Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): triggers and prevention

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal or bowel disorder which often involves recurrent abdominal pain combined with diarrhoea or constipation. Although IBS is quite universal, it tends to impact women more than men. In addition, IBS can occur at almost any age, even if the person has no history of the condition.

The syndrome can result in long-term complications since gut mobility, as well as functions, are severely affected by it. However, the symptoms of IBS can vary significantly. For example, while some people experience severe diarrhoea, others may face constipation. In certain cases, patients experience all symptoms alternatively.

Every individual with IBS encounters things that make their IBS flare up. These things are typically referred to as triggers. When one knows what their triggers are, they can make a plan to avoid them. Through this method, you can prevent the symptoms that come with IBS, like constipation, diarrhoea, belly pain and bloating. That being said, IBS is essentially different for everyone, so it is necessary to keep track of how you react to the most common symptom triggers while actively learning how to prevent them.

What Are the Symptoms of IBS?

IBS symptoms may vary depending on each individual and can range from mild to severe, and these include:

  • Cramps and abdominal pain
  • Gassiness or constant flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

What Are the Different Types of IBS?

Here is something that not many are aware of: there are different types of IBS. In fact, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is strongly categorised based on the type of bowel movements.

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C): 90% of your stool is hard and lumpy.
  • IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D): 90% of your stool is watery.
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): Your stool is a mixture of lumpy and watery at the same time.

1.      Diet Triggers for IBS Constipation (IBS-C)

The dietary triggers for IBS-C are:

  • Bread and cereal made with refined grains
  • Processed foods like chips and cookies
  • Coffee, carbonated/soft drinks, and alcohol
  • High-protein diets
  • Dairy products (products containing lactose)


It is recommended to incorporate fibre into your diet slowly. Add whole-grain products like bread, cereal, beans, fruits and more. Additionally, increase your intake of water.

2.      Diet Triggers for IBS Diarrhoea (IBS-D)

Dietary triggers for IBS-D are:

  • Excessive fibre
  • Food and drinks made with or containing chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fructose, or sorbitol.
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Large meals
  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Dairy products (especially for lactose intolerant individuals)
  • Foods with wheat (for people who are allergic to it)
  • Foods with gluten (for people who are allergic to it)


Try eating a moderate amount of soluble fibre since it is credited with adding bulk to your stools. You can incorporate good sources of fibre instead, like whole wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, oats, barley, brown rice, the flesh of the fruit (not the skin), as well as dried fruits. In addition to this, avoid eating foods at opposite temperatures, for instance, drinking a glass of ice-cold water along with hot soup. It is also essential to stay away from foods like broccoli, onions, and cabbage since they cause gas. You can also try eating in small portions while only drinking water before or after meals instead of drinking water between bites.

3.      Stress and Anxiety Triggers for IBS

Many do not factor in stress and anxiety when they are questioning why their IBS symptoms continue to get worse. According to experts, it is essential to avoid anxiety-inducing situations in order to prevent an IBS flare-up. Furthermore, a study concluded that the most common sources of stress are:

  • Work or conditions related to your work
  • Problems at home
  • Financial problems


It is vital to seek healthy habits like eating a well-balanced diet while exercising regularly. In addition, try getting 8 hours of sleep. You can also opt for behavioural therapy in order to learn methods to cope with your stress or anxiety.

4.      Drugs That Can Trigger IBS

There are a few over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that can worsen symptoms of IBS or even trigger constipation or diarrhoea. People with IBS may find that they experience worse symptoms when they take:

  • Antibiotics
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Medicine containing sorbitol, such as cough syrup

5.      Menstrual Triggers for IBS

Women are more likely to be diagnosed with IBS as compared to men. One of the dominant factors that contribute significantly to this is menstruation. As a matter of fact, women with IBS experience worse symptoms during their cycles. Although there is not much that one can do to prevent such symptoms, you can consider a few options to alleviate pain as well as discomfort during that time. For instance, consider going on birth control to get more regular periods. The more regular your cycle is, the more ease you will be in.

6.      Other Triggers

  • Eating while working or driving
  • Eating at a rapid pace or not chewing thoroughly enough
  • Chewing gum

Not exercising enough

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