When food can send you rushing to the toilet or cause griping abdominal pain, it can be easy to develop a negative relationship.

Those with IBS often have to avoid certain triggers, so eating out or cooking can be tricky. But once you have a better understanding of your triggers and are controlling your symptoms, it is possible to learn to enjoy food again,

To finish off our self-care week campaign focusing on patients’ experience of IBS, the leader of our Leeds support group, Matt, talks about his feelings towards food, how they’ve changed over time, and the importance of balance.


Food is such an integral part of life so when you find yourself restricted in what you can eat it can be quite a challenge to overcome. Like many other people with IBS, I have stood looking blankly at supermarket shelves wondering what on earth I can eat without making my IBS symptoms flare up.

Daunting, frustrating and downright depressing is what could quite reasonably sum up my feelings towards food at times on my IBS journey. I think one of the most frustrating aspects of IBS and food is finding that it can be the healthier foods that can cause the most issues.

I can recall quite vividly switching to wholemeal bread to ensure my diet was as healthy as possible only for my IBS to get steadily worse over the following months. What I wish I’d known earlier! Having always enjoyed fruit and vegetables, I can honestly it was dispiriting at times to realise that these can often cause the worst symptoms for me.

I know from experience it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut with food: “I can’t eat that”, “That” will trigger my IBS” are phrases I’ve heard frequently and are probably sentences I’ve uttered myself on occasion.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Of course, there are foods that are going to cause havoc with your digestion, and I’m sure some of you’ll know exactly what the culprits are. It might be your favourite food, and it’s very much your decision, your choice, if you decide to “treat yourself” to it from time to time.

Remember it’s not about all or nothing. Like so many other aspects of IBS, it’s about balance. There are some foods that will cause you problems. For me, onions stand out as something that even a small amount will leave me feeling uncomfortable. It’s not the end of the world if I do eat some — I’m just very aware of it when I do.

Don’t be put off from trying foods that you think have caused you trouble previously — you might well be able to tolerate a small amount now. And I think that’s the key: I’ve learnt not to become fixated on a small number of foods. It’s important to have variety in your diet, but just remember all in moderation and take time to relax.

Take time to enjoy your food and don’t rush to gulp it down like so often we find ourselves doing. Food and mood is crucial to managing my IBS successfully and realising that you can still love food even with IBS.