3 Tips for Eating When You Have IBS Pain

When you are experiencing pain from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can be hard to think about eating food. Yet, you know that you do have to eat. It may ease some of your anxiety to know that by changing how you eat, you may actually ease the symptoms.

A woman with healthy food in front of her
Hero Images / Getty Images

How to Choose What to Eat When You Have IBS Pain

There are a number of ways to reduce abdominal pain and cramping. Among those are three easy tips to keep in mind as you make your daily food choices.

Avoid 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. Eating low-fat meals, and avoiding anything greasy, fried, or fatty may be good advice, however according to a study published in 2017 there are no randomized controlled trials showing that following a low-fat diet will reduce symptoms of IBS.

If you need ideas, just look to a low-fat diet menu. These often include many fruits and vegetables, lean meats like chicken and fish such as salmon. Broths and salads are good, light meals that will give you some nutrition without overloading your system as well.

Eat Small Meals: Large meals can also strengthen intestinal contractions. Aim to eat small meals frequently throughout your day so as to not strain your system.

There are plenty of IBS-friendly foods that you can enjoy throughout the day. You might have an egg for breakfast, a fresh salad for lunch, and a lean chicken dinner. In between meals, try snacking on nuts, seeds, or yogurt.

Minimize 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. Yet, when your pain is most bothersome, cutting a few things out may be the way to go.

On these days, try to eat non-gassy foods and avoid those that are more likely to produce gas. Your options are quite diverse and include everything from chicken and beef to leafy greens, tomatoes, and berries. Some grains like oats and rice can also give you much-needed carbs without the gas.

Is the Low-FODMAP Diet Right for You?

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. This diet has research from 2010 to support its use in easing symptoms for IBS patients.

The list of foods on this gut-friendly diet is not entirely restrictive and there's quite the variety to choose from. It may, however, be best to consult a dietician who's familiar with it to design a meal plan that works for your symptoms and gives you the daily nutrition you need.

A Word From Verywell

As with any health condition, it is important to know when you need to consult your doctor. 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 or the inability to pass gas.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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. Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patientsWorld J Gastroenterol. 2017;23(21):3771–3783. doi:10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771

  2. TeensHealth. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Updated October 2016.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Gas in the Digestive Tract.

  4. 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