Different Drink Options for When You Have IBS

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

However, certain drinks may contain dietary components that can set off your IBS symptoms. Find out your best options for quenching your thirst or sharing a drink with friends without fear of aggravating your system.

Soft Drinks

glass of iced tea
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Sodas aren't a great option because the carbonation puts you at risk for excessive gassiness, which can irritate your IBS. Although skipping sodas might be a hardship if you like them, you may be doing your overall health a favor in the long run.

Regular soda has extremely high levels of sugar, which has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Diet soda has also been linked to weight gain, and it is 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 home-made iced tea in your refrigerator. When dining out, ask for unsweetened iced tea. You can add a small amount of sugar (not artificial sweeteners), as low quantities should not cause unwanted symptoms.

Milk Alternatives

glass of rice milk
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Many people who have IBS are lactose intolerant. Thus, it might be better to try some alternatives in your cereal, smoothies, or wherever else you enjoy milk.

Here are your best choices:

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

Even if you have not identified yourself as lactose intolerant, lactose is considered to be one of the fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), which are carbohydrates associated with contributing to IBS symptoms.

Soy milk is not a good option for people with IBS as it has been found to be high in FODMAPs.

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 considered to be low in FODMAPs. Choose decaffeinated tea if you find that caffeine is a digestive irritant for you.

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas offer some additional soothing benefits:

  • Peppermint is the winning choice with its antispasmodic (anti-pain!) qualities.
  • Anise and fennel teas are great for anyone with IBS-C, but not necessarily for someone on a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Chamomile is nice and soothing, but also not appropriate for someone 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 drink per day to reduce the risk of consuming too many FODMAPs at a time. Also, pay attention to what you are adding to your drink. You would be best avoiding regular milk and using one of the previously discussed milk alternatives.

Best Adult Drinks

people drinking cocktails
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Although alcohol can be a digestive irritant, IBS doesn't mean you can't ever have a cocktail. Thanks to the researchers at Monash University in Australia who have tested various spirits for their FODMAP content, you should be able to enjoy any of the following drinks:

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

Limit yourself to no more than two in a day. Don't mix your drinks with high-FODMAP fruit drinks. Cranberry seems to be the only low-FODMAP option. You can mix your drinks with club soda if you can tolerate the carbonation.

Remember, don't drink and drive.

Probiotic Drinks

kefir drinks
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Fermented drinks are a great option for IBS because they will help to improve the makeup of your gut bacteria, which will theoretically help to reduce your symptoms. These products are prepared in such a way that they contain various strains of probiotics, those friendly bacteria that are so good for gut health. 

Kombucha is a fermented tea. When choosing a kombucha, read the label and try to pick one without a particularly 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 and so it should be fine for a person who is lactose intolerant. However, there are non-dairy options, such as soy and coconut kefirs.

There are now many yogurt drink options available as well. Just be sure to read labels so as to avoid taking in too much added sugar. You will also have to watch to be sure that the yogurt drink does not contain high-FODMAP fruits.

Green Smoothies

Woman making a green smoothie
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Green smoothies are blender drinks that include a mix of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy ingredients. To make a green smoothie, you need a blender powerful enough to chop up green leafy vegetables into a drinkable consistency. You may find it easier to blend the vegetables with your liquid first before adding other ingredients.

To make a green smoothie that won't aggravate your IBS, start by choosing low-FODMAP greens and fruits. Spinach is a nice mild green to get you started. Bananas add some sweetness, while berries (not blackberries which are high-FODMAP) add great phytonutrients.

You can add in some nut butter, coconut oil, and/or half of an avocado for some healthy anti-inflammatory fats. Another nice addition is chia seeds and/or ground flaxseed, both of which can be of help for IBS.

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 prepared with a juicer, a machine that wrings out the liquid from fruits and vegetables, leaving most of the pulp behind. Theoretically, green juices can be very helpful for IBS as the machine removes the harder-to-digest insoluble fiber.

In addition, juicing offers you the health benefits of a quick infusion of phytonutrients and IBS-friendlier soluble fiber. When you juice, you are benefiting from the fact that you can drink your fruits and vegetables much more quickly, and at greater amounts, than you can eat them.

If you choose to try juicing, you may want to start by choosing low-FODMAP fruits and veggies.

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 water to function optimally. Most people tend to walk around a little too dehydrated, so be sure to drink plenty of water all day long!

Water is essential for optimal digestion. Water helps your system to break down, absorb, and move food along during the whole process of digestion.

Drinking enough water is also extremely important if you suffer from either chronic constipation or diarrhea. Water is needed to keep the stool moist enough for comfortable passage. If you don't drink enough water, you run the risk of excessive water being pulled out of your stools, leading to challenging-to-pass hard stools.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you suffer from chronic diarrhea, too much water is being expelled in your bowel movements, thus contributing to a state of dehydration for the rest of your body.

Here are some tips for getting in your water as you go through your day:

  • Take a good long drink of your glass each time you fill it up and then re-fill the glass to the top.
  • Treat yourself to a nice glass or BPA-free travel water bottle.
  • Always have water with you as you are driving your car.
  • Add a little lemon juice to your water to make it more interesting and to help to optimize digestion.
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Article Sources
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  1. Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Controlling Symptoms With Diet. Updated November 7, 2018.

  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

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