The Top 8 Foods for Managing IBS Symptoms, According to a Dietitian

Including more of these in your diet can ease your gastrointestinal distress.


12/14/20224 min read

grilled fish, cooked vegetables, and fork on plate
grilled fish, cooked vegetables, and fork on plate

The Top 8 Foods for Managing IBS Symptoms, According to a Dietitian

For the estimated 10% to 15% of Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), finding relief from their symptoms can be an ongoing challenge. IBS can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, significantly impacting one's quality of life. However, many individuals can manage their symptoms through proper dietary adjustments.

A registered dietitian at Bucket List Tummy, Sarah Schlichter, M.P.H., RDN, recommends a low-FODMAP diet, also known as the "IBS diet," for individuals diagnosed with IBS. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed and can trigger digestive symptoms. By following a low-FODMAP diet, one can limit the consumption of foods high in these compounds.

In this article, we will explore the top eight foods for IBS recommended by a registered dietitian to help manage symptoms effectively.

Pictured Recipe: Lemony-Garlic Pan-Seared Salmon

Photographer: Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

The Best Foods for IBS

1. Salmon

Registered dietitian Sarah Schlichter, M.P.H., RDN, suggests that salmon and other fatty fish are rich in unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming oily fish like salmon and sardines has been shown to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms, according to a 2019 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Aim to have at least two 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week. You can try these easy-to-make Garlic-Butter Salmon Bites.

2. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are low in FODMAPs, making them unlikely to cause bloating or digestive issues. They also contain a high water content and are packed with fiber, which promotes healthy digestion. Moreover, bell peppers are an exceptional source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, and protects the gut lining. Incorporate various colors of bell peppers into your diet, such as red, yellow, and green. You can start with these delicious 3-Ingredient Bell Pepper & Cheese Egg Cups.

3. Lean Meat

While beans can irritate people with IBS, lean cuts of meat can provide protein and essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, and B vitamins. It's important to choose lean cuts of meat and limit processed meats like sausage and bacon, which can aggravate the gut and cause inflammation.

4. Avocado

Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins. They are also low in FODMAPs, making them a suitable option for individuals with IBS. Avocados provide ample nutrition and healthy unsaturated fats that help with inflammation.

5. Eggs

Eggs are a nutritious option for individuals with IBS as they are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin B12 and iron. They are low in FODMAPs and can be easily incorporated into meals. Eggs can be enjoyed for breakfast or dinner, such as in our Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas & Spinach recipe. Eggs provide a ton of nutrition while being generally safe for IBS symptoms.

Related: Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs: What's the Difference?

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6. Sweet Potatoes

According to Schlichter, sweet potatoes are considered a top superfood for everyone. They are not only rich in vitamins A, C, fiber, and antioxidants, which help manage inflammation, but they can also be prepared in various delicious ways. Sweet potatoes are low in FODMAPs, making them an excellent choice for those looking to alleviate their symptoms. For a delightful change, you can try the mouthwatering Stuffed Sweet Potato with Hummus Dressing.

7. Spinach

Leafy greens like spinach and collard greens are packed with fiber and are low in FODMAPs, making them a valuable addition to your meals for reducing inflammation and promoting gut health. Schlichter recommends adding spinach and other leafy greens to sandwiches or creating grain or salad bowls around them to ensure you receive essential micronutrients without experiencing adverse symptoms.

8. Kiwi

Another flavorful food that aids in alleviating symptoms of IBS is kiwi. Kiwi contains a unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, which can reduce abdominal discomfort and improve bowel movement consistency, according to a 2018 review in the European Journal of Nutrition. Schlichter states that kiwifruit is high in soluble fiber and is a low-FODMAP fruit, making it potentially helpful for individuals with indigestion, bloating, or other IBS symptoms. You can enjoy this gut-friendly fruit by preparing a refreshing Kale & Spinach Smoothie.

Additional Tips for Managing IBS

In addition to incorporating the mentioned foods into your diet, here are some extra tips for managing IBS:

  • Mindful Fiber and Water Intake: Schlichter advises being mindful of your fiber and water intake. While fiber is beneficial for digestion, it's important to find the right balance. Increase your fiber intake gradually and ensure you're drinking enough water. The daily recommendation for fiber is 25 to 34 grams, depending on age and sex. You can find more information here.

  • Include Probiotic-Rich Foods: Certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces, may be particularly beneficial for individuals with IBS, as indicated by a 2022 review in Cureus. While yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh are good sources of probiotics, Schlichter suggests considering a supplement if you want to notice a difference.

  • Manage Stress: Schlichter notes that IBS flare-ups can be triggered by stress. Learning stress management techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, balanced meal consumption to stabilize blood sugar levels, or regular exercise can help prevent flare-ups. Additionally, a 2023 meta-analysis in Stress & Health revealed that managing stress can provide short-term relief from GI symptoms in individuals with IBS.

Related: 6 Ways Stress Can Mess with Your Digestion

In Conclusion

Managing IBS symptoms can be a challenge, but the food you consume can have a significant impact. Incorporating these recommended foods into your diet can help you effectively manage your symptoms. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients that reduce inflammation and promote healthy digestion for optimal gut health. Alongside incorporating these foods, other strategies to reduce IBS symptoms include practicing stress management, avoiding trigger foods, and being mindful of your fiber intake. With the right dietary and lifestyle changes, relief from IBS symptoms is possible.

Related: 4 Natural Home Remedies for an Upset Stomach, According to a Dietitian.

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