Different Drink Options for When You Have IBS

Having you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you've probably read a lot about what foods to eat and avoid, but it's harder to find information on what to drink.

However, some drinks contain things that set off your IBS symptoms. This article tells you the best drinks options that won't aggravate your system.

Soft Drinks

glass of iced tea
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Sodas aren't a great option because of the carbonation. It puts you at risk for excessive gassiness that can irritate your IBS.

Skipping sodas might be a hardship if you like them. But you may be doing your overall health a favor.

Regular soda has extremely high levels of sugar. That's linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Diet soda has also been linked to weight gain. Plus, it's probably best to avoid artificial sweeteners if you have a sensitive digestive system.

Replace Sodas With Iced Tea

Iced tea is a great non-soda option. Feel free to use black, green, or white, or one of the herbal teas that are good for IBS.

You can keep a pitcher of homemade iced tea in your refrigerator. When dining out, ask for unsweetened iced tea.

You can add a small amount of sugar (not artificial sweeteners). Low quantities shouldn't cause symptoms.

Milk Alternatives

glass of rice milk
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Many people with IBS are lactose intolerant. So it might be better to use alternatives in your cereal, smoothies, and wherever else you use milk.

Your best choices are:

  • Lactose-free milk
  • Coconut milk (1/2 cup limit)
  • Rice milk
  • Almond milk (small quantities)

Even if you aren't lactose intolerant, lactose is one of the fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs). Those are carbohydrates tied to IBS symptoms.

Soy milk isn't a good option for people with IBS. It's high in FODMAPs.

Recap

Soda and milk may aggravate your IBS. Better choices are unsweetened or lightly sweetened ice tea and alternative milks. Avoid soy milk and artificial sweeteners.

Best Hot Drinks

steaming cup of tea
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You have a lot to choose from when it comes to hot drinks.

Hot Tea

Hot tea is a great option. Black, green, and white tea are all low in FODMAPs. Choose decaffeinated tea if you find that caffeine irritates your digestive system.

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas offer some additional soothing benefits:

  • Peppermint has antispasmodic (anti-pain!) qualities.
  • Anise and fennel teas are great for IBS-C, but they aren't part of a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Chamomile is soothing, but also not on the low-FODMAP diet.

Enjoy in Moderation

Hot drink options to enjoy in moderation include:

  • Coffee 
  • Espresso
  • Hot chocolate

It may be best to limit yourself to one of these per day. That way, you won't consume too many FODMAPs at a time.

Make your hot chocolate with water, not milk. If you want creamer in your coffee, try a milk alternative.

Best Adult Drinks

people drinking cocktails
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Alcohol can be a digestive irritant. But IBS doesn't mean you can't ever have a cocktail. If you're avoiding FODMAPs, you can have:

  • Beer
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey
  • Wine (red, white, or sparkling)

Limit yourself to no more than two in a day. Don't use high-FODMAP fruit drinks as mixers. Cranberry is the only low-FODMAP option.

If you can handle carbonation, you can mix your drinks with club soda.

Recap

Black, green, white, and herbal teas are good options. Switch to decaf varieties if caffeine bothers you. Some coffee and hot chocolate are okay. Use milk substitutes for creamer.

Stick to the list of low-FODMAP alcohol options. Have a maximum of two a day. Don't mix drinks with fruit juices other than cranberry.

Probiotic Drinks

kefir drinks
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Fermented drinks are a great option for IBS. They can improve the makeup of your gut bacteria, and theoretically reduce symptoms.

These products contain various strains of probiotics. Those are friendly bacteria that are good for gut health.

Kombucha is a fermented tea. Read the label and pick one without a high sugar content. Kombucha does contain a trace amount of alcohol.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. The fermentation process takes out most of the lactose, so it's fine if you're lactose intolerant. You can also find non-dairy options, such as coconut kefirs.

Many yogurt drink options are available as well. Be sure to read labels and avoid taking in too much added sugar. Choose those without high-FODMAP fruits.

Green Smoothies

Woman making a green smoothie
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Green smoothies are blended drinks with a mix of liquid(s), vegetables, and fruits.

To make one, you need a blender powerful enough to pulverize green leafy vegetables. Try blending the veggies with liquid before adding other ingredients.

Choose with low-FODMAP greens and fruits. Spinach is a nice mild green to start with.

Bananas add sweetness. Berries add great phytonutrients. (Avoid blackberries—they're high in FODMAPs.)

Add some nut butter, coconut oil, and/or half of an avocado for healthy anti-inflammatory fats. Chia seeds and/or ground flaxseed can help with IBS symptoms.

Good options for your smoothie liquid include:

  • Almond milk (small quantity)
  • Coconut milk (limit 1/2 cup)
  • Coconut water (3 oz. limit)
  • Kefir
  • Lactose-free milk
  • Rice milk
  • Water

Green Juices

green juice
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Green juices are made with a juicer. The machine wrings out liquid from fruits and vegetables.

Most of the pulp is left behind. That means there's less harder-to-digest insoluble fiber.

You can drink fruits and vegetables faster and in higher concentrations than if you ate them. That means you can quickly get an infusion of phytonutrients and IBS-friendlier soluble fiber.

Remember to choose low-FODMAP ingredients.

Recap

Fermented probiotic drinks, green smoothies, and green juices can be good options with IBS. Avoid high-FODMAP ingredients and excess sugar.

Water Is the Best Drink of All

Woman drinking water seaside

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Water is always your best choice. Every cell in your body needs it to function well. It's also good for staying hydrated.

Water is essential for optimal digestion, too. It helps your system break down, absorb, and move food along.

Drinking enough water is extremely important if you have chronic constipation. It keeps your stool moist enough to pass comfortably. If you don't drink enough, your body may pull liquid out of your stools and make them hard to pass.

It's also crucial if you have chronic diarrhea. Too much water is expelled in your bowel movements. That contributes to a state of dehydration.

To get enough water throughout the day:

  • Take a good long drink each time you fill it up, then top off the glass.
  • Carry a good glass, metal, or BPA-free plastic water bottle.
  • Always have water with you in the car.
  • Adding a little lemon juice makes it more interesting and helps with digestion.

Summary

When choosing drinks that won't aggravate IBS, avoid:

  • Carbonation
  • Lactose, if you're intolerant
  • High-FODMAP ingredients
  • Sugary drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • High amounts of caffeine

Good choices include:

  • Iced tea instead of soda
  • Milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk
  • Hot black, green, white, and herbal tea
  • Coffee and hot chocolate in moderation
  • Beer, gin, vodka, whiskey, and wine
  • Kombucha, kefir, and yogurt drinks
  • Green smoothies and green juices
  • Water

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does coffee cause IBS flare-ups?

    Yes, coffee can cause an IBS flare-up. High caffeine levels can increase stomach acid production. But most people with IBS can enjoy coffee in moderation.

  • How can I treat an IBS flare-up?

    To ease a flare, try:

    • Applying heat to the abdomen to soothe spasms
    • Drinking IBS-friendly teas to alleviate cramps
    • Practicing stress reduction strategies like breathing exercises and meditation

    To avoid future flare-ups, keep a symptom diary, learn your triggers, and follow your doctor's advice.

9 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.
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  2. Yang Q. Gain weight by "going diet?" Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(2):101-8.

  3. Xiong L, Wang Y, Gong X, Chen M. Prevalence of lactose intolerance in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: data from a tertiary center in southern China. J Health Popul Nutr. 2017;36(1):38. doi:10.1186/s41043-017-0113-1

  4. Monash University. FODMAPs and irritable bowel syndrome.

  5. Monash University. Low FODMAP diet.

  6. Bell V, Ferrao J, Pimentel L, Pintado M, Fernandes T. One Health, fermented foods, and gut microbiota. Foods. 2018;7(12):195. doi:10.3390/foods7120195

  7. El-Salhy M, Ystad SO, Mazzawi T, Gundersen D. Dietary fiber in irritable bowel syndrome (Review). Int J Mol Med. 2017;40(3):607-613. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2017.3072

  8. The FODMAP Challenge. Coffee and IBS: Here's what you need to know.

  9. Ford AC, Moayyedi P, Chey WD, et al. American College of Gastroenterology monograph on management of irritable bowel syndromeAm J Gastroenterol. 2018;113(Suppl 2):1-18. doi:10.1038/s41395-018-0084-x

Additional Reading

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.