Fatty Foods

A delicious way to trigger IBS symptoms!

Plate piled high with pizza and fried fatty foods.

MMMMMMmm. Some of my favorite fatty foods!!! I have to be really careful eating ANY of them now though.
© Can Stock Photo

Do you like fried food? What about some ice cream? OOOH, how about some fried ice cream?!

How about cold cuts? Or Bacon? Or fried eggs on toast?

I love all that stuff. And it can make me sick as heck (or that other place).

It turns out that fatty foods are bad for your IBS as WELL as your arteries!

How do fatty foods cause IBS symptoms?

The human digestive system breaks down food into raw materials and energy.

Fat is hard to digest, particularly since we tend to eat too much of it all at once.

The body uses something called bile to break down fats (stored in the gall bladder).

Transparent human showing the gall bladder.

The gall bladder, shown here in red, helps digest fatty foods. But gall bladder bile can irritate bowels.
© Can Stock Photo

Once the bile breaks down the fats our bodies can digest them more easily.

Here’s the trouble though. Some people have sensitive bowels, and too much bile can irritate the lining of the colon. This can lead to pain, spasms, and diarrhea.

For people like my lovely wife, it also means gall bladder spasms that are extremely painful.

Here is a short list of fatty foods:

High fat foods include:

  • Most beef
  • Chicken with the skin
  • Cream
  • Half and half
  • Most non-dairy creamers
  • Most pork products, especially bacon
  • Sausage
  • Whole milk
  • Most cheeses
  • Pies and cakes
  • Egg yolks
  • All oils
  • Butter and margarine
  • Doughnuts
  • Many cookies, cakes and crackers

Okay that wasn’t so short.

I know that many of you out there love a good fried fish, or french fries or fried eggs, etc.

But cutting back on fatty foods can mean fewer IBS symptoms, particularly pain and diarrhea. You will probably find it’s worth it.

Besides, your arteries and waist may thank you too!

Are there good high fat foods?

Essential fatty acids such as omega 3 fatty acids are very important. They make up a large part of the brain for instance… Think fish.

In fact I take fish oil capsules every day, and they seem to have helped my memory without affecting my IBS (as far as I can tell).

Olive oil is supposed to be good for your heart and arteries as well. Many studies show that people that eat more olive oil have a reduced change of artery problems and heart attacks.

But if you have IBS, you probably have a GREATER chance of an IBS attack! So you’ll need to take it easy, even on the good fats.

Why do people like fatty foods so much anyway?

Most people enjoy fatty foods. Human beings enjoy fat because it’s full of calories that we need to live.

In the olden days fatty foods were more rare than they are today. People ate a more plant based diet. We crave fat because it’s high in calories. Our ancestors needed those calories to survive.

Can I eat fatty foods if the fat is Olestra?

NO! Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Olestra and other fake fats have been linked to all kinds of digestive troubles. They’re basically a fat your body can’t digest so it passes out the back door in the stool. People report that it can cause all kinds of diarrhea and cramps along the way.

I think fake fat is worse than the real thing.

How much fat is too much?

For a 2000 calorie diet, the recommended daily allowance of fat is 65 grams. I would think less than that would be low fat.

Most people eat WAY more than that.

Six ounces of your average stake is going to be 20 grams of fat. An that’s before sauces, french fries, fried onions or mushrooms, etc. And for most people that’s a pretty small steak.

Vegetables are almost always low fat, but not with butter or cheese sauce.

How do I cut back on fatty foods?

That is a BIG topic.

You could try cutting back on the foods in the list above. Have your doctor recommend a low fat diet, or better yet (in my opinion) see a dietician or nutritionist. These last two will likely have more time than the 10 minutes the doctor will likely spend with you.

They may also have some recipes and lots of tips on cutting down on fatty foods.

If you’re more ambitious and a do it yourself type, there are all kinds of low fat cook books at your local book store or at Amazon.


See other foods to avoid with IBS.

Find out if a food intolerance is causing your IBS symptoms.

Return to the Homepage.



  1. ben says

    Your list of foods to stay away from is dead on. I have had to completely cut out all meats from my diet which has been a huge step considering the amount of chicken and steak I used to consume daily. You’re right about the milk to some degree. Almost all milk now in stores has an ingredient called vitamin d3 which I believe is why so many have trouble with milk. This synthetic vitamin d3 that is added is made from sheep wool’s grease. If 1 can get their hands on fresh raw milk it would benefit them greatly, there is nothing better in the world for your body than good milk, unfortunately it can be hard to find and highly priced. You have very good info on your site. Keep up the good work.

    • says

      Thanks Ben! There are all kinds of ideas why milk is a problem for many. Everything from pulverized fat molecules (homogenization) passing into the blood; to casein allergies; to the fact that adults were never intended to drink milk of any sort, especially from another species. I’d not heard about the wool grease part of vitamin D3. I just looked it up, and your right on.

      Thanks for the insights! – Shawn

  2. Patrick says

    I have found if I eat homemade chips ( fries )
    My ibs pain goes and my stools are easy to get out.

    I have noticed this a few times when I have been eating chips (UK name ) everyday. I don’t eat much other than chips and say baked beans etc but no meat etc. it is pain free. I stopped eating chips two days ago and the hard to pass stools ate back and my back hurts again.

    Very strange.

    • says

      Hi Patrick,

      I’ve read that fat can cause loose stool or even diarrhea for lots of people. Beans have a lot of fiber and are soft. Maybe either the fat or the fiber are helping you pass stools easier (just a guess).

  3. William says

    I have been having diarhea when I eat foods that are extremely high in fat such as those found at an Indian buffet where they drench the foods in oil. How can I settle my stomach once it is upset. For some reason it can take days for it to settle down.

    • says

      Hi William, I have the same results when I eat what doesn’t agree with me. It takes several days for my bowels settle down. I think that’s fairly common. One thing I’ve found that really helps, is to eat much smaller portions of the offending food. Not enough to be full, for instance.

      As far as helping the bowel irritations once it happens, some people find that peppermint helps. I have a page on that here:

      I hope it helps! – Shawn

  4. mediabore says


    As an addendum, it is bile in conjunction with Lipase (produced by the pancreas) that breaks down and digests fat. Sorry to seem pedantic but am concerned about those who might self diagnose and assume their problem is the gall bladder.

    Agree with Shawn about small portions (more often) – take the workload off your digestive system

  5. Michael says

    Hi Shawn,

    What can you recommend to underweight people like myself who get IBS and Gerd from ingesting fats ? Is there a supplement that can break down fats and thus allows me to get sufficient fat in my diet ? My height is 6’5 and I only weigh 147ibs.

    • says

      The only thing I can think of is a lot of carbs. That can cause IBS problems for some people, but if you’re having trouble with fats, it may be more of a bile thing causing some of your issues. If so, you might be able to get away with breads and rice, and such. I hate to say this next one, but soda has a lot of sugar, and if what you need is calories… Well these are just suggestions, but two things tend to make people gain weight. Carbs and fats. If you can’t have one, you’ll probably have to eat lots of the other to gain weight. Oh. One other thing is those meals in a can, like “Ensure”, etc. There may be fat in there that bothers you though. I hope it helps. I also hope you’re seeing a doctor about this fat digestion thing. Sounds miserable.

  6. Holly says

    I struggle with IBS as a young woman. I take a pro-biotic daily which seems to help. I have a question though and was wondering if anyone experienced the same thing. When I exercise, intense running or jogging, IBS hits me like a ton of bricks. Does this coincide with IBS, exercising or no? My gastro didn’t have much information on that.

  7. Jessica says

    I have IBS and Celiac Disease. What does that leave me with to eat and drink? I am in pain everyday. I try my best to eat gluten free. And with the IBS its overwhelming.

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