Fatty foods and IBS

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you know how important changes to your diet can help control symptoms. In particular, research shows that the low FODMAP diet can reduce symptoms for many people with IBS. However, if you are following this diet very closely and still experiencing symptoms, then another diet change may be needed. Some people with IBS are sensitive to fatty foods. Let’s talk a bit about IBS and how you can cut fat from your diet to help control symptoms.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition of the large intestine where certain foods and drinks cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Such symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, as well as gas and bloating. Most symptoms can be controlled by diet, healthy lifestyle behaviors, and managing stress. However, some people may need medications to reduce symptoms.

Triggers of IBS symptoms

Symptoms tend to be worse during times of stress, menstrual periods, and when consuming foods that contain FODMAPs. FODMAPs, or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols can trigger IBS symptoms. Examples of such foods include wheat, cow’s milk and related food products, vegetables like asparagus and cauliflower, high fructose fruits like apples and cherries, as well as food products containing sugar alcohols like sorbitol.

Other foods and drinks that may cause symptoms of IBS symptoms that are not high in FODMAPs include carbonated drinks like colas or seltzer water as well as beer or wine. Alcohol should be limited to one standard drink a day, or about 5 ounce of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. This is because alcohol is an irritant to the gut. In addition to these beverages, research shows that spicy foods or caffeine may trigger symptoms in some people with IBS.

Fat and IBS symptoms

According to Monash University, research shows that about half of those with IBS studied had IBS symptoms triggered by fatty foods.  There are several theories of why this may be true. One theory suggests that fat ingestion slows down intestinal gas transport, in turn causing pain and discomfort.

Another theory reports that symptoms may be caused by an exaggerated gastrocolonic response, which causes slow contraction of the intestine.  Although there is no cause and effect theory confirmed as of yet, it’s suggested that those with IBS consume fatty foods with caution as they may trigger IBS symptoms.

Examples of fatty foods that may trigger IBS symptoms

Here is a list of some fatty foods that may trigger IBS symptoms in some. Not everyone will experience symptom triggers with such foods. Therefore, you and your healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian, should work together to figure out which foods are safe for you to eat or not if you are still experiencing symptoms with standard IBS treatments.

  • Fatty cuts of meat such as beef, lamb, or pork
  • The skin of poultry like chicken or turkey
  • High fat, low FODMAP dairy products such as cheese or butter
  • Oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, or vegetable oil, to name a few
  • Any foods cooked in fat such as fried foods, pan -fried meats, or other greasy foods

Take home message

The low FODMAP diet is a great way to help reduce symptoms in those with IBS. However, if you’re still experiencing digestive discomfort after following this diet, then you may need to cut out a few other foods from your diet. One such group of foods may be those foods containing a high amount of fat.

If you have trouble figuring out which foods are causing symptoms, be sure to visit a registered dietitian or a qualified gastroenterologist. They can help you identify the cause of certain symptoms and in turn improve your quality of life. For more information on gut health, be sure to visit the Casa de Sante website.


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