IBS is difficult to treat because triggers and symptoms vary so much from person to person. So a food diary that can help identify your own personal ‘trigger’ foods can help you change your IBS diet for the better.

Remember that everyone is different, and food that may act as a trigger for one person may be fine for another. It’s about working out what’s best for you and learning how your body responds to certain foods. The best way to identify your personal triggers is to monitor your own food and drink intake.

Get yourself a small notebook or a diary with a new page for each day, or download our weekly food diary. Keep it on you at all times and, every time you eat or drink, make a note. You should also record any IBS Symptoms and an estimate of how you’re feeling every day on a scale of 1-10, both physically and mentally. Most IBS triggers are a combination of ‘Food & Mood’, so by looking at both you can build a more complete picture of what causes your IBS.


  • Write down everything.

    Every single biscuit, can of soft drink or cup of tea can have an effect on your IBS, so don’t leave anything out.
  • Even condiments.

    Maybe your body doesn’t like ketchup, olive oil or soy sauce. Keep a record.
  • Track your stress, too.

    Stress is reported by many sufferers as a common trigger of IBS symptoms. Make a note of your stress levels several times a day on a scale of 1-10, and record what’s causing your stress.
  • Watch for ingredient patterns.

    It may not be a particular kind of food that triggers your attacks so much as an ingredient. For instance, pasta, pizza and sandwiches may feel like entirely different meals, but they all contain wheat.
  • Break down problem meals.

    If eating pasta with tomato sauce causes an onset of symptoms, you could try eating pasta and tomato sauce separately. It’s important to try to isolate trigger foods.
  • Start broad and then focus on specific ingredients.

    Once you’ve become more aware of your problem foods, look at individual ingredients. For example, a particular ingredient in that tomato sauce may be the trigger, rather than the tomato sauce as a whole, meaning you can still eat tomato sauce if you can find a different recipe.
  • Think long-term.

    You won’t notice a pattern overnight, and some foods won’t cause you a problem that same day. Aim to make your food diary a long-lasting habit rather than a project and review it weekly and monthly for patterns.
  • Try and run through it with a friend or family member –

    they might have ideas around alternative foods you can try. A fresh pair of eyes can add insight and inspiration to your diet!

IBS and food allergies are two separate issues. Often, ruling out a specific food allergy is part of an IBS diagnosis, but for many sufferers there may be a connection. Elimination diets can also help identify if a particular food or food group is either apparently causing or heightening the condition – speak to your doctor or dietician about food allergies before beginning an elimination diet.

Keeping a food diary may seem like a lot of effort, but with persistence it will soon become a habit. More than that, keeping a food diary is far more effective than just reacting to your symptoms on a case-by-case basis, and is possibly the most effective thing you can do to proactively manage your IBS.