What Foods Trigger IBS-D?

Wish you could just go out for dinner without worrying about your meal choice leaving you running to the toilet? You’re not alone. If you’ve got IBS-D, you’ll know this feeling all too well. BUT, I promise you that your wish of a running-to-the-toilet free dinner can come true.

By figuring out what’s triggering your IBS-D, you can take control of your gut.

By knowing the things that are going to leave you running to the toilet, you can calmly navigate that restaurant menu and choose your meal in confidence. Then you can actually just look forward to catching up with your friends over dinner…as you should be.

Here are 6 common triggers of loose stools in people with IBS-D. As you read through them, you’ll probably get an idea of which ones might apply to you. If there’s some you’re not sure about, I recommend doing a food and symptom diary for a week to help you spot links between these 6 triggers and your symptoms.

(If you’re nodding along with all this but you don’t know what the heck IBS-D is, it’s a sub-group of IBS. You’ll be classed as having IBS-D if your main symptom is diarrhoea, and about 1/3 of IBS sufferers have this type, so it is not uncommon. Find out more about IBS and it’s sub-types here.)



Caffeine speeds up the movements of your gut, making everything move through it more quickly, which can trigger bowel movements. Therefore, it can be a trigger for IBS-D.

Try swapping to tea or decaf. If you’re a big coffee drinker and that seems a step too far for you, start by giving up all caffeine after midday (that’s normally the easiest place to start) or having one shot instead of two.



Fatty foods (even good fats, like avocado and olive oil) are a common trigger for IBS-D. Fatty foods speed up the contractions in your gut that move food along your digestive system, which can trigger pain and the need to poo…quickly!

So, try to avoid fried, rich foods where you can. Instead of creamy sauces, takeaways, fish and chips, tempura, pizzas and fatty meats go for tomato based sauces, opt for grilled over fried, use less oil when you’re cooking and go for leaner meats like chicken.

If you’re eating lots of healthy fats, try thinking about having one source of fat per meal rather than lots together in one meal, e.g. rather than having avocado, olive oil and nuts in one salad, pick one.



Chilli peppers contain capsaicin, which is the thing that makes your eye burn when you touch it after you’ve been chopping chillies. It has that effect when it touches the inside of the gut too and it speeds up gut motility, which can cause pain and loose stools.

Try swapping to milder options when you eat out and avoid using chilli in your cooking. Try other spices to add flavour, like turmeric, ginger and black pepper - you don’t have to settle for eating bland food!



Although everyone talks about how great fibre is (which it is!), too much can be a bad thing if you have IBS-D. Fibre helps to sweep waste through the digestive system by speeding up the movements of the gut. Therefore, it can trigger loose stools for people with IBS-D. So, if you have IBS-D, you might benefit from reducing your fibre intake.

Try swapping from whole grains to lower fibre cereals and grains (e.g. go for white rice, bread and pasta) and avoiding skins and peels on veg and fruit (these are the parts that contain the most fibre).


If you think you’re doing your body good by eating ‘low fat’ and ‘diet’ foods, think again. These foods could be the cause of your IBS-D. That’s because they contain lots of artificial sweeteners. By that, I mean anything ending in ‘ol, e.g. sorbitol, xylitol, as well as things like sucralose and aspartamine. Check out the ingredients list on those ‘diet’ foods and you’ll probably notice a few of these. These artificial sweeteners contain FODMAPs (which we’ll talk about later) which aren’t absorbed well in your gut, so cause diarrhoea.

Try swapping fizzy drinks for iced tea or cranberry juice, and swapping from low fat products to their full fat alternatives..just have a little bit less if you’re conscious of your weight. If you love adding sweeteners to drinks, try natural sugar alternatives instead, like Stevia, Lakanto, maple syrup or honey.


FODMAPs are groups of sugars that aren't properly absorbed by the gut, so can trigger IBS-D. They are found in a huge variety of foods, even healthy ones. Within those groups of sugars, fructose, sorbitol, lactose and mannitol are the most likely to trigger IBS-D as they attract water into your small intestine, which speeds up your gut movements. This can result in loose stools.  

Consider trying the low FODMAP Diet, which is a type of elimination diet that cuts out foods containing FODMAPs. You then gradually reintroduce these foods, group by group, to work out which foods are triggering your symptoms. The end goal is to learn what foods your gut is sensitive to, so you can choose to avoid those and improve your gut symptoms for life! Research shows that around 75% of people with IBS who try the diet see an improvement in their symptoms and it’s particularly beneficial for those with IBS-D. Click here to learn more about the low FODMAP diet.


By figuring out what’s triggering your IBS-D, you know what foods you need to avoid and can take control of your gut.

6 IBS-D Triggers:

  1. Caffeine

  2. Fried and Fatty Foods

  3. Spicy Foods

  4. Too Much Fibre

  5. Low Fat and Diet Products

  6. FODMAPs

If you’re not quite sure which of these foods might be triggering your IBS-D, try a food and symptom diary this week. It’ll help you to draw connections between these things and your symptoms.

Do you think any of these foods are triggering your IBS-D? Let me know in the comments below.

If you suffer from other symptoms like heartburn, pain, bloating or gas as well as loose stools, download the IBS Triggers Checklist - it’s FREE. It’ll give you 20 things that could be triggering all of your IBS symptoms. Download it here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and letting me be a part of your journey in taking control of your gut, eating well and living your life.

Sophie x

Sophie BibbsComment