You’re Making Your IBS Worse With These Bad Habits

Consuming Processed or Fast Foods We all know fatty and fast food isn’t good for us, but it doesn’t mean we always avoid it altogether. But… Monica Gray - March 11, 2024

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is an intestinal disorder that causes pain in the stomach, with bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Unfortunately, IBS can affect anyone, and there might not be any clear cause or reason they have IBS. But there are certain things in our diet that can aggravate IBS and make it worse. Typically, they’re things we normally wouldn’t think about. But cutting out spicy foods, alcohol, and carbonated beverages might just help your IBS in more ways than you think.

The Ridge Ohio

Excessive Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

We all know excessive drinking isn’t good for you, but do you know why? Alcohol and caffeine can irritate the digestive tract and exacerbate symptoms of IBS. When you’re drinking coffee in the morning and then a glass of wine in the evening, you might be doing your body harm. Both substances can stimulate bowel contractions and increase intestinal motility, leading to diarrhea or abdominal discomfort.

It’s recommended to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks. It may help reduce gastrointestinal distress in individuals with IBS. You’ll know if alcohol and caffeine are one of your IBS triggers if you feel bloated or cramping after consuming these beverages (Virtua).


Inadequate Hydration

It’s well-known that being dehydrated causes a host of problems. But it’s especially true if you suffer from IBS. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of IBS such as constipation and abdominal discomfort. This is because it leads to hard, dry stools and difficulty passing bowel movements. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, and not only to keep your IBS at bay.

Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, and consider incorporating hydrating foods such as fruits and vegetables into your diet. You also need to increase your fluid intake if you’re having a bout of diarrhea since you could lose a lot of electrolytes and hydration (ACRIPC).

Gastro Florida

Stress and Anxiety

Even though well-known triggers include caffeine and alcohol intake, another, less obvious trigger is stress and anxiety. The gut-brain connection plays a significant role in gastrointestinal health, and heightened stress levels can exacerbate IBS symptoms or trigger flare-ups. If you’re feeling stressed, you might feel it in your gut. That’s your IBS talking to you!

It’s important to keep stress and anxiety at bay, to limit your IBS symptoms. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or regular physical activity can help manage stress and improve overall well-being. According to Livi, “Stress and anxiety can activate the central nervous system, which in turn releases hormones that affect digestive processes in your gut and may cause diarrhea, constipation, gas or discomfort.” It’s essential to identify sources of stress and develop coping mechanisms to minimize their impact on gastrointestinal health. (Livi).

IBS and Gut Health


Another one on this list is obvious: smoking. We all know how bad smoking is for you. But if you’re someone who suffers from IBS, it’s particularly bad. This is because smoking has numerous adverse effects on gastrointestinal health and can exacerbate symptoms of IBS. It’s full of toxic chemicals that are bad for your heart, gut, brain, and liver.

Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can irritate the digestive tract, increase inflammation, and disrupt bowel function. According to GI Doctors, “Nicotine results in an over-production of stomach acid and decreases the production of sodium bicarbonate, resulting in a significant worsening of certain IBS symptoms. Smoking can also increase the chances of developing peptic ulcers and the chance of ulcers perforating goes up by as much as 10 times.” Quitting smoking is crucial for overall health and may alleviate symptoms of IBS in individuals who smoke (GI Doctors).

Samuel Fink

Sedentary Lifestyle

Getting enough exercise is very important for longevity. Sitting for too long is bad for your gut! It’s important to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, even if that’s just walking, cycling, yoga, or swimming. But a sedentary lifestyle isn’t just bad for your health, it can make your IBS worse. Bowel function lessens when you’re sitting for too long, which affects IBS symptoms.

This is because a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to digestive problems and worsen symptoms of IBS. Regular physical activity helps stimulate bowel movements, improve digestion, and reduce bloating and gas. According to Bonum, “One study suggests that too much sitting can even have negative impacts on our gut microbiome, which refers to the levels of bacteria that populate your gut. The study goes on to say that this resulting dysbiosis (improper balance of gut bacteria) can lead to intestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac Disease (CD), inflammatory bowel disease, and more.” Incorporating movement into your daily routine can promote gastrointestinal motility and alleviate symptoms of IBS (Bonum).

Lloyds Pharmacy

Irregular Eating Patterns

It’s never a good idea to skip meals or eat at random times throughout the day. This can put shock on your body and make your IBS, and metabolism in general, a lot worse. Also, skipping meals or eating irregularly can disrupt the digestive system and exacerbate IBS symptoms. This is because irregular eating patterns can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which you’ll notice if you’re sensitive to these changes.

However, these blood sugar shifts will trigger symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Establishing regular meal times and eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can help stabilize digestion and alleviate symptoms. Waiting too long between meals might also cause you to eat more on the next meal, which is another factor with IBS triggers. Additionally, chewing food thoroughly and eating slowly can aid in proper digestion and reduce discomfort in your IBS symptoms (Goodness Me).


Poor Dietary Choices

Eating well will lessen the chances of having bad IBS symptoms. Diet plays a significant role in IBS management. Certain foods can trigger symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Common triggers include spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners.

It’s important to know exactly what triggers your IBS. If there are certain foods you know trigger your symptoms, then it’s important to stay away from them. Additionally, some individuals with IBS may be sensitive to gluten or certain types of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs. Also, cooked vegetables might be easier to consume than raw vegetables, which might trigger IBS. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet. It’s essential to identify and avoid trigger foods and instead focus on a well-balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains (Bad Gut).

Well Good

Eating Spicy Foods

Even though you might love spicy food more than the next guy, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Spicy food might be the worst thing you can consume for your IBS. According to U Chicago Medicine, “those consuming spicy foods greater than or equal to 10 times per week were 92 percent more likely to have IBS compared with those who never consumed spicy foods.”

If you’re someone who can’t eat spicy food, it might be a good idea to cut it out of your diet completely. It could be triggering your indigestion, thus making your IBS symptoms much worse than they need to be (U Chicago Medicine).

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Consuming Carbonated Beverages

While drinking a carbonated beverage might soothe some stomachs, it makes people with IBS symptoms have worse stomach pain. If you’re sensitive to carbonated beverages, drinking them might make your IBS flare-ups worse, as it can cause bloating and gas. This goes for carbonated water too. You might be better off leaving them out of your diet if you’re prone to pain after drinking them.

They produce a fizzy effect in the GI tract, similar to the carbonated drink itself. And don’t replace those carbonated drinks with juice, either, because juice has fructose which can also cause an IBS flareup (Hopkins Medicine).

Allied Digestive Health

Consuming Artificial Sweeteners

If you’re someone who loves artificial sweeteners but notices pain right after, it might be time to cut them out. They can trigger IBS symptoms and make them worse. This includes sugar-free sweeteners like artificial sweeteners, alcohol sugars, and natural non-calorie sugars such as stevia.

According to Healthline, “Sorbitol and xylitol are two common types of sugar substitutes that have been linked to abdominal cramps and diarrhea from IBS.” You’ll find these artificial sweeteners in sugar-free desserts, candies, and gums. While Stevia might be okay for some people with IBS, it might not work for anyone else (Healthline).

Bays Kitchen

Eating High-Fat Dairy Products

Because high-fat dairy can lead to diarrhea, doctors suggest cutting it out completely if you’re someone who suffers from IBS. Milk might trigger your symptoms or worsen them. To help reduce your symptoms, it’s recommended to choose low-fat or nonfat dairy, or nondairy products altogether.

In large quantities of dairy, your IBS, like cramping and bloating, might get a lot worse. According to Bays Kitchen, “Some people have lactose malabsorption – this means they don’t make enough of the lactase enzyme. So, when they consume large amounts of lactose, they’re unable to fully digest it, and it travels through the gut triggering symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and gas. We call these lactose-related symptoms ‘lactose intolerance.” Luckily, there are tons of alternative options that won’t trigger your IBS symptoms (Bays Kitchen).

Total Scope

Consuming Processed or Fast Foods

We all know fatty and fast food isn’t good for us, but it doesn’t mean we always avoid it altogether. But it’s a good idea to avoid them if you’re prone to IBS symptoms. The slow food trend is definitely one that people with IBS should look into.

According to Greatist, “Fat slows digestion, and that can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, nausea, acid reflux, and stomach pain. Minimize or avoid greasy foods like pizza, french fries, fried chicken, and fatty meats.” If you’re someone who loves munching on these greasy foods, especially late at night, it’s time to cut them out. Not only is eliminating these foods good for your health, but it’s good for your gut, too (Greatist).

Very Well Health

Eating Too Much Fiber Too Quickly

While fiber is good for your body, too much of it too quickly is bad, especially if you’re someone who suffers from IBS. Numerous symptoms come with eating too much fiber too quickly, and that includes diarrhea, bloating, gas, cramps, and stomach pain.

According to Medical News Today, “The USDA recommends that adults consume around 14 g of fiber for every 1,000 calories of food they eat. For someone eating around 2,000 calories a day, this will mean eating about 28 g of fiber.” If you’re someone who suffers from IBS, it’s a good idea to keep track of your fiber intake (Medical News Today).

Very Well Health

Eating Large Meals

Even though eating meals at consistent times per day is good for you, eating meals that are too big will trigger your IBS. It’s important to keep a food journal to keep track of your meals and what you’re eating, so you don’t rush them, eat too much, or incorporate food that might trigger your IBS symptoms.

According to GoodRx, “Your meals are more likely to trigger IBS symptoms if they are rushed, large, sporadic, and chaotic. Making intentional choices about when, how, and how much you eat at each meal may make a huge difference in your post-meal symptoms.” Try to chew your food thoroughly and don’t rush through swallowing your food. It’s also important to not eat too close to bedtime. Leave at least two hours between your last meal and bed to ensure proper digestion and don’t trigger your IBS symptoms (Good Rx).

The IBS Dietician

Consuming Excessive Amounts of Sugar

Sugar, especially white sugar, is not good for you. This holds a ton of truth if you’re someone who has IBS. It’s important to cut out as much sugar as possible if you have IBS symptoms.

According to Healthline, “When you consume sugar your small intestine releases certain enzymes to help digest it. The molecules are then absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream where they can be used for energy. It’s thought that a lack of enzymes needed to digest sugar may trigger symptoms of IBS.” Cutting out sugar is not only good for your gut, but it’s good for many other parts of your body, like your mental clarity and energy levels. Common sugar that triggers IBS symptoms includes sucrose and fructose (Healthline).

The Telegraph

Eating Raw Fruits and Vegetables

It’s always recommended to eat cooked vegetables instead of raw fruits and vegetables if you have IBS. According to Very Well Health, “There are a few reasons why raw veggies could contribute to IBS symptoms: Fiber. When you eat raw veggies, your digestive system breaks down the food components. The tough fiber in veggies (cellulose) is not broken down and the “roughage” can irritate the digestive tract as it passes through.”

If you can, always opt for steamed vegetables. If you eat fried vegetables full of oil, this will trigger your symptoms and might cause upset stomach and bloating. Simpler, blander food is always a better option (Very Well Health).