what can I eat?

The ‘Eatwell Guide’ provides evidence based guidance on healthy eating and the appropriate proportions of the five food groups we should eat to ensure a balanced diet is achieved which will help us remain fit and healthy. The groups are as follows: fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and other starchy carbohydrates; dairy and alternatives; beans, pulses, fish, meat and other proteins and oils and spreads. It also includes guidance on daily fluid consumption.

However, the sensitive guts of people with IBS may react to certain fruits and vegetables that contain poorly absorbed sugars, fats, wheat based cereals, dairy products, hot spice, coffee, and some high fibre foods, begging the question, What can I eat?  

It is still possible to eat a rich and varied diet while restricting foods that may upset your gut.

You just need to have a few guidelines: 

  • reduce your intake of onions and pulses (peas, lentils, and beans).
  • reduce your intake of apples and fruits that contain stones (citrus fruits are fine)
  • reduce your intake of milk to no more than half a pint a day, use lactose-free milk or supplement with calcium enriched plant milks.   
  • reduce high fat dairy foods
  • reduce your intake of fatty meat. 
  • avoid hot spicy food and caffeinated drinks. 


And drink well too

It is important to drink enough fluids during the day to keep you well hydrated, but you need to be careful of some drinks.  

Fizzy carbonated drinks can tend to cause bloating 

Coffee, tea and many ‘energy’ drinks contain caffeine, which may stimulate colonic spasms.

Alcohol can irritate the gut and may cause diarrhoea. Drink no more than two units per day and have at least two days a week off.  

Polyols. Sugar-free mints, chewing gum, flavoured water and other low calorie products may contain sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol, which can cause diarrhoea if too much is consumed.


Some advice

  • Use your symptom tracker to note whether any reactions occur when you eat a particular food.  To be sure the reaction should occur on three separate occasions before you restrict  it from your diet.  Take this record with you when you go and see your doctor.
  • Ask your GP to refer you to a state registered dietitian if you are struggling to make changes or if you are losing weight as a result of dietary restrictions.
  • Remember that your IBS diet is not a life sentence.  As your symptoms improve and you gain confidence, you can gradually build up the foods you have excluded , one group at a time,  to try to get back to a normal diet.
  • Make changes to your diet in a stepwise, planned manner and then you will be able to see if they have worked. Make the easy changes first.
  • The advice given in this section may not be suitable for young children with IBS. Parents will need to discuss theirs child’s diet with a state registered paediatric dietitian.

Cooking for IBS

With so many things that you have to restrict,  what can you eat without suffering the torment of gut upset or needing to put yourself on a diet that is bland and boring?  And how can you make sure you are getting all your essential nutrients?  You can’t rely on restaurants or ready meals unless you really study the ingredients.  Most chefs use lots of butter and cream, are generous with onion and garlic, and may use high fructose corn syrups. So to be sure, cook for yourself.  

our recipes

AND FOR OUR MEMBERS, Login or join and click on this link to find a series of simple recipes that are low in fat, low in FODMAPs, low in insoluble fibre and do not contain hot spice or other food substances known to upset a sensitive gut.

A new recipe will be added every month for our members. 

Or why not take a look at our selection of cookery books at our online shop?

But if you still find your diet too restrictive, bear in mind the following tips.

  • While you may be able to predict what will upset you from a knowledge of the composition of foods,  food intolerance also depends on context, memory and meaning (see Food and Mood).
  • Select the diet that suits you. Be in control.  
  • And even if you are sensitive to some foods, you do not need to exclude them from your diet. That could risk nutritional deficiency.
  • Everybody can tolerate modest amounts of all the foods on the restricted list and adjustments can be made as a result of your own experience.   
  • And remember, the sensitive gut will not tolerate too much food. Eat to comfort and if this means that you can’t eat a lot at each meal, eat little and often.

More information

BDA Food Fact Sheet IBS (bda.uk.com)
Link to Freelance Dietitians.  http://www.freelancedietitians.org/
To see our recipes, follow this link


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