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Foods to avoid with irritable bowel syndrome

Sometimes the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be affected by the foods in a diet, so restricting these foods can reduce the symptoms. Because the symptoms of IBS vary between individuals, the foods that should be restricted can vary too.

If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you will be asked to keep a food and symptom diary to help determine if a particular food can be causing symptoms. Because it can take a day or two for symptoms to appear, it may not be the food that you've just eaten causing your symptoms, so it may not be obvious which foods could be problematic. Keeping a record of what you've eaten and when symptoms appear can help.

What foods should be restricted for symptoms of bloating and wind?

NICE recommends making the following restrictions in your diet if you currently experience bloating and wind:

  • Limit fruit to three portions a day and fruit juice to one small glass a day (the former includes one portion of dried fruit): one portion of fresh fruit is about 80g, such as a handful of grapes, cherries or berries, an apple, banana, pear or orange, or half a grapefruit or a slice of melon or pineapple, and a portion of dried fruit is 25g, which is about 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins, figs or apricots.
  • Reduce your intake of foods high in resistant starches, which are not completely digested, so they ferment and form gas: these include pulses, whole grains, sweetcorn and muesli containing bran; undercooked or reheated products containing potato or sweetcorn; crisps, oven chips, potato waffles, fried rice; part-baked and reheated breads, including pizza bases; processed food or ready meals containing potato or pasta; dried pasta and manufactured biscuits and cakes.

What foods should be restricted for symptoms of diarrhoea?

NICE recommends making the following restrictions in your diet if you currently experience diarrhoea:

  • Limit caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola to three cups a day
  • Limit fizzy drinks
  • Limit alcohol to no more than 2 units a day and try to avoid having alcohol every day
  • Limit fruit to three portions a day and fruit juice to one portion (see 'symptoms of bloating and wind', above)
  • Avoid the pips, pith and skin of fruit and vegetables
  • Limit insoluble fibre from wholegrain breads, bran, cereals, nuts and seeds, with the exception being golden linseeds.
  • Limit foods high in resistant starches (see 'symptoms of bloating and wind', above)
  • Avoid sugar-free sweets and food products that contain sorbitol, such as mints and gum
  • Avoid foods high in fat, such as chips, burgers and sausages, fast foods, cheese, spreads, cooking oils, crisps and cakes
  • If lactose is a problem, try using lactose-free dairy products
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