What drinks are best for IBS?

The 6 Best Drinks for IBS (and Which to Limit)
Nutrition
Gut Health
Written By:
Gaby McPherson MS, RDN, LDN

When it comes to dodging IBS flare-ups, being mindful of what’s in your cup is vital. If you’ve sentenced yourself to solely drinking water to manage your IBS symptoms, know that it doesn’t have to be this way!  The truth is, you have options for drinks you can enjoy. Drinks for IBS can help keep you hydrated and help you avoid gassiness, bloating, and cramping that other drinks may cause. Read on to find out the best drinks for IBS and the drinks to avoid to ensure you’re giving your body the best chance for healthy digestion and freedom from unwanted symptoms. 

What are the Best Drinks for IBS?

If you are a person with IBS, you might be familiar with the low FODMAP diet, which stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols. FODMAPS are a group of small carbohydrates that your intestines can’t digest or absorb.  For people with IBS, the movement of FODMAPs through the digestive tract can trigger pain, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. Though research continues to emerge,  healthcare providers generally recommend the low FODMAP diet to relieve symptoms of IBS. 

Here are the six best drinks for IBS that are naturally low in FODMAPs.

  1. Lactose-free cow’s milk

Milk offers your body loads of nutrients such as phosphorus, B12, calcium, vitamin D, and protein. But lactose, a natural sugar found in cow’s milk, can be tough to digest and trigger gassiness and bloat for some. Swapping regular cow’s milk for lactose-free cow’s milk can help you enjoy your favorite cereal bowl without compromising your digestion. 

  1. Plant-based milk

Rice, hemp, pea, cashew, and almond milk are a few examples of plant-based milk alternatives for IBS. They’re naturally free of lactose since they’re made from plant sources and are easier on the belly.  You can also opt for soy milk, but carefully read the label to make sure it’s made from soy protein and not whole soybeans. Soy milk from soy protein is lower in FODMAPs than soy milk made from whole soybeans. 

According to Monash University, coconut milk must be ultra-heat treated (UHT) to be fit for people with IBS.  

Because plant-based milk products don’t naturally contain the same nutrients as cow’s milk, they must be fortified with nutrients. Consider choosing plant-based milk fortified with essential nutrients like vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin D. 

  1. Decaffeinated coffees and teas

Many of us depend on a morning cup of java for a jolt of energy to jumpstart our day. But, caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea may add to our digestive woes.  A recent study published in Frontiers in Nutrition found a significant relationship between caffeine intake and worsening IBS symptoms. Doing away with caffeinated drinks may not be realistic for all, so a step in the right direction may be to downsize your servings.  As far as tea drinking goes, you don’t have to search for low fodmap teas per se, because they naturally contain little to no carbohydrates. Black teas are among the highest in caffeine, so choosing decaf varieties or teas with little caffeine, like white tea and green tea, can help. You can avoid caffeine altogether with herbal teas such as hibiscus and chamomile.

  1. Probiotic Drinks 

Probiotics are live organisms infamous for enhancing immune health by positively influencing your gut. You can eat them (think yogurt and kimchi) or drink them in probiotic drinks like kombucha, drinks supplemented with probiotics, or drinkable yogurt. Kefir is also a probiotic drink, but it may cause IBS symptoms because it’s dairy-based and may contain high amounts of lactose. Not sure about drinking probiotics? You can talk to your healthcare provider about a probiotic supplement.

  1. Smoothies 

Making homemade DIY smoothies from home can be beneficial when watching out for IBS-triggering fruits and vegetables. Choose low-FODMAP produce to blend up fruit and veggie smoothies you can drink on the go. Check out the FODMAP diet app for a complete list of fruits and vegetables that will help you bypass tummy upset.

Low FODMAP fruits and vegetables:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwifruit
  • Oranges 
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers 
  • Zucchini
  1. Water

It may sound like a no-brainer, but water is critical to digestive health and IBS for several reasons. It may not be able to relieve your abdominal pain, but research states it can help improve constipation and prevent diarrhea-dehydration in people with IBS. Moreover, dehydration is linked to gastrointestinal troubles, so keeping a water bottle nearby can be beneficial. 

Worst Drinks for IBS or Drinks to Avoid

  • Cow’s milk: Regular cow’s milk contains lactose, a known  IBS-irritant, so avoiding it is important. 
  • Soy milk made from whole soybeans: While soy milk made from soy protein is OK for IBS, soy milk made from whole soybeans is higher in FODMAPS and can cause IBS symptoms. Check the ingredients to make sure it’s safe for you. 
  • Caffeinated beverages: Coffee, soda, energy drinks, and other energy-boosting beverages may worsen IBS because they contain caffeine. Consider sticking to decaf.
  • Carbonated beverages: Fizzy drinks such as soda, sparkling water, and alcoholic beverages are an IBS no-no because the carbonation can worsen gas. 
  • Beverages made with sugar substitutes: Sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners may influence gut bacteria and cause digestive problems, though more research is needed. Sorbitol and xylitol are sugar alcohols known to cause diarrhea which is already a problem for many people with IBS.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is known to cause problems for the digestive system, according to research, and may be an issue for IBS.
  • Certain fruit juices: Apples, pears, mango, peaches, and cherries carry high amounts of FODMAPS, and so do their juices.

Which is worse for IBS? Soft drinks or alcohol?

Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks can be nuisances for IBS. Soft drinks often contain a trifecta of IBS-stimulating ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, carbonation, and caffeine. Alcoholic beverages can offer the same elements and IBS triggers. Knowing which is worse for IBS is hard to say because everyone experiences IBS differently. What triggers your symptoms will look different from the next person with IBS. If you enjoy a soft drink or alcoholic beverage on occasion, try your best to avoid added caffeine, and keep track of what beverages cause your symptoms. 

Why Nourish?

If you are experiencing IBS symptoms and are still figuring out your food and drink triggers, Nourish can help. You'll receive high-quality, compassionate care from our Registered Dietitians, who are experts in eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. 

Access care easily with virtual appointments that are covered by insurance. 

Get started today with Nourish.