Irritable Bowel Syndrome Food Triggers

Holiday Foods to Avoid if You Have IBS


Relief Report 022: 5 Most Common Holiday Triggers

Relief Report 022: 5 Most Common Holiday TriggersTo get clear on your Triggers, download our checklist here

Posted by Stephanie Clairmont, RD on Wednesday, December 20, 2017


If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, identifying your food triggers is the key to getting you on your way to feeling better and learning what you can eat to manage your symptoms. Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers are foods that cause digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements. Symptoms don’t always show up right after a trigger food is consumed. If you foods that are Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers for you, symptoms might not show up until the next day! This will depend on how fast or slow your digestive system works. Everyone’s a little bit different. And just like our systems all work a little bit differently, we can also have completely different food triggers! That’s right, not all people with IBS can react to the same foods! That’s why I’m not a fan of those lists of foods to avoid and foods to include if you have IBS, because while they might work for some people, they will be completely off for others, and there is no sense in cutting out more foods than is absolutely necessary to get you to a symptom-free place!

The first step if you’re looking to improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or another digestive disorder or disease, is to understand more about the Low FODMAP diet and if it can help. Download my free eBook to help you better understand this diet and get started implementing simple steps to get rid of symptoms like gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea or constipation related to IBS. Click here to get a copy emailed to you right away.

Whatever stage you are at in your journey, whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been working on trying to figure out your triggers for a long time, the same strategies you use everyday might need a little bit of tweaking over the Holidays. There seems to be a few foods we consume more of around this time of year, and some habits we engage in more often that can really trigger those digestive symptoms, especially diarrhea, constipation, urgency and bloating. Not only are these symptoms unpleasant, but they will really keep you from enjoying yourself over the Holidays if you’re always feeling uncomfortable or you’re stuck in the bathroom. Not good!

Wherever you find yourself celebrating over the Holidays, whether it be with friends, family, or at work, here are the 5 most common Holiday Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers to avoid to help keep you feeling your best this Holiday season.

Holiday gift and hot chocolate


Eggnog is a major Holiday symptom offender for two reasons: dairy and fat. Dairy is a common trigger for lots of people who struggle with IBS because it is easily fermented in the gut. Eggnog is also high in fat. Any food or drink that is high in fat can be harder to digest, so these are typical Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers. Fat isn’t a problem, you need to keep some in your diet! But, the key is to have small amounts at a time and to avoid consuming a meal or drink that is high in fat in a short amount of time. If you’re a big fan of eggnog, there are a few dairy free alternatives available now that may be a better option for you, like an almond milk based eggnog that is completely dairy free and will also be lower in fat.



Fruit platters tend to show up everywhere this time of year. They are a great healthy option to have around when feeding a crowd, but if you have IBS, fructose (the sugar found in fruit) can be a food trigger for you. The situation with fruit is similar to fat – you can have some, it’s just when we overdo it that it can become a problem. And overdoing it becomes that much easier when we are mindlessly picking away at a fruit tray over the course of a few hours. It’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten! My best tip is to stick to a half cup serving of fruit. This will allow you to enjoy the taste, get a few vitamins and nutrients and a little fibre without running into problems with symptoms. Instead of grazing all afternoon or evening, try grabbing a plate and taking your ½ cup serving of fruit so you know how much you should be limiting yourself to. Once it’s gone, you know you’ve had enough. It’s best to leave 3-4 hours between eating for good digestion anyways, so sticking to that routine instead of snacking throughout the day during the Holidays will also help keep your symptoms under control.  

Candy canes

As tasty as they are, candy canes and other Holiday treats can also be Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers if you have IBS. They can be full of high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners which can cause some really uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Everyone’s tolerance of these types of foods is a little different – some people may be able to tolerate more treats than others. So, you may be able to have a candy cane or a cookie without a problem, in which case you should definitely enjoy these treats! But remember not to overdo it. It might not be until the next day that the effects of your Holiday indulgences show up, so it’s best to err on the side of caution even if you are feeling good. One option I recommend is to make your own safe treat at home and bring it along to share with everyone! 


I know you might not love this one, but alcohol is a big Irritable Bowel Syndrome food trigger. Why? Because alcohol is a gut stimulant! It makes our digestive systems work more quickly which means diarrhea and urgency often result from alcohol consumption of you have IBS. No fun at all! Again, everyone’s tolerance will be different. Some people may be completely fine if they keep it to just one drink, while others will experience lots of symptoms, so you need to get to know how your body responds. Some people are just better off without any alcohol at all. They might not always be quite as fun, but remember, mocktails and other non-alcoholic festive drinks are an option to help keep your symptoms to a minimum.



Last but not least, dips are another common Holiday food trigger culprit I see time and time again with my clients. We don’t tend to eat so many dips on an everyday basis, but when all those fruit and veggie and cracker trays come out over the Holidays, they tend to be served with dip! And all those dips are FULL of potential Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers, mainly onion, garlic, beans (I’m looking at you, spicy hummus), and dairy. It’s best to avoid these dips altogether, or if you can, just keep it to a small taste.


Identify Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome Food Triggers

Whether it’s the Holiday season or any other time of year, putting up with digestive symptoms can really get in the way of you doing the things you want to, comfortably and happily. I know because I was there at one point in my life too! I struggled with my IBS symptoms for years before I said enough is enough.

The work I do with my team in the CLAIRITY program is all about helping you identify your individual Irritable Bowel Syndrome food triggers. You need a customized plan to help you get to that place we all want of being symptom free and loving life again! I know you can do it! I’m here for you, to support you every step of the way, whenever you’re ready my friend.


Wishing you much love & wellness,



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