SARAH’S IBS BIG BAD NO-NO TRIGGER FOODS
OMG! – Where do I start with this list without putting you off lol! You’ll not be happy when you read it and I’m going to sound like your parent or your doctor for that matter. Its basically most of the things you already know to be ‘bad for you’ but there is a reason why your IBS-sensitive gut cannot handle them! Many of these will be instant triggers for your IBS and you will have to cut them out completely, whereas some will be worse when your condition is chronic but tolerable in small doses when you are stable. You can check out what Heather Van Vourous has to say about trigger foods here so you know I’m not making these things up!!
Some of these will require an extra lifestyle choice to quit them but I know from bitter experience, that when my IBS was so chronic I would’ve done anything (and I did) to help myself feel better! So, good luck!!!
Ok, lets get all the ‘vices’ out of the way first…
Cigarettes: Cigarettes are a gut stimulant for anyone, not just those of us with IBS. I used to be a smoker when I was younger and I knew myself before anyone told me that cigarettes where a big trigger for my IBS – a cigarette smoked on an empty stomach in the morning was a recipe for disaster and equalled instant diarrhoea. I’m afraid that both the nicotine and the tobacco are equally severe on the gut, so swopping to the capos or gums are still IBS no no’s. Thankfully I gave up smoking in my twenties.
Caffeine: Caffeine is another gut stimulant for everyone, not just those of us with IBS. So that rules out coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks. I try to avoid caffeine at all costs as it now gives me heart palpitations because I’m not used to drinking it. I do however love a nice cup of Earl Grey Tea which I drink with a little milk or non-dairy alternative and I can tolerate this if my gut is stable. However, any time I have a relapse I cut this out completely.
Coffee: Its not just the caffeine in the coffee but an enzyme in the coffee bean itself that is a powerful gut irritant so caffeine free coffee makes no difference. Similarly to cigarettes, I used to love coffee when I was younger but again I knew myself that it was a big trigger for my IBS and coffee on an empty stomach equalled instant diarrhoea. Years later I was extremely ill with salmonella poisoning from a latte (I’ll post about that later) and thankfully this put me off coffee for a very long time. Although interestingly when I was pregnant with my first daughter I had coffee cravings and so I allowed myself a weak milky caffeine free coffee. I would never dream of drinking coffee if my gut is unstable but occasionally if I’m stable I might have the odd weak one if I’m out (and usually I regret it!)
Black Tea: Its worth noting that tea contains just as much caffeine as coffee does and so should be kept to a minimum, plus the tannins in the tea are a further gut irritant. I don’t find tea as bad as coffee on my stomach and I regularly drink weak earl grey with milk – although recently I have been swopping the milk for Almond milk and trying to exchange it for a cup of peppermint tea instead. If my gut is unstable in any way then I wouldn’t drink tea.
Alcohol: Yes I know boo hoo!! Alcohol is probably one of the worst gut irritants and is equal in the ‘vices’ to cigarettes and caffeine. Some types like beer and cider are worse than others on the gut. Wine is better, with red wine being more tolerated than white. The clearer alcohol’s like plain vodka and gin are preferable over the darker spirits but your mixer needs to be considered here – again clear liquids like soda water with some lemon or lime and not fruits juices or sodas, will be more tolerated. Having said that over indulge on any alcohol will not do your gut any favours, but hey we’re all human and have to live a bit!…And trust me I have well tested all alcohols – In a later post I’ll do Sarah’s Guide To Drinking Alcohol!!
Fizzy Drinks, Soda, Pop, Energy Drinks, Gatorade-type drinks: All of these are basically the ENEMY and will rot your guts. Throw them out – I learnt at an early age that I couldn’t stomach these especially coke which is my worst nightmare now. Not only to most of them contain caffeine, a big IBS trigger but they are loaded with all sorts of sugars (another IBS and gut irritant) as well as countless colours, flavours and other crap. Even the so-called ‘health’ drinks like gatorade are not IBS-gut friendly – if the drink is blue in colour before you drink it then whats that doing to your insides on the way out? If you really must have a wee something then stick to the clear options like carbonated water, soda water, tonic water, lemonade or sprite – but again I would urge you to think here about the ingredients even in these as they are still sugar laden.
Chocolate & Sweeties: Yup all of them. High in sugar, full of additives, colourings and E-mumbers. All chocolate is high in fat but the chocolate itself is also a gut stimulant and therefore can be an IBS trigger. I’m a chocoholic so this is a big deal for me! Milk and white chocolates are the worst as they obviously contain dairy but they are also full of added sugars which is an additional gut irritant. Stick to dark chocolates like the 80% cocoa ones and only eat a few squares, not the whole bar. Remember chocolate itself has a laxative affect on the body so don’t overdo it and try not to eat it on an empty stomach. Sweeties too – I was never a sweetie fan as they generally always made me feel sick. Even the so-called ‘healthy’ ones that are supposed to be natural have added sugars which will attack the IBS-gut. So treat yourself to a few every now and then but don’t eat a whole bagful!
Fast Foods, Processed & High Fat Foods: In general these are the true ENEMY foods to all of us. All mass manufacturers with very little nutritional value. Most are fat, sugar or salt laden and these are cleverly ‘hidden’ with other names. Low-fat options tend to be high in added sugars. On top of that food additives, fake flavourings and E-numbers are big IBS-triggers. Anything with an ingredient list of more than 3-5 items should just be avoided! Opt to cook your own meals instead. Remember, when reading ingredients lists, you have to consider what every single item on that list is doing to your stomach!
Stock Cubes, Gravy’s, Sauces & Condiments: Yup these should all be avoided. Remember they are basically processed, sugar and salt laden and full of additives and fake flavours. Even the organic brands need to be checked as they too can contain high levels of added sugar. I have to avoid these at all costs as most things are full of garlic too, which I am allergic to. Read the labels and think about what every item on the list is doing to your IBS-gut. It’s better to make your own from fresh and it really doesn’t take that long – I’ll add recipes in at later dates!!
Lots of High Insoluble Fibre: You will find a list of these on my Caution Foods. If your diet is too high in Insoluble Fibre foods then your gut will suffer and you slip into IBS diarrhoea or constipation mode. These foods all need to be limited and treated with caution, how they are cooked, the portions and when they are eaten all need to be considered and will be talked about in greater depth in later posts.
IBS TRIGGERS TO AVOID WHEN YOUR CONDITION IS UNSTABLE
If your condition is chronic, or you have had a relapse then this is the first list of foods which you should eliminate. You may be able to eat most of these later on when you are stable but most of these are what I call the ‘gas builders’. I tend to eat them in moderation anyway. You can find out more about these foods on my Caution Food List.
Leafy Green Veg: like all salad greens, cabbage, kale and fresh herbs: Yes all greens are to be avoided when you are unstable and eaten with caution when you are stable. These groups of foods are hard to digest in general and are high in Insoluble fibre. They are ‘fibrous’ leaves which are hard to ‘mash’ and therefore difficult for the IBS-gut to break down and hence cause gas, wind and bloating on top of gut spasms.
Beans, Pulses & Nuts: High in Insoluble fibre and hard to digest. These are fast gas producers. For me peanuts are the worst offender.
The Entire Onion Family, especially garlic: All gut irritants and should be avoided when you are unstable. I now have a total allergy to garlic and my system just cannot process it at all – the gut needs an enzyme to break garlic down and I, along with only around 5% of the population, don’t possess it. For me eating garlic is the epitome of dealing with IBS – its an instant reaction, and within 5 minutes of eating it I will be on the loo in excruciating pain which I can only describe to non-IBS sufferers as likening it to having food poisoning. I know people who have similar reactions to onion. I can tolerate onion and leeks as long as they are well cooked in a meal. However chives and spring onions are something which I avoid as they tend to ‘repeat’ on me sometimes for days afterwards!
Sweetcorn: Sweetcorn passes through the gut tract pretty much virtually untouched and while for some this might be a good thing for all IBS-guts this is a gut irritant. Avoid when unstable and eat sparingly when stable.
All things ‘Wholemeal’ and Bran: Like Branflakes, All bran and all wholemeal flours or products. These are all considered as ‘roughage’ for most people and thought to be healthy. However we are not ‘most’ people and these products are simply way too high in Insoluble fibre for our IBS guts to process. They should be avoided. In fact I avoid them all the time.
Spices, especially hot ones like chilli and black pepper: These will irritate your gut if you are unstable or have had a relapse but can be added into your cooking when you are stable. The hotter pieces like chilli and cayenne peppers I tend to use sparingly as they would give me the runs even when I am stable but other milder spices are more tolerable. You will have to experiment here – remember its better to mix your own spices especially if you like curry, again this allows you to control whats in there, as I can’t eat garlic I can’t buy anything that comes in a package!
Read my page about the mashability of foods and my FIASS Plan which helps to explain the difference between Soluble and Insoluble fibres and how to make some of the more Insoluble fibre foods easier to digest.