5 Non-FODMAP Dietary Triggers for IBS

Published on: 06/08/2021

If you have been reading my blog, you will know that reducing FODMAPs can greatly reduce IBS symptoms such as bloating, tummy pain, gas, and diarrhea. However, FODMAPs are not the only IBS triggers. There are several other dietary factors that can affect these symptoms and, if you have IBS, you should look into them.

5 Diet Triggers for IBS that are not FODMAPs

1.     Caffeine

Caffeine is a well-known stimulant. But it is also a gut irritant and has a major effect on gut motility. As a result, it helps you get the urge to poop. This could be advantageous for someone with constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C). On the other hand, it might exacerbate your symptoms if you experience diarrhea.⁠ Tip: try switching from caffeinated coffee to decaf, or better yet, green or herbal tea.

2.     Alcohol

Alcohol is also a gut irritant. About a third of people with IBS, especially those with diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), report it as a trigger. The most common symptoms are loose stools and urgency, but abdominal pain and nausea have also been reported.⁠⁠ Tip: try a mocktail or mix a bit of grape juice with water and serve it in a wine glass.

3.     Carbonated beverages

Carbonate beverages such as sodas and sparkling water make you swallow extra air and can trigger bloating and gas. ⁠⁠Drinking from a straw and chewing gum are other ways you may swallow extra air. The air gets trapped in your gut and may cause more gas and bloating. Tip: try and flavor your water with lemon or lime, or with fruit like strawberries, or herbs like mint (it’s great paired with cucumber).

4.     High-fat foods or meals

People with IBS often report GI symptoms such as indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating and distention, increased gas, and loose stools after eating high-fat foods or meals. For example, deep-fried goods, fast foods, pizza, or ice cream. Or high-fat meals such as burgers with cheese and fries. There is nothing wrong with using some oil or fat in cooking. Tip: try to avoid high-fat foods and meals while you are figuring out your triggers. Make your own pizza at home, so you can control the ingredients. If you crave a burger, swap the French fries with a baked potato. And try a sorbet instead of ice cream.

5.     Spicy Foods

Chili peppers and chili/cayenne powders contain capsaicin. This is a natural ingredient that produces a spicy effect and can trigger heartburn and/or abdominal pain in some people with IBS. Tip: try to avoid these foods and use other spices and herbs to flavor your dishes.  

Bottom Line

Although FODMAPs are established triggers for IBS symptoms for most people, other dietary components can play a role. While there is not enough research to recommend that everyone avoids all these potential triggers, it is important for you to find out whether any of these dietary factors may be triggering your symptoms. This can be a tricky process as you need to make sure you isolate the component you want to identify.⁠⁠ A dietitian specializing in IBS (like me) can help you get to the bottom of this.

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I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for helping women with IBS find their way back to eating without fear of painful gut symptoms and without unnecessary diet restrictions.

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