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August 02, 2021 / Nicole Villeneuve

IBS Diet Plan: What to Eat to Manage IBS

Cutting vegetables on cutting board in kitchen

Making and following an IBS diet plan may seem daunting. With so many foods to choose from, how do you know which ones are causing your symptoms? And where do you begin when embarking on an IBS diet? Each person is unique and finding the right diet for your IBS symptoms will take some time and patience. However, once you fine-tune your eating plan, the relief you experience will be well worth your efforts.

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or are awaiting an appointment with a gastroenterologist, you may want to learn more about how to create a personalized IBS meal plan to ease your symptoms. To help you get started, we’ll go over what you should know about IBS and how to create a diet plan for IBS that works for your particular symptoms.

What Is IBS?

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome, and it is a disorder of the large intestine. There are multiple types of IBS, and the appropriate diet plan varies depending on the type of IBS you have. The 3 types of IBS are:

Between 25 and 45 million people are affected by IBS in the United States alone, and while the exact cause of IBS is unknown, the symptoms are all too familiar for many people.

Symptoms of IBS

The symptoms of IBS are rather uncomfortable and tend to persist over a long period of time. Common symptoms experienced by people with IBS are:

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of IBS is not known; however, certain factors seem to play a role in the occurrence of IBS. One thought experts have is that problems with the gut-brain interaction may affect how your body digests food and could result in IBS symptoms. For some people, IBS may be a result of food moving too slowly through the digestive tract, while for others, it results from food moving too quickly.

Genes could also play a role in who is more likely to develop IBS. Although studies have pointed to the existence of a genetic component to who develops IBS, additional research is necessary to identify the genetic factors involved.

In addition, certain issues appear to be related to IBS and may predispose a person to develop IBS. These issues include:

Although we do not know the exact cause of IBS, we are familiar with what can trigger IBS symptoms. Let’s go over those next.

What Triggers IBS?

Stress and certain foods can trigger IBS and aggravate the symptoms. Although IBS is not caused by stress, there is evidence that the disorder is stress-sensitive, and managing stress is an important part of managing IBS.

Specific foods can also trigger IBS symptoms, and exactly which foods aggravate IBS symptoms varies for each person. It is recommended that you follow an individualized diet plan tailored to your specific needs and developed with a trained dietitian or your physician. Let’s discuss how to go about creating an IBS diet plan that helps minimize symptoms.

How to Create an IBS Diet Plan

An IBS diet is a great place to start when trying to minimize IBS symptoms. While we can offer general tips for how to create an IBS diet plan, knowing your specific type of IBS is exceedingly important in choosing the right foods to include or remove from your diet.

When creating an IBS meal plan, focus on foods that are gentle on the digestive system and are not known to trigger IBS symptoms.

Here are some tips on how to eat clean and create an IBS diet that works for you:

Foods That are Good

IBS Diet Plan What to Eat to Manage IBS Images

The following foods are good choices for your IBS diet plan:

1. Lean meat and chicken

Lean meats such as the white meat of chicken and turkey contain mainly protein and are a good choice for an IBS diet. The body is more tolerant of lean proteins, and these are less likely to induce or worsen IBS symptoms.

2. Fruits

Fruits are a nutritious and essential part of any diet and are a healthy component of a diet plan for IBS. There is a chance that certain fruits could cause your IBS symptoms to worsen because of the sugar content, so it’s important to incorporate fruits that are less likely to aggravate symptoms.

Look to include the following fruits in your IBS meal plan:

3. Certain vegetables

While many people with IBS are wary of vegetables, and for good reason, certain vegetables support a healthy gut flora and may help improve IBS. Because eating too many or certain vegetables can aggravate IBS symptoms, it’s important to slowly increase your vegetable intake and to start with vegetables that are less aggravating.

Initially, incorporate only certain vegetables and when you feel comfortable, begin to slowly expand the list to include other vegetables. Some people find they tolerate cooked vegetables better than raw vegetables. If that is the case for you, prepare your vegetables accordingly.

Here is a list of vegetables to start with:

4. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the few dairy foods included on an IBS diet and this is because it contains natural probiotics. The healthy bacteria in yogurt may have a positive effect on your digestive tract by reducing chronic inflammation and improving gut health.

5. Chia and flax seeds

Both chia and flax seeds provide ample fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and are well tolerated by most people with IBS. The fiber content helps with constipation, and these seeds are easy to add to meals and snacks. Sprinkle chia seeds on oatmeal or into smoothies, and grind flax seeds to dash on salads or toast.

6. Eggs

Eggs tend to be a well-tolerated food for people with IBS. The nutritional components of eggs make them a good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals. Eggs are also highly versatile and can be prepared in a number of ways to be eaten for any meal, which makes them easy to incorporate into a diet plan for IBS.

Foods to Avoid

Bad Foods[1]

1. Gluten and dairy

Dairy is the most frequently-cited IBS trigger food, both because of the hard-to-digest lactose and the high-fat content. Gluten isn't far behind. Luckily, awareness about both gluten-free and dairy-free diets has exploded over the past few years, and there are more options than ever if you're avoiding these triggers. Even if you introduce other foods back to your diet after your elimination phase, many IBS sufferers maintain a dairy-free or gluten-free diet for life.

2. Eliminate the most common triggers

Several other foods are common IBS culprits: cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), beans and lentils, beef and pork, and chocolate.

By eliminating these foods in your IBS diet plan from the start, you can reset your baselines and more easily determine your unique triggers by reintroducing them one by one in small quantities. You can easily find recipes that do not contain these foods by adding these ingredients to your exclusion list on PlateJoy.

3. Avoid coffee, alcohol, and carbonated drinks

Even if you've gotten used to cooking meals without your IBS triggers, you might still be drinking them! That's why part of our recommended IBS diet plan includes cutting out coffee, alcohol, and anything bubbly. Coffee has been found to increase symptoms in people with IBS, so you may need to part ways with your daily cup of joe to experience relief.

4. Leave out the onion and garlic

Onion and garlic seem like they're in everything, but these foods have been known to exacerbate IBS symptoms. If you're still not feeling your best after eliminating the foods above, these culprits may be giving you grief. Not to worry! Try substituting celery, chives, fennel, or leek in their place. If you don’t want to miss out, try infusing oil with garlic by simmering whole garlic cloves in olive oil for 3 minutes, then removing the garlic to keep some of that great flavor, without the tummy trouble.

5. As always, avoid processed foods

We believe in keeping processed foods to a minimum no matter what meal plan you're following, and an IBS diet plan is no exception. Cooking with fresh food helps limit the saturated fats and refined sugars that trigger IBS symptoms. And if it tastes better too? Just a happy side effect.

6. Avoid spicy foods

In many patients with IBS, spicy foods can trigger symptoms and cause intestinal discomfort in the form of abdominal pain. To minimize IBS symptoms, it’s best to avoid foods that contain capsaicin, which is the active ingredient that causes foods to be spicy.

7. Abstain from fried foods

Foods that are rich in fat, such as fried foods, can be difficult to digest for some and may cause bloating and gas retention. If you experience IBS, it is wise to avoid fried foods in an effort to minimize uncomfortable symptoms. Removing fried foods from your diet is beneficial for more reasons beyond IBS by helping you avoid serious health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The Takeaway

There are various types of IBS, and the best thing to do is talk to your doctor to determine the type you have, then adjust your IBS diet accordingly. If you are waiting to hear from your doctor, try our tips above to help. PlateJoy offers custom-designed meal plans and grocery lists to support your health and wellness goals. Whether a plant-based diet or an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you, we have the personalized services you need to succeed. Start creating your IBS diet plan today with PlateJoy!

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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