Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gluten Sensitivity

Many people with irritable bowel syndrome experience an adverse reaction when consuming foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. For some, gluten can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea, and this can be very uncomfortable for those already suffering from IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity do not always go hand in hand, but their symptoms can be very similar.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the digestive system. IBS is a chronic condition, and the exact cause is unknown, but there are ways to help control and manage it. Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fullness
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

What are common signs of gluten intolerance?

woman sitting while holding her stomach from gas and bloating pain from IBSAs we mentioned, gluten intolerance is characterized by having an adverse reaction to foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, cereals, cakes, bread, and beer. If you have irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity, the signs you experience may exacerbate. Those signs of gluten intolerance include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

As you can see, the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity are very similar. Taking note of the foods and beverages you consume that trigger these symptoms can be helpful to see what you can try temporarily removing from your diet to see if it helps.

What foods irritate IBS the most?

Since every person’s body is different, foods that may trigger IBS symptoms for one person may not impact another. It may be helpful to eliminate certain gluten-related foods to see how you feel and if symptoms are lessened. Some of the foods that seem to irritate IBS the most include:

  • Bread and cereals made with refined grains
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • High-protein foods like fatty processed meats
  • Processed foods like chips and cookies
  • Carbonated drinks, including alcohol
milk cheese and breads that may irritate irritable bowel syndrome

What is the best diet for irritable bowel syndrome?

Your meals should fit your taste, lifestyle, and overall nutritional needs. You should try a few plans to find what is right for you. Some of those diets to consider include:

Gluten-free green stamp to look for when looking for a diet to manage irritable bowel syndromeGluten-free diet

Remove consumption of wheat, rye, and barley. Look for labels on foods that say “Certified Gluten-Free.”

High-fiber diet

chia pudding in a glass with raspberries and blueberries can help with irritable bowel syndrome symptomsInclude high-fiber foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, prunes, and chia seeds to get things in the digestive tract moving along. It is suggested that adults consume 25-31 grams of fiber per day.

Low-fat diet

Green leafy vegetables, lean meats, and lean poultry are low in fat and excellent choices for nutrition. High-fatty foods tend to be lower in fiber as well.

Nutritional shakes

Osmolite 1.5 Cal Complete Nutrition ShakeTrying nutritional meal replacement shakes may be helpful if you have a busy lifestyle. Since IBS affects the gut, it can lead to malabsorption and food intolerances. Nutritional shakes can help soothe the gut while providing the required calories, vitamins, and nutrients. Many nutrition shakes contain minimal ingredients, including fiber, protein, antioxidants, and minerals the body needs. People with IBS can benefit from these ready-to-drink nutritional shakes since they are easy to digest, taste great, and keep the body full for extended periods.

Try steering clear of foods that are high in sugar, fatty, processed, or made with unrefined grains.  These foods can further complicate your symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity. Almost all fruits and vegetables and fresh fish and meats are low in fat and gluten-free. Keeping an eye on labels can help determine if something is high in fat and gluten-free.

older female patient going over her irritable bowel syndrome lab results with Asian doctorMake sure to talk to your doctor

You can take a 5-question quiz to learn more about your IBS symptoms and what you should talk to your doctor about. You can download or email your summary report, and you and your doctor can devise a treatment plan.

The takeaway

Irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity symptoms can be very similar, and by eliminating certain foods, you may be able to determine if you have one, the other, or both. Sharing your signs and symptoms with your doctor is essential to devise a diet and treatment plan. It may take experimenting with various diets to find what works for you.

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