IBS Symptoms: Which Foods to Eat and Avoid

Choosing certain foods can help ease IBS flare-ups

The foods to avoid with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) differ from person to person, but there are some common culprits. For example, you may feel increasingly bloated and constipated after consuming dairy. Or, you might experience worsening diarrhea if you eat fried foods.

While you may end up sorting out your personal food triggers the hard way, it can be helpful to know what may contribute to an IBS flare-up and encourage these unpleasant IBS symptoms. Diet can also play a role in helping your condition, and having a list of the foods that are IBS-friendly is handy when you're looking for food swaps as well.

Here are some practical tips on foods to avoid (and reach for) if you are trying to manage constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C), diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), or alternating-type IBS (IBS-M).

Foods to Avoid When You're Constipated and Bloated

White Bread
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If you're constipated, or have a tendency to get backed up, the last thing you need is to eat anything binding. Some key foods you need to avoid are:

  • 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

Foods to Eat to Improve IBS Constipation and Bloating

Fruits and vegetables on display.
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Some foods can get your system moving and relieve constipation. Key to this is digestive fiber, also known as roughage.

Especially useful is a type is known as insoluble fiber, which doesn't dissolve in water. Instead, it absorbs water as it passes through the intestines. That water softens your stool.

The best food sources to improve IBS constipation are:

  • Fresh fruits, especially berries, peaches, apricots, plums, and rhubarb
  • Whole grains, including whole-grain bread and cooked oats, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, or barley
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Dried fruit, especially prunes and raisins
  • Prune juice
  • Nuts and seeds

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.

Foods to Avoid to Reduce IBS Diarrhea

fish and chips
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If you have diarrhea, it's important to know that certain foods can encourage painful intestinal spasms and loose stools.

Some foods to avoid if you have or tend to have IBS-related diarrhea include:

  • Dairy products, particularly high-fat cheeses, ice cream, whole milk, cream, and sour cream
  • Creamy foods
  • Gravy
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Sugar-free foods made with artificial sweeteners, such as 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

Foods to Eat When You Have Diarrhea From IBS

Grilled skinless chicken breast entree

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The BRAT diet is often recommended to help bind loose or watery stools. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

However, this restrictive diet should not be used as anything more than a short-term solution during diarrhea flare-ups. Long term, it can deprive you of much-needed nutrition.

A more balanced anti-diarrheal diet consists of:

  • Bananas
  • White rice
  • White toast (not whole-grain)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Butternut, pumpkin, acorn squash, and other winter squashes
  • Steamed, baked, or 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 with a ​probiotic effect
  • Sports drinks to prevent dehydration and replace electrolytes
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mueller-Lissner SA, Wald A. Constipation in adults. BMJ Clin Evid. 2010;2010:0413. Published 2010 Jul 5.

  2. Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010;25(2):252-8. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06149.x

  3. Wendy B, Andrew S. Acute diarrhea in adults. American Family Physician. 2014;89(3):180-9.

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.