Updated: Jun 27
5 Non-FODMAP Dietary Triggers to Put on Your IBS Radar
You’re not alone if your mind immediately jumps to high-FODMAP foods when you think of common dietary IBS triggers. While foods high in FODMAPs are often the main culprit behind IBS flare-ups for many, certain foods and beverages that are not high-FODMAP can still trigger symptoms. Today, we’re diving into five that may be worth adding to your IBS radar.
1. Coffee and other Caffeinated Beverages
We hate to say it, but your beloved coffee may be triggering your IBS flare-ups. For some, coffee’s high acidity proves to be troublesome, often causing stomach pains, indigestion, and heart burn. For others, coffee’s caffeine content is the main culprit as it increases gut motility and colon movement—in other words, it can make you poop! While this may be helpful for those with constipation-dominant IBS, it can be particularly problematic for those with diarrhea-dominant IBS or mixed IBS, as it can exacerbate symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, urgency, and loose stools. There are however several strategies that can help you better tolerate and enjoy your morning cup of joe if you suffer from IBS, such as switching to decaf or choosing a low-acid brew. For a full list of tips to improve your coffee tolerance, check out our previous blog post here.
2. High-Fat Foods
Dietary fat is essential for hormone health, brain function, satiety, and so much more. However, for some, large quantities of fat within a sitting can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Symptoms associated with high-fat meal consumption may include abdominal distention, bloating, abdominal pain, loose stools, and increased flatulence. These symptoms can be contributed to dietary fat’s exaggerated effect on the gastrocolic reflex that controls motility of the lower GI tract and/or the presence of visceral hypersensitivity in the individual. It’s important to work with a dietitian to determine your exact dietary fat needs and tolerance. Sources of dietary fat include full-fat dairy products, deep-fried foods, oils, avocado, coconut, and fatty fish/meats, to name a few.
3. Spicy Foods
Salsa loaded with chili peppers, buffalo chicken wings, pad Thai with two flames next to it on the menu…these may all sound delicious, but for many individuals with IBS, eating spicy foods may be a risky move. Most spicy dishes are made with chili which contains an ingredient called capsaicin that has been found to exacerbate abdominal pain and burning in IBS patients. Additionally, spicy dishes also typically contain onions and garlic which are high in FODMAPs and two of the most common IBS triggers. Most commonly, spicy foods have been shown to trigger upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn, and excessive burping. If spicy foods are amongst some of your favorites, you can try eating smaller amounts and/or experimenting with different dishes to see which give you symptoms and which don’t.
We’re firm believers that having fun is an important piece of the wellness puzzle, but, unfortunately, alcoholic drinks - especially in excess - can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Alcohol can irritate the GI system and cause abdominal pain and/or diarrhea for some individuals with IBS. As a diuretic, excessive amounts of alcohol can also lead to dehydration, affecting bowel regularity. Alcohol may also heighten anxiety, which, in turn, can worsen IBS symptoms. Some alcoholic drinks and mixers are also high in FODMAPs, such as many fruit-based cocktails, sweet wine, and rum. We recommend sticking to low-sugar drinks such as a vodka soda, pairing cocktails with a large glass of water, experimenting with the type and quantity of alcohol that works best for you and, of course, enjoying alcohol in moderation.
The low FODMAP diet is not inherently low if fiber - nor should it be! Fiber has some major health benefits - including benefits related to both digestive health and health health! However, different types of fiber exist and each person will have their own tolerance to different types and amounts of fiber. Insoluble fiber will decrease transit time (meaning it speeds things up), which may help to improve constipation, although it can certainly worsen symptoms for those with diarrhea-predominant or mixed-IBS. Also, while it can improve constipation, large amounts of insoluble fiber can often feel uncomfortable and lead to cramping, bloating and distention. Soluble fiber increases transit time (meaning it slows things down) and it can be very bowel regulating, meaning it can be beneficial for those with constipation and diarrhea. However, sometimes those dealing with constipation feel uncomfortable with large amounts of soluble fiber due to its slowed transit. Many sources of soluble fiber also happen to be fermentable. It is important that you work with a GI specialized dietitian so you can include sources (and amounts) of fiber that work well for you and your unique needs - and avoid overly restricting your diet, and your fiber intake!
At Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness, we specialize in digestive health and we are experts in IBS management and the low FODMAP diet. Contact us to schedule your complimentary discovery call so we can see if we are a good fit to work with you!
This blog post was written with the help of Lauren Pappalardo, a dietetic intern completing her MS/DI at Pace University.