Smorgasbord Health – IBS Part Three – Identifying Trigger Foods

This is the process that I used successfully for myself originally 20 years ago and also with my clients since then.. It may seem a real pain to keep a food diary and to pay so much attention to what you are eating, but it will pay off when you have either reduced your IBS symptoms or discovered the cause of the disease.

Intermittent Fasting.

In the last couple of years there has been a lot of press about Intermittent Fasting. The theory behind the concept is that by restricting your eating to within certain time periods that it gives your body a chance to process your food efficiently and also to rest the major organs active in the digestive system.

There are a couple of choices. You can have two days a week where you only have 500 calories during the day with fluids and then you eat normally for five days (by normally I do mean a balanced diet). Or you can do what I do and that is eating within an 8 hour window every day.

I have lost weight, regained my appetite, and I have lost my sugar cravings. This of course does not mean you have a free licence to eat anything you like.. But you can still have a pizza or a night out once or twice a week provided the rest of the time you are eating with Cook From Scratch firmly in place.

As to IBS symptoms.. After a year I can now have the occasional home baked or fresh made bread from the in house bakery in the store once or twice a week. I enjoy a glass of wine or gin and tonic at the weekend and I can enjoy most things as long as it is not a regular feature.


As I pointed out in the other posts on IBS, stress has been recognised as a contributory factor in the condition.  When you are keeping your food diary it is important to also make a note of out of the ordinary events or activities that resulted in an increase in symptoms.

Programme to identify your food triggers that result in IBS symptoms.

WEEK ONE – The aim is to reduce inflammation and cramps and increase intestinal flora.

Grains are all out for the first week. You will be getting sufficient carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit. You will start to re-introduce from week two, one grain at a time.

Dairy is out for the first week – you will introduce butter week two, milk week three and cheese week four. Calcium will come from vegetables, canned fish etc. If you can abide the taste of organic soymilk then fine but make sure no added sugar!  If you have symptoms after using a dairy alternative stop taking.

No alcohol for six weeks or any other processed packets, cans or bottles of sauces of any kind including mayonnaise.

One coffee per day in the morning but note any intestinal symptoms 30 – 60 minutes after eating. The oil content in caffeinated coffee can cause diarrhoea so try decaffeinated. Tea – black without milk – Green tea – very good and peppermint tea – great for spasms and cramps.


Vegetables – for first week or two avoid cabbage or cauliflower as nutritious but can increase wind. At least five a day of spinach, broccoli, watercress, Rucula lettuce, courgettes, leeks, onions, (every day) mushrooms (shitake are excellent) garlic (fresh if possible) carrots, parsnips, swede, potatoes, butternut squash (carbohydrates), tomatoes, (see how you feel the next day as pips in tomatoes can cause a problem if you suffer from diverticulitis), red peppers, peeled cucumber, half an avocado per day. Flavour with a little olive oil and herbs or spices. Balsamic vinegar with some olive oil and herbs makes a good salad dressing.

Fruit –At least two per day – bananas (helps both diarrhoea and constipation) oranges, lemons, apples, pears, grapes, berries of all kinds, plums, melon. Avoid dried fruit in week one.

Meat and poultry – any unprocessed Lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, beef, and duck. Eggs any way you wish. If you are not using milk you can still make scrambled egg and omelettes by whisking the whites first. Use the microwave or a pan with a little olive oil.

Fish – at least three times a week. –Salmon fresh and canned (mash the soft bones in for added calcium) tuna, sardines, halibut and any other fish. Give shelled fish such as prawns, crab and lobster a miss for week one and two and then introduce one a week.

Oils – Standard Olive oil or sunflower for all cooking and extra virgin olive oil for dressings – mix with herbs and spices like garlic to drizzle over jacket potatoes and salad. Do not fry with olive oil alone, add some sunflower oil and do not burn.

Examples of meals.

Breakfast. Water on rising or juice of a lemon in hot water – leave at least 30 minutes before eating if you can.

Spanish omelette with two eggs, chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onion (chop the night before and keep in fridge)

Fruit salad with fresh pressed juice on top.

Poached egg on spinach with half an avocado.


Homemade vegetable soup – no stock but you can add seasoning and salt. For example butternut squash and carrot – if you can find a fresh made soup without sugar and preservatives then go for it.

Large salad with egg, avocado tinned salmon or sardines with chopped potato and balsamic dressing.

Jacket potato with drizzle of olive oil and a tin of tuna or salmon.


Meat, fish or chicken all fresh – green vegetables – carrots and potatoes – use olive oil and herbs and spices over the vegetables.

Snacks between meals.

Fruit, nuts and seeds.

If at the end of week one you are still experiencing severe symptoms drop the fruit and repeat week one.


You can introduce oats every other day – porridge with a banana and a small cup of whole milk. You can also put a dash of milk in your tea and coffee. No more than 250ml per day. If you symptoms worsen drop the milk and stay with the oats.


You can introduce corn and brown rice – corn tortillas and substitute every other meal with two tablespoons of brown rice.

You can also start to use some butter to drizzle over vegetables etc.


Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower (check for increase in symptoms). Also a couple of ounces of cheese every other day.

You can introduce rye – Ryvita will add some variety to snacks and lunches.


You can introduce wheat again – try reduced sugar Irish soda bread – one slice per day. It is at this point that you want to pay particular attention to your symptoms over 48 hours. If you notice an increase you are probably gluten intolerant which means that certainly for the conceivable future you need to only eat gluten free products. Gluten is not just in bread of course, it is in many processed foods and meats such as sausages and in sauces.

You can have good quality yoghurt every other day. Note any increase in symptoms.


You can introduce whole grain pasta – make simple sauces from scratch like tomato and basil etc.

You can have a glass of red wine three days apart – watch for increase in symptoms.

By now you should be very aware of how your body and more importantly your intestines are reacting to the food you are eating. This is not a weight loss exercise although those who are overweight will lose some but those who have been starving themselves out of desperation will put it on.

As I mentioned earlier – you can extend each phase to two weeks. The key is to make sure that you keep an accurate record of both food intake and symptoms.


There is a huge debate as to the effectiveness of supplements. You should be now getting most of which you need to obtain the necessary nutrients but there are a few that I find very useful in speeding up the process.

Peppermint capsules Peppermint tea is great an hour after you have eaten, but I find that two peppermint capsules after breakfast help with cramps and digestion in general. However, in some people peppermint can cause symptoms so note any of these. Also be careful of over the counter IBS medication as they nearly all have peppermint.

Acidophilus capsules at least 3billion active cultures. This helps give your intestinal bacteria a kick start. They are quite expensive and good quality is vital. Take as directed but I have found that 2 per day to start with, after breakfast and dinner are helpful. You can drop this to one a day after a period of time. (see Part Two that tells you which foods are high in natural probiotics)

Aloe Vera gel this is highly nutritious and provided you begin slowly you may find it will help with symptoms, reduce the cramping and give you a boost. I start with a teaspoon a day before breakfast and graduate up to a dessert spoon twice a day over a two week period. After that you can increase to the recommended dosage on the product. I take through the winter months as I find it a great help when I am not getting any sunshine. You should be able to find a local agent but most have online shops who supply Forever Living which is about the best quality.

Multi-vitamin supplement-If you are suffering from a basic nutritional deficiency then do go to one of the larger health food chains and ask their advice regarding the best multi-vitamin that they have. You want one that is yeast and sugar free and liquid might be best to get you started rather than demand your overworked intestines try to process anything else. The liquid will also be absorbed faster and easier.  As I get older and particularly through the winter months I find that taking a B-complex supplement helps me.

So those are the basics.

Six to twelve weeks to perhaps discover the one or two foods that might be the cause of all your misery. A time to rest your digestive system and encourage your healthy bacteria in your gut and also stimulate the natural muscular activity to restart.

I hope that you will find that this is not a starvation programme but one that you can enjoy, experiment with and learn how what you eat does impact your health.

Having improved your symptoms – you may well have to make minor adjustments going forward – it might be gluten free – sugar reduced – dairy alternatives – but all are worth the price if you are free of symptoms and stress. If there are foods that will always cause you a problem you will find that there are many that will not. A small sacrifice to have the freedom from the symptoms of IBS.

On that note, as you begin to feel better and have the urge to exercise, find something that enables you to relax and be calm – leave the marathon running and the extreme sports for a while!

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to comment here or contact me privately through my About Me on the blog.

Here are Part One and Part Two of the series.

12 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health – IBS Part Three – Identifying Trigger Foods

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health – IBS Part Three – Identifying Trigger Foods | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Pingback: The Saturday Round Up – Specific guests, random thoughts and jocularity | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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