3 Summertime Foods That May Trigger Your IBS Symptoms
Summer is such a wonderful season, isn’t it? Time with loved ones, outdoor activities, and enjoying the sunshine before the long winter hits again… it’s truly a season for fun and relaxation.
But of course, things are never so simple for those of us suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)! Despite our best laid plans to enjoy the sunshine, we are often left running to the toilet or in constant fear of flare-ups. Does that sound familiar?
In today’s blog post, we will give you the information you need to help you face the season with confidence! Our team has rounded up the most common summertime triggers for those struggling with IBS or uncomfortable digestive symptoms. And we’ll share exactly how to navigate summer festivities so you can indulge without discomfort or worry!
Fruit is a staple in summer, and for good reason! It’s ripe, refreshing and sweet, and there are so many delicious seasonal varieties to choose from.
As tasty as it is, fruit can aggravate symptoms for many individuals depending on the variety eaten and the quantity consumed. This is because fruit is often high in fermentable carbohydrates called FODMAPs, which commonly contribute to uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, distention, gas and abdominal pain for those with IBS. Some examples of high FODMAP fruits to avoid include peaches, cherries, watermelon, blackberries and mango.
How to enjoy fruit with IBS
The good news is that even with IBS, you can absolutely enjoy fruit in summer! Simply employ these strategies to learn how to savor seasonal fruits without triggering your symptoms.
1. Know your fruits. The Monash FODMAP App is a great resource to start getting to know which fruits are high in FODMAPs, and which fruits and considered safe. Avoid the lists of FODMAP foods available online, as they can quickly become out-of-date as new research on FODMAPs emerges. The Monash FODMAP App is the best resource for up-to-date data on FODMAP foods.
2. Be aware of portion size. Many fruits are only high in FODMAPs in certain amounts. For example, ⅓ cup of blueberries is low in FODMAPs while 1 cup of blueberries is high in FODMAPs. Utilize the Monash FODMAP App to learn about safe portion sizes. And more importantly, it’s critical to learn your specific triggers as everyone’s body is unique. Consider working with a specialized digestive dietitian or in an evidence-based program like Clairity for support in this process.
3. Eat mindfully. Even when consuming low FODMAP fruits, we recommend sticking to ½ cup serving size at a time. Consuming large amounts of fruit in one sitting can trigger symptoms. When possible, avoid mindlessly eating fruit from a shared platter, as it often leads to overconsumption. Instead, grab yourself a plate, prepare an appropriate serving size, and enjoy!
Ah, alcohol. It can feel difficult to avoid at this time of year. But it’s important to address it.
Real talk: alcohol is not great for IBS. Let’s start with addressing FODMAPs. The interesting thing about alcohol is that there are certain varieties that are considered low in FODMAPs. All of the beverages listed below have been found to contain minimal levels of FODMAP sugars, which commonly exacerbate symptoms for those with IBS.
However, regardless of its FODMAP content, alcohol is still known to stimulate the gut. Although the research specifically linking alcohol and IBS is limited, it is well understood to impact the motility and function of the gut (1). In other words, any alcohol has the capacity to worsen symptoms for those suffering from IBS.
How to enjoy alcohol with IBS
The best approach for alcohol is to minimize it as much as possible. It may not be realistic for you to cut it out completely, but reducing consumption can still considerably improve symptoms. Here are some strategies to help you approach alcohol with confidence:
1. Stick to safe limits. Consume alcohol in moderation. This means 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. One drink can be defined as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits (1). Consider also including 2 alcohol-free days per week.
2. Avoid high FODMAP alcohol. Until you are confident in exactly what beverages do and do not trigger your symptoms, avoid high FODMAP alcohol. This would include rum, sticky wine and coolers. Working with a digestive dietitian or in a step-by-step program like Clairity is a great way to get clear on your triggers so you can develop confidence in your food and beverage choices.
3. Drink slowly and stay hydrated. Adequate hydration is needed to maintain a comfortable gut function. Alcohol is considered a diuretic, which contributes to dehydration. To combat this, drink alcohol slowly throughout the day and be sure to drink water between sips.
Ice cream is such a delicious and fun summertime treat! But unfortunately, it may worsen symptoms of IBS for a few different reasons.
First of all, ice cream is high in the FODMAP sugar lactose, which may irritate the gut in many individuals with sensitive digestive systems. Secondly, it is high in fat. Large meals and meals that are high in fat commonly worsen digestive symptoms for those with IBS (2). Additionally, newer varieties of low calorie ice cream made with alternative sweeteners may contain potential triggers in the form of high FODMAP polyols.
How to enjoy ice cream with IBS
For all of these reasons, ice cream is a food to approach with caution! But for many, it may not need to be avoided entirely. Here are some simple strategies to help you enjoy ice cream without causing a flare-up.
1. Consider lactose-free varieties. One of the most important steps in learning how to approach ice cream is determining whether you are lactose intolerant. Not everyone with IBS is lactose-intolerant, so it’s important to work with your physician for an official diagnosis. You may also consider working through all 3 phases of the low FODMAP diet to determine your exact tolerance levels with lactose by joining a program like Clairity. If you find you cannot tolerate lactose at all, there are many lactose-free varieties available on the market!
2. Keep portions in-check. Whether you’re consuming regular ice-cream or lactose-free, keep portion sizes to about 1/2 cup. As noted above, ice cream is high in fat and can aggravate the gut in large amounts.
3. Take caution with low-calorie ice cream. Be careful with low-calorie ice cream brands, as they make contain potential FODMAP triggers within the alternative sweeteners used. An appropriate time to test your tolerance with these specialty ice creams would be in phase 3 (individualization) of the low FODMAP diet.
Before You Go
IBS can make eating feel complicated and frustrating. I know exactly how you’re feeling, because I have suffered just like you. I hope this blog post has helped clear some confusion so you can stop worrying about your symptoms and focus your attention on the experiences and people that are most important in life.
In the Clairity Digestive Program, we help you learn how to confidently make food and lifestyle choices that help you sustain long-lasting relief. Our evidence-based process will guide you through finding your triggers and expanding your diet so you can adopt sustainable behaviors that leave you feeling like yourself again. If you’re done feeling confused about food and symptoms and you’re ready to finally find relief, email us. We would love to support you.
If you have any questions or if you’d like more free resources and strategies for IBS, please connect with us on Instagram.
Enjoy your summer, friends! Until next time,
Nutrition Communications Manager
Clairity Digestive Program
- Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients! World J Gastroenterol. 2017 Jun 7;23(21):3771-3783. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771.
- Unlock Food [Internet]. Canada: c2019. Irritable Bowel Syndrome; 2017 Aug 9 [cited 2019 July 3];[about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Digestion-Digestive-health/Irritable-Bowel-Syndrome.aspx