Common Triggers for IBS

April is IBS Awareness Month. Canada has a higher rate of IBS estimated at 18%, compared to 11% globally. Although there is a lot we still need to learn about IBS, several triggers have been identified.

  1. Stress and Emotional Factors: While it’s commonly known that stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms, the extent to which emotional factors affect the condition can be surprising. Anxiety, depression, and other emotional stressors can lead to flare-ups of IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation. The gut-brain axis, which involves communication between the gut and the brain, plays a significant role in IBS. Stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and therapy may help in managing symptoms. 
  2. Food Intolerances Beyond FODMAPs: The low-FODMAP diet is often recommended for managing IBS symptoms, as it involves avoiding certain types of carbohydrates that can trigger gastrointestinal distress. However, some individuals with IBS may also have sensitivities to other foods that are not typically associated with FODMAPs. These can include gluten, dairy, caffeine, spicy foods, and even healthy foods like certain fruits and vegetables. Keeping a food diary and working with a dietitian or healthcare professional to identify trigger foods can be beneficial.
  3. Medications and Supplements: Certain medications and supplements, even those not directly related to digestive health, can exacerbate IBS symptoms in some individuals. For example, antibiotics can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin can irritate the digestive tract and worsen symptoms. Additionally, some supplements, such as iron or magnesium, may cause gastrointestinal upset in sensitive individuals. It’s essential to discuss any medications or supplements with a healthcare provider to determine if they could be contributing to IBS symptoms and explore alternative options if necessary.

These unexpected triggers highlight the complex and individual nature of IBS, underscoring the importance of personalized approaches to management and treatment. Working closely with healthcare professionals and implementing lifestyle modifications tailored to individual needs can help in identifying and managing triggers effectively.

At Sage, we have a team of experienced practitioners that focus on IBS including Naturopathic Doctors, therapists, dietitians and nurse practitioners. If you would like to learn more about how you can improve your IBS symptoms, book a free discovery call here.


Dr. Rahima Hirji, ND
Naturopathic Doctor, Clinic Co-Owner
Sage Naturopathic Clinic

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