For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food can be a source of discomfort. While each IBS patient is different, with a wide range of potential food triggers, there are some foods that are more likely to cause symptoms in the average individual.

A recent study from France1 set out to analyze which dietary patterns, rather than individual foods, were associated with an increased risk of IBS. The study authors used data from a web-based prospective observational cohort. Respondents filled out questionnaires pertaining to socio-economic, lifestyle, health status, diet, and physical activity by completing a baseline response in 2009, and continuing to fill out the survey yearly.

The researchers grouped together foods to create three distinct dietary patterns, which they termed ‘healthy’, ‘western’, and ‘traditional’. The healthy pattern contained plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes, unsweetened beverages, and vegetable fats, but included less meat, processed meat, alcoholic beverages, milk, and sweetened beverages. The western diet was made up of fat and sugary products, sweetened beverages, salty snacks, fruit and vegetable juices, sugary cereals, starches and sauces, and contained low amounts of vegetables, dairy products, fruits, fish and seafood, poultry, and eggs. The traditional pattern was consistent with a traditional French diet, which is rich in bread, meat, processed meat, alcoholic beverages, cheese, potatoes, animal fat, poultry, sauces, organ meat, and starches, but doesn’t contain many sugary cereals and whole grains.

After sorting the questionnaire respondents with IBS by the dietary pattern they most closely follow, the researchers found that certain diets were more likely to be associated with IBS. Those who followed a western dietary pattern had the highest rates of IBS, and those who followed the healthy diet had the lowest rates. Interestingly, the traditional diet was associated with an increased risk of IBS in women, but not in men. These results confirm previous findings, which often show that diets high in fatty and processed foods are more closely related to increased IBS rates than healthier diets.


First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 203 – 2017
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1. Buscail C et al. Western Dietary Pattern Is Associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in the French NutriNet Cohort. Nutrients. 2017;9(9).