Kerry Withoos, Accredited Practising Dietitian


What cause Irritable Bowels?

People with Irritable Bowels or Irritable Bowel Syndrome appear to have an over-sensitive bowel. Symptoms can include bloating, wind, diarrhoea and/or constipation and pain. The cause of Irritable Bowels are unknown, however stress & dietary factors can certainly worsen symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowels?

Symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include nausea, heartburn, headaches, fatigue and mood swings.

Irritable Bowel Triggers:

Stress: Stress plays a significant role in Irritable Bowels and can be the sole cause of symptoms in some people. Worrying about symptoms creates a vicious cycle.

Food and drinks: Some foods and drinks stimulate the bowels which can make symptoms worse. Click on "read more" for common Irritable Bowel triggers.

Foods and drinks that have been linked to worsening Irritable Bowel symptoms include:

FODMAP Carbohydrates

Click Here for further information on FODMAPs


A low fat diet is important in the management of Irritable Bowel symptoms. High fat meals can cause painful cramping and loose bowel motions.


It is important to assess your tolerance to fibre. A very high fibre diet can actually worsen Irritable Bowel symptoms, whilst insufficient fibre can also have a negative impact. I can help assess your tolerance to fibre.


Many people remain symptom free when excluding large amounts of wheat from their diet including wheat based breads, cereals and pasta.


Caffeine can stimulate the bowels to contract and may worsen Irritable Bowel symptoms.


Some people find great relief from a low lactose diet. Small amounts of lactose are usually well tolerated, eg milk in coffee, however larger amounts of lactose such as a cup of milk, or a milk shake, may cause symptoms.


Fructose is one of the FODMAP carbohydrates and many people find great relief from reducing fructose in their diet. I can help assess your fructose intake.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods may stimulate the bowel to contract and will often worsen Irritable Bowel symptoms.


Alcohol, as with spicy foods, may stimulate the bowels and can worsen Irritable Bowel symptoms.

Sorbitol and other artificial sweeteners

Many people find great relief when reducing Sorbitol and artificial sweeteners in their diet. Sorbitol is added to foods and is found naturally in foods including apples, pears, cherries and stone fruit. I can help assess your sorbitol intake.

“Windy” foods

A high consumption of gas producing foods can worsen symptoms.