Foods To Avoid With IBS

If you are thinking of starting an elimination diet then it’s difficult to know where you should start. YorkTest test results will highlight foods that you have had an IgG reaction to in your blood, and YorkTest Nutritional Therapist’s advice is that these should be avoided.

However, in addition, there is emerging evidence that a diet low in “FODMAPs” can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (1).

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharide’s and Polyols which are certain types of carbohydrates and sugars that are NOT successfully broken down and absorbed by the small intestine. When these molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the gut they then continue along their journey arriving at the large intestine where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. Undigested FODMAP foods can act like a sponge drawing water into the gut and trapping it there. In addition, the combination of bacteria and FODMAP foods in the large intestine produces a LOT of gas. The result? Bloating, pain, diarrheoa and/or constipation, all classic IBS symptoms.

Which foods have FODMAPs?

FODMAP carbohydrates include certain natural sugars in foods, and also certain types of fibre in foods. It’s not obvious which foods contain FODMAPs and which don’t and so Dietician or Nutritional Therapist guidance is needed. Here are some interesting examples:-

• Some fruits, for example apples, apricots, cherries and pears should be avoided, but others such as bananas, blueberries, cranberries, oranges or strawberries are fine.
• Vegetables such as beetroot, garlic, leeks and onions can be culprits, but carrots, courgettes, peppers, parsnips and tomatoes are FODMAP friendly.
• Wheat, rye and barley (in large amounts) are a big NO NO. Note that FODMAPs don’t have anything to do with gluten or coeliac disease, it’s just a coincidence that FODMAPs are contained in these gluten containing grains.
• Milk sugar (lactose) can be problematic, as can all types of legumes, for example baked beans, kidney beans and borlotti beans, also lentils and chickpeas.

Professor Peter Whorwell, Gastroenterologist from the University Hospital of South Manchester says “there is emerging evidence that a diet low in FODMAP’s seems to help reduce the symptoms of IBS. Certainly it is easy to implement and a patient should adhere to it for two to three months after which they can make a judgment about whether it has helped or not. If it helps they should continue and if it doesn’t then they should abandon the idea as it does not work for everybody”.

There are other non-FODMAP foods that IBS sufferers may wish to try avoiding. For example foods high in fast releasing sugars such as unrefined grains, confectionary, cakes and biscuits, and insoluble fibre such as bran. Soluble fibre such as that contained in oats is usually more tolerable. Saturated fats from red meat may exacerbate symptoms and stimulants such as coffee, tea and sugary carbonated drinks.

This may all sound daunting; lots to think about before starting an elimination diet, but it’s important to remember that each IBS sufferer will have different food triggers and combining information about known IgG reactions (2) with other likely culprit foods to try and remove may help.

Take a look at our IBS Diet Programme which will indicate problem foods and put together a diet plan with low FODMAP foods.


(1) Gibson P and Shepherd S, 2010: Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 25, 252-8
(2) Atkinson W, Sheldon T, Shaath N and Whorwell P, 2004: Food elimination based on IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomised controlled trial. Gut 53, 1459-64

11 thoughts on “Foods To Avoid With IBS”

  1. Hi
    I have been diagnosed with IBS last year and struggling to find food that does not cause pain bloating. Finally, I started avoiding carbohydrates and regulate my daily sugar intake to minimum levels possible from the start of this year and this has made a drastic difference to my life.
    I think your research is profound and needs to be developed further such as to allow for a product that targets dissolving the FOD in the intestines.
    Thank you do much for making it so simple to understand

  2. I have had ibs for about 10 years. I was put on some tablets but they didn’t seem to work :-(…. I have tried all sorts of food to avoid but never works, I get bloated after every meal and if I drink alot too.
    Would you have any other ideas what to do?

    1. I have had IBS for the last year andi it is getting worse and worse all the time. I watch what I eat and do not have sugar at all. Could you give me a list of food that would help me. I would be truly grateful for any help.

      Many thanks

      Clare Goatcher

  3. Victoria Parsons

    I’ve had IBS for 5+ yrs, over the last 18 months I was diagnosed with severe IBS, I found this was due to my diet, doctor also realized that main culprit was stress, I try to avoid as stressing by trying to relax. I read books, speak to my partner and shopping helps lol, I still find foods that I can’t eat such as bananas, fresh cream weetabix and spicy foods are a big no no. My list grows longer each week for what I can’t eat but it helps narrow it down, Each person is different and I know several people with IBS, helps to talk about it and discuss ideas.You’ll be surprised what you’ll find you may not be able to eat. Hope this helps.

  4. Valerie Heighway

    Had IBS for many years but recently severe. All the classic symptoms – even had ultrasound. Everything is painful in my abdomen including shooting pains. Abdomen very tender to the touch. Have just discovered brown bread & nuts are bad for me. Not sure where to find correct diet to ease the pain. Any help greatly received.

    1. I have too suffered for over 20 years with IBS, recently the symptoms increased dramatically, bloating, lack of sleep as a result of abdominal pain, I too had ultrasound and other tests via the GP. A friend recommended IBS test via York Laboratories, the results were a shock, over 30 foods that I was having recations to. It’s been 7 weeks and I have eliminated these foods from my diet wherever possible, I feel so much better, the pain and bloating has virtually gone. I would recommend having the test, it’s changed my life around.

      1. Hi Clare
        Just give us a call on 0800 074 6185 and one of customer care team will be able to help you.

  5. Interesting reading. I have suffered IBS for years, but never as severely as now, since having an operation to remove my gall bladder and stones five months ago.. Finding it hard to avoid stress as the condition itself is very stressful . I am surprised to hear that some of the foods and drink that I always thought of as healthy may be what is causing my pain and bloating.
    I have been keeping a diary of my food and drink intake for about a month now, but I am still no nearer to finding out what suits me and what as yet does not.
    I shall now try eliminating the foods that I at first thought “healthy” and see how I get on eating the foods I thought were “bad” for me. LOL

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