5 non-food related IBS triggers.

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome often have a list of foods that can trigger uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal discomfort. This chronic disease affects between 10-15% of the population in the United States more commonly affecting women. In addition to foods, other factors and lifestyle choices can also trigger IBS symptoms.

Here’s 5 non-food related IBS triggers:


Certain types of prescription and over the counter medications can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, diarrhea or stomach cramping. Many antidepressants, antibiotics and even cough medications can trigger IBS symptoms. It is important to discuss options with your doctor before discontinuing prescription medication use because of IBS symptoms. In some cases your doctor may be able to prescribe a different drug, or a different form of the drug. Symptoms may be triggered by the drug itself, but they may also be triggered by the additives or something in the way the drug is prepared like the inclusion of sorbitol.

While not technically a food, alcohol can increase the likelihood of gastrointestinal symptoms through irritation and dehydration. The amount of alcohol needed for irritation and type of alcohol varies from patient to patient. In some instances, a single drink may be enough to trigger cramping and diarrhea, and in other instances more consumption may be needed before symptoms begin to appear.

Managing stress is a tough trigger for IBS patients, as it can sometimes be a vicious cycle. Stressful events or life circumstances can trigger symptoms and those IBS symptoms can then be perceived as a stressful circumstance by your body. The gut health component of managing stress is just as important as managing stress for overall health and wellness. Try exercising, meditating or finding other ways to reduce anxiety and calm stress.

Hormonal changes can affect the gastrointestinal tract, which means that menstruation and menopause can trigger IBS symptoms. IBS can also make menstruation symptoms worse, with increases in levels of pain, cramping and bloating. Changing your diet during this time to avoid foods that can cause gas or indigestion can help manage symptoms.

Eating too fast 

Eating quickly can be a sign that your body is stressed if you are rushing from one thing to the next. And while stress (as mentioned above) is an IBS trigger, so is poorly chewing and breaking down your food. By eating quickly, you are more likely to pull larger pieces of food into your digestive system which require more work from the body to break down, while also swallowing more air than you might if you were eating slowly.

Patients who experience irritable bowel syndrome have sensitivities that may not affect others without this disease in the same way. From lifestyle choices, to hormonal changes and diet, there are many IBS triggers that can be different for everyone. By working closely with your doctor, keeping a food or symptom diary and following a treatment plan, patients can learn to identify and avoid their triggers. Contact a gastroenterologist at Great Lakes Gastroenterology today for IBS symptom and trigger management.

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