Some individuals find relief by following a high-fiber diet, focusing on soluble fiber sources such as oats, barley, and fruits like bananas and blueberries. However, others may benefit from a low-fiber diet, which limits the intake of insoluble fiber sources such as whole grains, nuts, and some vegetables. It is recommended to experiment and find the right balance of fiber that works best for your individual needs.

On average, Americans consume only about 10-15 grams of fiber per day, which falls significantly short of the recommended daily goal of 25-35 grams of fiber. This low intake of fiber can contribute to digestive issues and may increase the risk of certain health problems. Incorporating more high-fiber foods into the diet, including soluble fiber sources, can help bridge this gap and promote better overall health and digestion.

Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It is known for its ability to absorb water and help regulate bowel movements. Soluble fiber can also aid in reducing cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels.

High fiber combination of oats topped with chia seeds, Greek yogurt, and raspberries in a bowl, What to Eat with IBS

Here are some examples of foods that are good sources of soluble fiber:
  • Oats and oat bran
  • Barley
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (with skin)
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans)
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Psyllium husk

Insoluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber that does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the stool, helps promote regular bowel movements, and aids in preventing constipation. Unlike soluble fiber, it does not absorb water or form a gel-like substance. Instead, it passes through the digestive system relatively intact.

Almonds and walnuts mixed together in a glass jar

Here are some examples of foods rich in insoluble fiber:
  • Whole grains: Wheat bran, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals (such as oatmeal and brown rice)
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, celery, carrots
  • Fruits with edible peels: Apples, pears, berries
  • Skin of root vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Corn and popcorn
A wooden scoop overflows with a mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and golden raisins, what to eat with IBS

If you’re following a low FODMAP diet, make sure to get enough fiber in your diet. Here are some low FODMAP high-fiber foods to consider:

  • Oats (gluten-free)
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Corn
  • Gluten-free bread or pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Bell peppers (red, yellow, or green)
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Bok choy
  • Tomatoes (in moderation)
  • Oranges (in moderation)
  • Blueberries (in moderation)
  • Strawberries (in moderation)
  • Grapes (in moderation)

Download our low FODMAP Grocery List to help you include more high-fiber low FODMAP foods in your diet.

Gluten-Free Diet

While IBS is not a gluten-related disorder, some individuals with IBS may find that reducing or eliminating gluten from their diet helps alleviate their symptoms. About ⅓ of IBS patients may have a gluten-related disorder such as Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity. This may involve avoiding foods containing wheat, barley, and rye. Examples of gluten-free alternatives include quinoa, rice, gluten-free oats, and products made from alternative flours like almond or coconut flour.

A small glass jar of almond milk next to a small wooden bowl of almonds

Lactose-Free Diet

Lactose intolerance is a common condition that can exacerbate IBS symptoms in certain IBS populations. In fact, dairy products containing lactose can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal pain in individuals who are lactose intolerant. Following a lactose-free diet involves avoiding or reducing lactose-containing products such as milk, ice cream, and cheese. Lactose-free alternatives like lactose-free milk, lactose-free yogurt, and dairy-free cheese can be included in the diet.

Salted raw chicken breasts on a cutting board with various spices off to the side, what to eat with IBS

Foods To Eat With IBS

To support digestive health and manage IBS symptoms, consider incorporating the following foods into your diet:

  • Soluble fiber sources such as oats, bananas, and carrots
  • Lean proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu
  • Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi
  • Low FODMAP fruits such as berries, grapes, and citrus fruits
  • Lactose-free dairy products (if lactose intolerance is a concern)
  • Plenty of water to stay hydrated

Foods To Avoid With IBS

To minimize IBS symptoms, it is recommended to limit or avoid the following foods:

  • High FODMAP foods such as onions, garlic, wheat, and legumes
  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  • Dairy products (if lactose intolerant, or choose low lactose products)
  • Artificial sweeteners and high-sugar foods
  • Carbonated beverages and caffeine
Bulbs of raw onion and garlic set out on a countertop

Download our Low FODMAP Diet Starter Kit!

The low FODMAP diet is the number 1 recommended diet for IBS, to assist you in navigating the low FODMAP diet, you can access a downloadable FREE Low FODMAP Grocery List in PDF format. 

Download Low FODMAP Diet Starter Kit

This chart provides a comprehensive list of foods categorized according to their food groups, making it easier to plan meals and snacks.

Conclusion:

Finding the best diet for IBS is a personal journey that involves understanding individual triggers, tolerances, and potential underlying conditions. The low FODMAP diet, elimination diets, and improving dietary intake of soluble fiber are recommended for improving IBS symptoms and management.

By working closely with a registered dietitian and exploring these diet options, individuals with IBS can create a tailored diet plan that meets their specific needs, improves digestive health, and enhances their overall quality of life.

Click here to learn more about IBS Freedom, a dietitian-led holistic program to help you properly adopt a low FODMAP diet to identify IBS triggers, manage flares, and get relief from symptoms like gas, bloating, pain, reflux, and irregular bowel habits.

A man with a short beard smiles a toothy smile before taking a bite of rice off his spoon

Summary:
  1. IBS Overview: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the digestive system, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements, bloating, and gas.
  1. Individual Nature of IBS: Triggers and symptoms of IBS vary among individuals, making it challenging to determine the best diet for everyone.
  1. Low FODMAP Diet: The low FODMAP diet involves avoiding high FODMAP foods and focusing on low FODMAP alternatives. Research suggests it helps around 70-80% of IBS patients improve their IBS symptoms.
  2. The main goal of a low FODMAP diet is to identify and eliminate specific FODMAP triggers that can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  3. Elimination Diets: Elimination diets help identify trigger foods by temporarily removing and reintroducing them. Common trigger foods include fried foods, cruciferous vegetables, high-fat foods, FODMAP, and gluten.
  1. Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): The SCD aims to reduce inflammation and promote digestive health by eliminating complex carbohydrates, grains, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. The extremely restrictive nature of this diet makes it unsustainable for most people.
  2. Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but the type and amount of fiber can impact IBS symptoms differently. Increasing soluble fiber and getting to the 25-38g daily fiber goal can help improve IBS symptoms.
  3. The Gluten Free diet, some individuals with IBS may find that reducing or eliminating gluten from their diet helps alleviate their symptoms. About ⅓ of IBS patients may have Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity (gluten intolerance), these patients would find the gluten-free diet to be helpful in managing IBS symptoms.
  4. Lactose Free diet, lactose can exacerbate IBS symptoms in certain IBS populations. Trial lactose-free alternatives like lactose-free milk, lactose-free yogurt, and dairy-free cheese can be included in the diet.
  1. Foods to Eat with IBS: Soluble fiber sources, lean proteins, probiotic-rich foods, low FODMAP fruits, lactose-free dairy products, and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water are beneficial for IBS.
  1. Foods to Avoid with IBS: High FODMAP foods, fried and fatty foods, cruciferous vegetables, dairy products (if lactose intolerant), artificial sweeteners, and carbonated beverages should be limited or avoided.
  1. Personalized Approach: Finding the best diet for IBS requires personalized exploration, working closely with healthcare professionals, and understanding individual triggers and tolerances. 
  1. Enhancing Quality of Life: By following a personalized diet for IBS, individuals can improve their digestive health, manage symptoms, and enhance their overall quality of life.

Need help? Learn more about IBS Freedom! The best dietitian-led IBS program which walks you through step-by-step how to work through low FODMAP protocol to help you identify your own food triggers so you know how to manage IBS and get relief from symptoms like gas, bloating, pain, reflux, and irregular bowel habits once and for all.

Reference:

American College of Gastroenterology. (2021). ACG Clinical Guideline: Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 116(1), 17-44.

Barmeyer, C., Schumann, M., & Meyer, T. (2018). Targeting the Microbiome in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 12(5), 491-504.

Gibson, P. R., Shepherd, S. J., & Muir, J. G. (2019). Personal view: food for thought—western lifestyle and susceptibility to Crohn’s disease. The FODMAP hypothesis. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 49(6), 723-736.

Halmos, E. P., Gibson, P. R., & Muir, J. G. (2018). Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 113(4), 519-528.

Staudacher, H. M., Lomer, M. C., Farquharson, F. M., & Whelan, K. (2017). The Appropriate Use of Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 88, 65-74.

The Celiac MD. (n.d.). Test for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity. Retrieved from [https://theceliacmd.com/celiac-disease-and-gluten-sensitivity-update-for-providers/]

Zevallos, V. F., Raker, V., Tenzer, S., Jimenez-Calvente, C., Ashfaq-Khan, M., Rüssel, N., … Schuppan, D. (2017). Nutritional Wheat Amylase-Trypsin Inhibitors Promote Intestinal Inflammation via Activation of Myeloid Cells. Gastroenterology, 152(5), 1100-1113.e12.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *