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How To Deal With Foods That Trigger IBS Attacks

Dr Stephen Wangen
May 28, 2024

I’ve gotten a lot of comments from you on my videos telling me that many of you think that I don’t want you to eat anything and that I’m telling you that just about all foods trigger IBS attacks. It can certainly feel that way now, but once you get things sorted out it won’t be that way.

However, I haven’t done a very good job of telling you why that is, so I’m going to do a better job here of explaining the difference between the foods that trigger IBS attacks and what causes IBS.

Once you have IBS, lots of foods can then trigger an IBS attack. But the thing that caused your IBS is different and simpler than the things that are now triggering your IBS attack.

Let me give you an example. Coffee is frequently cited as a trigger for IBS. And lots of places will tell you to avoid coffee if you have IBS. Coffee can be a digestive irritant. And if your digestive system is already compromised by something else, then coffee is more likely to bother you. And you might find that it causes you digestive problems.

coffee is hardly ever the cause of your IBS

But coffee is hardly ever the cause of your IBS. And I very rarely tell my patients to avoid coffee. And that’s coming from me, someone who doesn’t even drink coffee.  And why don’t I tell people to avoid it?  Because it’s not what we want our patients to focus on. We want you to focus in on why you are susceptible to IBS attacks, which we help you sort out, not avoiding everything that could potentially trigger one.

Because once you get the kind of care that allows you to focus on what is making you susceptible to IBS flare ups, then you can heal up and get better, and you don’t have to avoid coffee. Because coffee will no longer cause your IBS to flare up, because you won’t have IBS.

There are bigger fish to fry, so to speak, than avoiding coffee.  

Speaking of frying things, the same this is true, for example, with greasy or fried food. It can certainly trigger your IBS attack. But rarely is it the cause of your IBS. Greasy or fried food is simply hard to digest when you digestive system is compromised. So we don’t tell patients to avoid that either, even though you hear about avoiding greasy foods when learning about things that can cause your IBS to flare up.

And the same is also true for spicy foods. They can irritate you and trigger an IBS attack, but they usually aren’t the underlying cause of your IBS.

So I encourage you to make a clear distinction between something that triggers an IBS flare up, and the true underlying cause of your IBS.

So what causes IBS?

I said that the cause is simpler and easier to define. And that is true once you figure out what the cause is, but finding the cause isn’t simple.

For example, the most common treatment right now is the low fodmap diet. That might give you some relief, but it is not addressing the cause of you IBS. It’s focusing on trigger foods, not causes. You didn’t suddenly become susceptible to high fodmap foods. The reason that you have problems with high fodmap foods is the same reason that you have problems with spicy food, or greasy food, or caffeine. It’s because you haven’t found the cause of your IBS yet.

There are just as many causes for IBS as there are triggers for IBS attacks. And although the information on triggers for IBS attacks is fairly generic from one person to the next, the underlying causes for what is making your digestive tract susceptible to those triggers is very different from person to person.

That is why you can’t just watch a video and figure out the underlying cause of your IBS. And why the information online is so generic and won’t cure your problem. And why you are still looking for answer. Because it’s a lot easier to make general assumptions about what is going to trigger your IBS to flare up than it is to figure out what is really causing you to have IBS.

The causes are the things that have made your digestive system weak. The causes are the things that compromise your digestive tract, making you susceptible to all of those triggers that you read about. It’s why you can’t tolerate spicy foods, or greasy foods, or coffee, etc. and why other people can.

Is it still confusing?  It can get really confusing trying to understand the difference between a trigger for an IBS attack and a cause for IBS. Even gastroenterologists don’t appreciate this and aren’t taught the difference in medical school. Which is why they give everyone the same generic approach, and why it isn’t very successful.

And it’s why I created the IBS Treatment Center. Because It’s a specialty that requires special expertise.

That is why you need an IBS Specialist. Because a true IBS specialist will help you peel back the layers of this condition until you get to the core cause. And then you will know exactly what is causing your IBS, and you can truly heal.  

This is a lot more productive than avoiding all of the possible triggers that can cause your IBS attacks. Because once you heal, those other things will no longer be triggers. And we know that because we see it every day at the IBS Treatment Center.

If you’d like more help figuring out your IBS, give us a call now at 206-264-1111. We work with people all over the US and the world via telemedicine, and we’d love to work with you too.

Related Content:

What Foods Trigger IBS Attacks
Essentials of Inflammation Ep. 1
Essentials of Inflammation Ep. 2
Essentials of Inflammation Ep. 3
Essentials of Inflammation Ep. 4
Essentials of Inflammation Ep. 5


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