You can manage some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by adjusting your diet. Avoiding certain carbohydrates, monitoring your fiber intake, and opting for low fat foods are all strategies that may help.

In some people, severe cramps, abdominal pain, and other IBS symptoms may affect everyday life.

Medical intervention is important in treating IBS, but certain diets may also help. In fact, up to 70% of people with IBS find that particular foods worsen their symptoms.

Read about the most common diets that can help ease IBS symptoms.

FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are difficult for the intestines to digest. These carbs pull more water into the bowel and increase gas, leading to bloating, pain, and diarrhea after eating them.

The FODMAP acronym is “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.”

Temporarily restricting or limiting your intake of high FODMAP foods for 2–6 weeks may help improve your IBS symptoms. Then you gradually reintroduce foods to discover which ones cause issues.

A low FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet. A 2017 research review found that people on a low FODMAP diet had less pain and bloating than others on a regular diet.

It’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are FODMAPs. For the best outcome, you have to remove the right kinds of foods.

Foods to avoid include:

Keep in mind that while this diet eliminates some fruits, vegetables, and dairy, it does not remove all foods from these categories.

Low FODMAP foods you can eat on this diet include:

To avoid overly restrictive meals, speak with a dietitian before beginning this diet.

An elimination diet focuses on avoiding certain foods for an extended period to check whether your IBS symptoms improve.

It may restrict a broad class of foods, as in the low FODMAP diet or individual foods that commonly cause symptoms.

Several foods and drinks that may trigger IBS symptoms include:

However, you can try forgoing any food that seems to cause symptoms.

Fiber adds bulk to your stool and makes it softer, which helps aid movement.

The average adult, including those with IBS, should eat around 22–34 grams (g) of fiber daily, depending on their sex and age. However, most people fall short of this.

There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber is common in fruit, beans, and oats and is better for IBS.
  • Insoluble fiber is common in vegetables and grains.

Many foods contain both types of fiber.

Beyond solubility, research suggests that fibers that ferment easily in the body lead to more gas, a symptom of IBS.

Some studies indicate that psyllium fiber supplements — soluble fiber with a low fermentation rate — are particularly effective for IBS symptoms. But there’s a need for more research on fiber intake for IBS.

Fiber-rich foods are nutritious and help prevent constipation. However, if you experience bloating or gas from eating more fiber, try to increase your intake gradually by around 2–3 g per day.

While fiber can help some people with IBS, increasing fiber intake can worsen symptoms if you frequently have gas and diarrhea.

Still, a 2018 study indicated that eating fiber is linked to a lower risk of IBS.

Rather than significantly reducing your fiber intake, which isn’t supported by research, consider sources of soluble fiber found in foods. These include:

Soluble fiber dissolves in water instead of adding extra bulk associated with insoluble fiber.

Common sources of insoluble fiber include:

Gluten is a protein found in grain products such as bread and pasta. The protein can damage the intestines in people who have gluten intolerance.

Some people with a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten also experience IBS. In such cases, a gluten-free diet may reduce symptoms.

A small 2016 study involving 41 people with IBS found that following a gluten-free diet for 6 weeks reduced their symptoms. Those who continued to follow the diet for 18 months continued to have decreased symptoms.

By eliminating barley, rye, and wheat from your diet, you can check whether gastrointestinal problems improve. Foods containing these ingredients include:

  • bread
  • cereal
  • crackers
  • pasta
  • some sauces
  • malt vinegar
  • beer

If you want to keep enjoying bread and pasta, there are options. You can find gluten-free versions of your favorite products in health food stores and many grocery stores.

Regularly eating high fat foods is a known contributor to various health issues, such as obesity. However, it may also worsen symptoms in people with IBS.

Doctors typically recommend a low fat diet for IBS, which may involve eating fewer than 27 g of fat per day.

While more research is needed on the diet’s effectiveness for people with IBS, embarking on a low fat diet is good for your heart and may improve uncomfortable bowel symptoms.

Instead of eating fried food and animal fats, consider these more nutritious options:

  • lean meats
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • grains
  • low fat dairy products

Foods to eat and avoid will depend on the diet you follow for IBS and the foods you can tolerate. In general, they may include:

Foods to eatFoods to avoid
Fruitsoranges, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, kiwipeaches, watermelon, pears, mangoes, apples, plums, nectarines
Vegetablescarrots, eggplant, pumpkinartichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions
Legumespeaschickpeas, kidney beans, lentils
Sweetenersagave, steviasorbitol, xylitol, high fructose corn syrup
Other foodseggs, lean meat, oatmealwheat products, milk products, nuts, coffee, alcohol

It’s important that you examine your symptoms and talk with a healthcare professional before starting a new diet. Staying in tune with how your body reacts to certain diets can help you identify when you may need to tweak your food choices.

According to the National Institutes of Health, getting enough sleep, trying to reduce stress, and staying physically active, such as exercising regularly, may help to minimize IBS symptoms.

It may take trial and error to find what works for you, but tweaking your diet can help ease symptoms of IBS.

What should you eat if you have IBS?

The best foods for IBS depend on your individual symptoms and needs. In general, you may benefit from adding to your diet foods like berries, oatmeal, gluten-free options, lean meats, low fat dairy products, and stevia.

Possible diets for IBS include low fat, gluten free, and low FODMAP.

What foods will aggravate IBS?

Not everyone with IBS experiences the same symptoms or with the same intensity. In the same way, you may react differently to foods depending on your needs.

For example, if you experience bloating and gas, you may want to avoid foods high in fiber.

Foods that may often aggravate IBS symptoms include caffeine, dairy, alcohol, spices, whole grains, fried foods, and high fructose corn syrup.

What foods do you avoid if you have IBS?

Consulting with a healthcare professional is highly advised before avoiding entire group foods. You may also benefit from limiting some foods instead of avoiding them altogether.

In general, you may want to avoid wheat products, dairy, nuts, asparagus, and most legumes.

Is pasta good for IBS?

Pasta is typically made of wheat, a type of food most people with IBS react to. Gluten-free pasta, on the other hand, may be an option for you.

Is peanut butter bad for IBS?

Peanut butter is considered low FODMAP when eaten in moderation. Medical experts often recommend low FODMAP for people with IBS. A tablespoon of peanut butter can be a suitable snack for IBS.

What foods help to soothe an IBS flare?

Soluble fiber, like flax and oats, may help you relieve symptoms like constipation.

Anti-inflammatory foods, like salmon, olive oil, and berries may help during IBS flares. However, every body is different and you may want to discuss your options with a healthcare professional.