IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Triggers and Prevention

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

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Quick GuideIBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diet, Treatment

IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diet, Treatment

What foods in the diet trigger diarrhea in IBS?

  • Several foods may play a role in developing diarrhea in people with IBS. Major categories of foods that are thought to contribute are those that contain fats (fatty meats, fatty dairy products, for example). Each individual is slightly different and may respond differently to food types. Consequently dietitians and health care professionals who treat people with IBS often suggest that they keep a journal or diary to track those foods that cause diarrhea.
  • Some foods that trigger diarrhea do so because they are ingested in large quantities; for example, a bite of a banana may not cause diarrhea, but eating a whole banana in some people with IBS may trigger diarrhea.
  • Other foods that contain high levels of fructose, sorbitol (often found in chewing gum), and fried foods may also trigger diarrhea.
  • Broccoli, onions, cabbage and large helpings of beans may produce gas and increase the discomfort of diarrhea.
  • Probiotics may help reduce the symptoms of diarrhea and gas in some individuals.

Are stress and anxiety triggers for IBS?

Stress and anxiety may be triggers for IBS and the development of recurrent symptoms. Chronic stress experienced early in life (less than age 18) may increase the chances of developing IBS. Moreover, people diagnosed with IBS can have stress or anxiety trigger IBS symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, mucus defecation and /or feelings of incomplete bowel movements.

What drugs trigger IBS?

Some drugs can trigger IBS symptoms resulting in colonic spasms, constipation and/or diarrhea. Such drugs include antibiotics (especially those administered over a long period of time), antidepressants, and medicines containing sorbitol (for example, some cough syrup preparations).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/22/2016

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  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Constipation

    If you have IBS-related constipation, what are the triggers? What dietary changes have you made?

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  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Diarrhea

    Do you get IBS-related diarrhea? Discuss the triggers and dietary changes you have made.

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  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Stress and Anxiety

    Does stress or anxiety trigger your IBS? What changes have you made to alleviate these triggers?

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  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Other Triggers

    Discuss the things that trigger symptoms of IBS and ways you try to prevent recurrences.

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