What to Eat If You Have Mixed IBS Symptoms

Foods to Eat and Avoid When Symptoms Strike

When dealing with the different (and often divergent) symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can be difficult to know which foods you can and cannot eat safely. While people will often focus on the food types they need to avoid, it is just as important to find the foods that may actually help improve your symptoms.

Here are some practical tips that can help if you find yourself suffering with either constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C), diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), or alternating-type IBS (IBS-M):

1

Foods to Avoid If You Are Constipated

White Bread
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If you are constipated, the last thing you need is to eat anything that is binding. To this end, here are some key foods you need to avoid:

  • Anything made with white flour, especially white bread and baked goods made with hydrogenated fats
  • Processed meat including bacon, bologna, sausage, and hot dogs
  • Deep-fried foods (including food labeled "oven-fried")
  • Chips of any sort
  • Dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and whole milk
  • Red meats
  • Bananas
  • White rice
2

Foods to Eat If You Are Constipated

Fruits and vegetables on display.
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If you are suffering from constipation, you will need to eat foods that get your system moving. Key to this is digestive fiber, also known as roughage.

Especially useful is a type is known as insoluble fiber which does not dissolve in water but rather absorbs water as it passes through the intestines, softening stools in the process.

The best food sources for this are:

  • Fresh fruits (the best of which include berries, peaches, apricots, plums, and rhubarb)
  • Whole grains which include wholegrain bread and cooked oats, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, or barley
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Dried fruit, especially prunes and raisins
  • Prune juice
  • Nuts and nuts

Beans and legumes (such as chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, navy beans, and kidney beans) are good sources of fiber but are also on the list of high FODMAP foods that can trigger IBS-D symptoms if you eat too much.

3

Foods to Avoid If You Have Diarrhea

fish and chips
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If you have diarrhea, the last thing you want is to eat foods that can aggravate your condition or cause you painful intestinal spasms.

Some of the foods to avoid include:

  • Dairy products, particularly high-fat cheeses, ice cream, whole milk, cream, and sour cream
  • Creamy foods or foods with gravy
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Sugar-free foods made with artificial sweeteners including candies, gum, and diet sodas
  • Gas-producing foods like beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, peaches, pears, and plums
  • Dried fruits
  • Caffeinated coffee, tea, or sodas
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol
4

Foods to Eat If You Have Diarrhea

Grilled skinless chicken breast entree
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A basic, bland BRAT diet (consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is often recommended to help bind loose or watery stools. However, the restrictive diet should not be used as anything more than a short-term solution as it can deprive you of much-needed nutrition.

To this end, you would want to compose a more balanced diet consisting of the following foods:

  • Bananas
  • White rice
  • White toast (not whole-grain)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Butternut, pumpkin, acorn squash, and other winter squashes
  • Steamed, baked, broiled chicken or lean meat
  • Yogurt or kefir with a live bacterial culture
  • Chicken broth
  • Farina, oatmeal, or cream of wheat
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Pretzels
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, or pickles that have a ​probiotic effect
  • Sports drinks to prevent dehydration and replace electrolytes
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Article Sources
  • Barr, W. and Smith, A. "Acute Diarrhea in Adults ." Am Fam Physician. 2014; 89(3):180-9.
  • Gibson, P. and Shepherd, S. "Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach." J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010; 25:252-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06149.x.
  • Mueller-Lissner, S. and Wald, A. "Constipation in adults." BMJ Clin Evidence. 2010; 2010:0413. PMCID: PMC3217654.