Food sensitivities

Food Sensitivities — The Often Hidden Culprit in IBS

Written by: Vincent Pedre M.D. | April 24, 2024 | Time to read 11 min

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a complex, often misunderstood condition that affects 11% of the global population. Characterized by symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits, IBS can significantly impact quality of life. While commonly linked to psychological stress and genetic factors, an often overlooked big contributor to IBS symptoms are food sensitivities, which can exacerbate or even trigger the distressing symptoms of IBS. If you have IBS, but never considered whether food sensitivities are at play, then this is for you. This blog post explores how food sensitivities are linked to IBS and practical steps to manage them.

My Personal Story with Food Sensitivity

My own gut issues started as a teenager, when 20+ rounds of antibiotics messed up my gut for over 2 decades, leaving me with leaky gut and food sensitivities I simply wasn't aware of. The worst thing about food sensitivities is that, unlike food allergies, you can eat the foods without immediately knowing that food is bad for you. You just don't feel great in general, but there's nothing to easily point the finger at. And if you’re not paying attention, you might not realize the trips to the bathroom are related to the restaurant you ate at the night before.

I didn't realize this until I took dairy and gluten out of my diet in 2007 after doing extensive food sensitivity testing. Within two weeks, I felt an upsurge in my energy levels beyond what I had felt in years. These quick results encouraged me to keep going, even though I knew healing leaky gut would be slow at first. I was determined to feel better, so I stuck with it. Becoming gluten-free was harder than going dairy-free. It actually took me years to master being gluten-free in a way that was best for my health, due to the challenges that come with eating out.

Even as much as I strive to be a role model, self-care is even harder for me at times. It takes a strong commitment to your health, but most importantly a great amount of self-love to take care of yourself in the best way possible and not compromise that to make others happy or because you're embarrassed to stand up for yourself. Yeah, I don’t mind being “that person” now at the restaurant that asks for all the details about the ingredients in dishes. I’ve been surprised too many times, thinking something was gluten-free based on the description on the menu, to then learn that the item actually contained gluten. It helps to ask questions. Ultimately, being gluten-free made my IBS symptoms way, way better, until I finally got a handle on them.

IBS and Food Sensitivity symptoms

IBS indeed presents a challenging scenario for both patients and healthcare providers due to its elusive causes and varied symptoms. The complex nature of IBS means that each individual's experience can differ significantly, making a personalized approach essential in managing and treating the condition effectively.

While abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation are classic symptoms associated with IBS, understanding and recognizing potential food sensitivities can also play a crucial role in managing this condition. Food sensitivities differ from allergies and often involve a delayed immune response, which can make it hard to figure out the offending foods.

Here are some common symptoms of food sensitivities:

1. Gastrointestinal Distress: Similar to IBS, food sensitivities can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. These reactions might occur hours or even days after consuming the problematic food, which can make the connection between symptoms and specific foods challenging to discern.

2. Skin Issues: Food sensitivities can manifest externally, with symptoms such as eczema, acne, or rashes. These skin conditions may flare up following the ingestion of certain foods.

3. Headaches and Migraines: Some individuals might experience headaches or migraines as a response to food sensitivities, particularly to items like aged cheeses, wine, raw onions, processed meats, and certain food additives.

4. Fatigue: Chronic fatigue and low energy can also be linked to food sensitivities, especially if the body is consistently reacting (read = having an immune response) to certain foods that are part of one’s regular diet.

5. Mood Changes: There can be a noticeable impact on mood, including irritability or a feeling of brain fog, which can be directly connected to food sensitivities.

Hidden Symptoms

Identifying and managing food sensitivities involves careful observation and often an elimination diet, where suspected foods are removed from the diet for a period, then gradually reintroduced to note any symptomatic changes. Working closely with a healthcare provider or a dietitian can be incredibly beneficial in managing both IBS and food sensitivities effectively. We do this type of food sensitivity testing in my office, looking at IgG4 and C3D complement activation to tease out both humoral and innate immune responses to foods that may go unnoticed. 

Do you have symptoms that speak to hidden food sensitivities? If you want to look into it further, consider working with me 1:1 to help resolve your IBS and other related issues, like a weight loss plateau. You can learn more here.

The Role of Food Sensitivities in IBS Symptoms

Have you been to a doctor that told you your diet had nothing to do with your IBS symptoms? 💀Yeah, that would have been my reaction. Unfortunately, there are still lots of doctors out there that don’t see the connection between diet and IBS. However, research indicates a strong link between diet and IBS symptoms. Foods can trigger acute exacerbations, making dietary management a cornerstone of symptom control.

Common Food Triggers for IBS

  • High-FODMAP Foods: Short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the gut can trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals. To learn more with an easy-to-follow 14-day plan, check out my latest book,  The GutSMART Protocol.

  • Gluten: A protein found in wheat, barley, spelt and rye, gluten can exacerbate symptoms in people with celiac disease as well as those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

  • Dairy Products: Lactose intolerance can mimic or worsen IBS symptoms.

  • Caffeine and Alcohol: These stimulants can increase gastrointestinal motility and exacerbate symptoms. Alcohol also acts as a powerful gut disruptor, leading to dysbiosis (an imbalance between good and bad bugs) and leaky gut. I’d hate to say it, but if you want to heal IBS, then cut out alcohol for the time being. Coffee? Well, try to limit yourself to one cup or less daily if possible.

Identifying Personal Food Triggers

The Elimination Diet

An Elimination Diet is a methodical approach to identifying food sensitivities and intolerances that may exacerbate IBS symptoms. This diet involves a clear, structured process where you initially remove a wide range of potential food irritants from your diet. Commonly excluded foods include dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, nuts, and processed sugars. After a period typically lasting 3-6 weeks—during which time symptoms are often closely monitored for any signs of improvement—the excluded foods are gradually reintroduced one at a time. For accuracy, each food should be reintroduced over a few days, noting any changes in symptom severity or frequency. This method not only helps in identifying specific dietary triggers but also assists in crafting a long-term eating plan that minimizes IBS symptoms.

Food Diaries

Maintaining a detailed food diary is another effective strategy for identifying food triggers in individuals with IBS. This diary should include comprehensive entries of everything consumed, including main meals, snacks, beverages, and any supplements or medications. It's important to record the timing of each food intake and the quantities consumed. We’ve made it super easy for you. When you order the IBS DUO, you’ll get your very own Free Downloadable IBS Food-Symptoms Journal, where you can log your food intake and symptoms to look for patterns that will help you identify culprit foods.

Equally crucial is documenting any symptoms experienced, their intensity, and their timing relative to food consumption. Logging your foods and symptoms in this detail will help reveal patterns and correlations between specific foods and symptom flare-ups, providing clear insights into which foods might be causing discomfort. Additionally, if you decide to work one-on-one with me (more info at the end of the article) a food diary can also help when we plan your tailored diet.

The Psychological Impact of IBS and Food Sensitivities

Coping Strategies for Stress and Anxiety in IBS

Stress and anxiety can profoundly influence physical health, particularly for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These emotional states can trigger and exacerbate the digestive symptoms associated with IBS, creating a vicious cycle of discomfort and distress. When stressed or anxious, the body's fight-or-flight response is activated, which can lead to an array of digestive disturbances, including spasms in the gastrointestinal tract, increased inflammation, and alterations in gut motility. This heightened state of stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms, leading to increased abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.

Moreover, the relationship between the brain and the digestive system, known as the gut-brain axis, plays a crucial role in this interaction. Emotional distress can affect this complex communication network, leading to an increased sensitivity to pain and changes in gut microbiota, which further influence gastrointestinal function.

Stress and Anxiety in IBS


Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment and accepting it without judgment. For individuals with IBS, mindfulness techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety by shifting focus away from distressing symptoms and facilitating a calmer, more balanced state of mind. Practices such as mindful breathing or guided imagery can aid in calming the nervous system and may decrease the intensity of IBS flare-ups. Regular mindfulness practice can improve overall emotional regulation, reducing the frequency and severity of stress-related digestive symptoms.



Yoga is another effective technique for managing stress and anxiety in IBS. It combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to enhance physical fitness and promote relaxation. In my first book,Happy Gut, I teamed up with two renowned yoga teachers to provide a series of yoga poses designed to improve gut health. Specific yoga poses can target areas of tension and discomfort in the abdomen, improving core strength and enhancing gut motility and gas expulsion. Moreover, the meditative aspects of yoga encourage a deeper awareness of body signals, which can help individuals with IBS better manage their symptoms and recognize stress triggers.



In today's world, where tech is pretty much woven into everything we do, digital health apps are real game-changers, especially for those of us dealing with ongoing health problems like IBS. Take Nerva, for instance. What's cool about the Nerva app is it's all about giving power back to people with IBS through something as intriguing as guided self-hypnosis sessions. It's not just about tackling the tummy troubles, but also easing the mind mess that comes with IBS. And guess what? Over 150,000 users have already jumped on board, finding some peace and feeling more in charge of their IBS journey. It's a peek into how awesome digital tools can be in making health management a lot easier and more in our control.


The Next Steps

Work with Me

Gut-healing is not easy. The gut is the crossroads of many influences, from diet, microbes, stress, drugs, toxins, autoimmunity and the health of the gut lining. And that makes it a really complex system that doesn't always heal as quickly as we would hope. Especially since the surface area of the small intestine alone is like the size of a tennis court. That's a lot of area to cover to heal when it becomes inflamed and compromised.


It doesn't happen overnight. And it's not a perfect journey, as we would want to believe. It is really important to stay patient because healing is a non-linear journey. And there will be times that you feel worse, and times that you feel amazing along the way. It's a learning experience, because at the beginning you may not realize all the things that you do that are working against your healing. It's like a tango with your own body, and the best way to do this dance is to read the cues and be willing to adjust quickly as the healing path becomes clearer and clearer.

This journey requires not only patience but also a tailored approach because what works for one may not work for another. This is where the importance of individualized care and guidance comes into play. Having a knowledgeable health practitioner by your side can make a significant difference in navigating this intricate path. They can help interpret your body's signals and adjust your healing protocol as needed to suit your unique circumstances. Foods that are ok for one person, are not ok for another person. And that's a learning curve that comes with time for both you and your health practitioner. As long as you can include your health practitioner on the journey with you, it will eventually get you to where you need to go.

And if you feel you're ready for more personalized care on this journey and would like to work one-on-one with me to tailor a plan that suits your unique needs, here is the link where we can connect directly: Consultation with Dr. Pedre.


Working with me 1:1 is expensive. So, I always want to make sure to offer solutions at prices that can be afforded by everyone, but that also can have a significant impact on their gut health. For that reason, we’ve put together a special bundle — the IBS DUO — that effectively tackles the challenges of food sensitivities and IBS.

I stand by this combo with full certainty that it will help you if you suffer from IBS. However, please note that it may feel a little bit wonky for the first two weeks. That’s normal, as your body adjusts to the internal shifts necessary to restore balance to your gut.

If at the end of the month you are not satisfied with your results, send us back the empty bottles and we’ll refund you the full amount. Yep, it comes with a 100% 30-day Money-Back IBS Be Calm Guarantee.

Another important part is adding digestive enzyme supplements such as Activate Plus, that can significantly aid the digestive process, especially when dealing with food sensitivities.

Now, when you purchase the IBS DUO you will not only enjoy free shipping and get a discount, but also get three free PDF’s to help you get the most of out of this combo:

1) 30-Day IBS Challenge — with tips and tricks on how to improve your IBS

2) IBS Food-Symptoms Journal — to keep an accurate log of your food intake and symptoms to better tease out any food sensitivities or reactions

3)What to Eat & What to Avoid for a HAPPY GUT

We want to over deliver in value so that we set you up for success from the very beginning. Sure, you could just take the supplements, and never fill out the IBS Food-Symptoms Journal. But, you’d be missing out on maximizing your results, while growing in self-awareness. So are you in? Do I hear a “YES!”?

PLUS…you’ll also have the opportunity to save another $10 off our bestselling digestive enzymes, Activate Plus , when you purchase the IBS DUO along with these upgraded enzymes. You’ll see this offer at checkout.

How to Use the IBS DUO

  • Start with an Assessment: Before starting any new supplement or diet plan, it’s crucial to assess your current health status and understand your specific symptoms. This might involve keeping a food diary or undergoing some tests to pinpoint your sensitivities. You can also take the Free GutSMART Quiz here. It will give you your GutSMART Score, which reveals how much work you need to do to improve your gut health.

  • Follow the Supplement Regimen: Consistently use the supplements as directed to help manage the digestive processes and support gut health. Pay attention to how your body responds to these supplements. Like anything, they won’t work if you take them haphazardly. If you’re committed, then commit fully to this 30-Day Challenge.

  • Adjust Your Diet: Utilize the dietary advice provided with the IBS DUO to modify your eating habits. Removing or reducing trigger foods can significantly decrease symptoms and improve quality of life. Try to introduce fermented foods to improve the health of your gut ecosystem. Learn more with the included “What to Eat & What to Avoid for a HAPPY GUT” downloadable PDF.

  • Monitor and Adapt: Keep track of your symptoms and any changes you notice in the fillable IBS Food-Symptoms Journal. It’s important to adapt the approach based on your body’s responses. What works initially might need tweaking as your gut heals or as you discover more about how your body reacts to certain foods. 

Navigating IBS with an informed, supportive approach can make all the difference. Whether it's adjusting your diet, incorporating beneficial supplements, or both, the goal is clear — to live comfortably and healthfully.

Food sensitivities are indeed a crucial yet often overlooked part of managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The intricate relationship between what you eat and how you feel can be perplexing, especially when certain foods might not show their effects immediately. When in doubt, food sensitivity testing can also help provide a direction for the diet. Understanding and managing these sensitivities is vital to reducing the frequent discomfort associated with IBS.


What are FODMAPs and why are they important in managing IBS?

FODMAPs are fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols, which can cause digestive distress in sensitive individuals. There are many fruits, vegetables, dairy, drinks, dips, sweets, cereals, breads, and nuts that need to be avoided. To reduce any confusion around this, I recommend taking the Free GutSMART Quiz here. Then, follow the 14-Day GutSMART Protocol, based on your GutSMART Score, with a plan that is personalized for you that takes into account the high-FODMAP foods that can aggravate IBS symptoms. Foods are divided by GutSMART Score category into severe, moderate, and mild, making it easy to know what foods to eat, and which ones to avoid.

How does an elimination diet work?

An elimination diet involves removing foods suspected of causing allergies or sensitivities for a period, then gradually reintroducing them to determine triggers. By eliminating trigger foods, you’re creating a blank slate in your gut that allows for healing to happen.

Can stress management techniques really help alleviate IBS symptoms?

Yes, techniques like mindfulness, meditation, breathwork and yoga can help reduce stress, which is known to trigger IBS symptoms. To learn more about how to master the gut-brain connection, check out our digital course at

Are probiotics beneficial for IBS?

Probiotics can help balance gut bacteria, which may reduce symptoms of IBS in some individuals. You want to make sure your probiotic is using clinically-researched strains that have proven health benefits for IBS.

Is IBS more common in men or women?

IBS is more prevalent in women, with some studies suggesting that up to two-thirds of IBS sufferers are female.

What role does the gut-brain axis play in IBS?

The gut-brain axis refers to the communication network between your gut and your brain, which influences everything from your mood to your immune system and plays a central role in conditions like IBS. I created a training to teach you how to master the gut-brain axis that you can access here.

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