What to Eat When You Have IBS and Gas

And what foods you should avoid

When you have gas pain from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can be hard to think about eating. IBS flare-ups can be intense. But knowing what to eat—and what to avoid—may ease some of your anxiety along with your symptoms, so you can reduce that gas pain and be more in control of your life.

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What Are the Best Foods for IBS?

Researchers have identified two types of food that may be helpful for alleviating IBS gas and pain. Planning your diet around these may help you leave symptoms behind.

Soluble Fiber

Dietary fiber has important health benefits for IBS and beyond, and evidence points to soluble fiber as superior to insoluble fiber. The evidence is strong enough to prompt a strong recommendation in the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) 2021 guidelines for treating IBS.

Insoluble fiber can make your gas, bloating, and abdominal pain worse, as can soluble fibers that are highly fermentable. So if you've learned to be leery of high-fiber foods, maybe you've been eating the wrong ones.

Soluble, non-fermenting fibers form viscous gels in your digestive tract that aren't easily broken down. That's desirable because these gels retain their water-holding capacity in the large intestine.

While other forms of fiber may ferment at this point, leading to excess gas and bloating, non-fermentable fiber has a normalizing effect on your stool. It can soften hard stools and prevent constipation, and it can also firm up liquidy, loose stools to prevent diarrhea and fecal incontinence. In addition, it can:

  • Slow food's passage through your digestive system, which allows you to absorb more nutrients
  • Improve the balance of your gut bacteria
  • Help you feel full after eating less food

More Benefits of Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber can help lower total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar in diabetes.

It's also possible to add too much fiber to your diet too quickly, which can be hard on the system. So go slow and make sure you're choosing the right type. Foods high in non-fermentable soluble fiber include:

  • Vegetables: Carrot, eggplant, green beans, okra, potato (with skin), summer squash, sweet potato, zucchini
  • Fruit: Banana, blueberries, kiwi, orange, raspberry, strawberry
  • Protein: Peanuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts
  • Grains: Oatmeal

Dietary soluble fiber is considered better than fiber supplements, but if you do take a fiber supplement, choose psyllium fiber.

Low-FODMAP Carbohydrates

If you find that bloating and gas tend to contribute to your IBS pain on a regular basis, you may want to look into the low-FODMAP diet.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are all sugars that your small intestine doesn't absorb well. Notice the "f" word of FODMAPs—fermentable. That's a key aspect of foods that exacerbate the gassiness of IBS.

The low-FODMAP diet has been researched since 2010 for use in easing IBS symptoms, and the ongoing line of research continues to be positive. Low-FODMAP foods include:

  • Vegetables: Eggplant, green beans, bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, lettuce, potato, tomato, zucchini
  • Fruit: Banana, cantaloupe, grapes, kiwi, orange, pineapple, strawberry
  • Dairy/dairy replacement: Almond and soy milk, camembert, feta, hard cheeses
  • Protein: Eggs, firm tofu, cooked meats/poultry/seafood, macadamias, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • Grains: Corn, oats, rice, quinoa, sourdough spelt bread, bread made without wheat, rye, or barley
  • Sweets/sweeteners: Dark chocolate, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, table sugar

The low-FODMAP diet starts out by eliminating all FODMAPs, then strategically adding them back to see which ones do and don't bother you. In the end, you should have a customized diet based on your body's reaction to them.

This can be a difficult process that leaves you missing out on certain nutrients. It's a good idea to involve your healthcare provider and a nutritionist.

High-Fiber, High-FODMAP Foods

Certain foods that are high in soluble fiber are also high in FODMAPs. Test these foods carefully before adding them to an IBS-friendly diet:

  • Avocados
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils


What Foods Should You Avoid?

As important as what you do eat is what you don't eat. Along with high-FODMAP foods, it can help ease your IBS symptoms to limit gas-creating and fatty foods.

High-FODMAP Foods

Some foods identified as being high in FODMAPs, and therefore potentially harmful to people with IBS, include:

  • Vegetables: Artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, peas, mushrooms, onion
  • Fruit: Apples, cherries, dried fruit, mango, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon
  • Dairy/dairy replacement: Cow milk, custard, evaporated milk, ice cream, soy milk, sweetened condensed milk, yogurt
  • Protein: Most legumes, some processed meats, some marinated meats/poultry/seafood
  • Grains: Breakfast cereals, cookies, snack foods, bread made with wheat, rye, or barley
  • Sweets/sweeteners: High fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar-free candies and desserts (due to sugar alcohols)

If you find yourself eliminating entire categories of foods from your diet (for example, eating no fruits because the ones you like are off-limits), it may be time to see a nutritionist who can help you fill in the gaps.

Gassy Foods

Foods that produce intestinal gas can contribute to abdominal pain and cramping. Unfortunately, these same foods tend to have high nutritional benefits. It is therefore not a good idea to eat an overly restrictive diet on a regular basis.

On bad days, though, it can help to eat non-gassy foods and avoid those that are more likely to produce gas. Gas-causing foods include:

  • Vegetables: Asparagus, artichokes, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions
  • Fruit: Apples, peaches, pears
  • Dairy: Cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk
  • Grains: Bread, cereal, bran, whole wheat
  • Sweets/sweeteners: Apple and pear juice, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols

If you're thinking that list looks similar to the high-FODMAP foods list, you're right. Many of these foods can be problematic for IBS in multiple ways.

FOODS HIGH FODMAP GAS CAUSING
Asparagus
Artichokes 
Beans
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Mushrooms
Onions
Apples
Cherries
Mango
Peaches
Pears
Watermelon
Milk
Ice cream
Soy milk
Yogurt
Cereal
Bran
Wheat/rye/barley
High fructose corn syrup
Sugar alcohols

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods contain substances that can exaggerate the strength of intestinal contractions, resulting in increased pain and cramping—at least in laboratory settings. However, according to a study published in 2017, no randomized controlled trials show that following a low-fat diet will reduce symptoms of IBS.

Still, since fatty foods often aren't good for you anyway, you might want to see whether avoiding anything greasy, fried, or fatty helps alleviate IBS symptoms.

Eat Small Meals

Large meals also strengthen intestinal contractions. Aim to eat small meals frequently throughout your day so as to not strain your system. IBS-friendly eating could mean an egg for breakfast, a fresh salad for lunch, and a lean chicken dinner. In between meals, try snacking on nuts, seeds, or yogurt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are bananas good for IBS?

Yes, bananas are a recommended food for IBS. They're not on the list of known gas-causing foods and they're also believed to be low in FODMAPs.

What else can treat gas from IBS?

Other things you can try for relieving the gas of IBS include:

Of these potential gas treatments, peppermint oil is the only one the ACG recommends for IBS.

When to Call the Healthcare Provider

As with any health condition, it is important to know when you need to consult your healthcare provider. If you experience cramping that significantly worsens beyond your regular pattern, give them a call. This is also true should your symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Inability to pass gas

A Word From Verywell

Try not to let the lists of potentially bad foods for someone with IBS scare you. The specific foods that bother each person are unique, so don't think you can never eat any of those things again.

The best course of action is to test high-FODMAP categories or try an elimination diet. The goal is to keep as many foods as possible in your diet so you don't miss out on important nutrients.

Following a special diet can be hard at first, but time, experience, and possibly a good app can help you stick to it and feel better.

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Article Sources
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