How to Identify IBS Trigger Foods - dummies

How to Identify IBS Trigger Foods

By Carolyn Dean, L. Christine Wheeler

An IBS trigger may also be described as food sensitivity. There are many different symptoms of food sensitivity, including headaches and achy joints that don’t even seem to affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. You may be treating such symptoms with prescription medications when simple food avoidance can bring you permanent relief.

An intolerance is an inability of the natural digestive processes to break down a food substance, leading to symptoms. Lactose intolerance and fructose intolerance are two examples. An allergy, on the other hand, is a condition wherein an immune system response causes antibodies to be released in response to a particular food.

A food sensitivity is another designation of your body rejecting a food. It doesn’t necessarily show up on allergy tests, and the most common way to diagnose it is to do food avoidance and challenging.

Know the top five trigger foods

Knowledge is power. Many IBS sufferers would prefer to remain in denial than admit that their favorite treat was causing some of their IBS symptoms. But knowing the top trigger foods gives you power over your diet and food intake, and some simple substitutions can be a treat for your taste buds while calming your colon.

The top five foods that trigger IBS are

  • Dairy

  • Wheat

  • Sugar

  • Fructose

  • Insoluble fiber

The most common reaction that IBS sufferers have when told to avoid dairy or wheat or fruit (a source of fructose) is disbelief. How can the staff of life (wheat) or the milk you were raised on be bad for you? And apart from the forbidden apple, fruit is usually considered a healthy snack.

However, in the context of IBS you may not be able to digest these foods to a degree where your body is comfortable with them, meaning they gang up on your intestines and cause problems that you may not even recognize.

Listen to your body

People become so accustomed to having burpy, gassy, churning reactions to everyday foods that they don’t even consider that these foods may be contributing to IBS. So you don’t listen to the sounds your gut is making because you really don’t want to admit that you’re having a reaction.

Become accustomed to hearing and feeling the signs and signals that your body is giving you and become more aware of the impact of food on your system.

Here’s a comprehensive list of food sensitivity symptoms, courtesy of the Food Intolerance Institute of Australia.

  • Respiratory symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, asthma, ear infections, snoring, sleep apnea, pneumonia, bronchitis

  • Immune system symptoms: Catching colds and infections easily, mouth ulcers, yeast fungal infections

  • Neural (nervous system) symptoms: Poor coordination, clumsiness, headaches, migraines, depression, memory problems, intellectual difficulties, dementia

  • Skin, hair and nails: Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, hives, rosacea, rashes, hair loss, split and cracked nails, poor complexion, dandruff

  • Metabolism problems: Moodiness, weight gain, weight loss, chills, thyroid disease, cravings, addictions

  • Musculoskeletal symptoms: Stiff muscles or joints, tendonitis, arthritis, bone thinning, bone fractures, osteoporosis

  • Malabsorption: Extreme tiredness and lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, vitamin deficiencies, iron deficiency, anemia, calcium deficiency

  • Gastro symptoms: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, esophageal reflux, stomach ulcers, bowel cancer

  • Genital and reproductive symptoms: Vaginitis, urinary tract infections, infertility, difficulty conceiving, miscarriage

You’re looking for signs like these not because you’re a glutton for punishment but so you can avoid the particular food combinations that resulted in such symptoms the next time.

Make a food diary

If your memory seems to get conveniently wiped out after every IBS food attack, record the events surrounding your meal in a food diary. Write down your observations as close to the event as possible so that they’re fresh in your mind.

Describe the symptoms and discomfort in detail so that you’re also aware of other triggers like stress, exhaustion, and tension. Otherwise, you may just blame the food and end up limiting your diet unnecessarily.

If you eat out a lot, use a small notebook that you can carry around in your pocket or purse. If it’s not handy, you won’t use it. On one side of the page, list everything you eat and the time you eat it. On the other side, record whatever symptoms arise during the day along with the time.

When reviewing your food diary, you’re looking for patterns; you may be surprised to find a correlation between what you eat and how you feel. In the case of lactose intolerance, your symptoms may come after two hours or even as soon as 30 minutes after eating. If constipation is your symptom for lactose intolerance, you may not notice it until you get up in the morning and your usual arising BM never arrives.

Identifying a food allergy, sensitivity, or food intolerance can be exciting, because there’s an implied promise that if you stop eating certain foods that could be bothering you, you have a good chance of dumping your IBS symptoms.

Ask your ancestors

You don’t just inherit genes from your ancestors; you inherit their food choices, eating habits, and recipes as well. In addition to inheriting your mother’s eyes, you may also have inherited her intolerance for certain kinds of foods. Take a few moments to think about what food-related issues have been handed down through the generations in your family.

The most common inherited reaction to food is celiac disease, which is an immune system response triggered by the consumption of gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and often contaminating oats. Even though many members of one family suffer gastrointestinal symptoms, they may not even know they have celiac disease.

Sometimes it takes a very inquisitive person determined to get to the bottom of his symptoms to solve the puzzle for the whole family.