It’s bad news for garlic fans who’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

“Yes, garlic can be difficult for intestines to break down, which causes gas,” says Dr. Saurabh (Seth) Sethi, MD, a Harvard University and Stanford University trained board-certified gastroenterologist practicing in the San Francisco bay area.

“Painful gas and cramping can result, thereby worsening IBS symptoms,” says Dr. Sethi.

If you want to be absolutely sure whether or not garlic makes your irritable bowel syndrome worse, see what happens when you season something with garlic.

If you suffer symptoms, then eat that same food, without the garlic, a few days later when you’re feeling fine to see if the symptoms don’t come back.

You may want to repeat this experiment several times to be absolutely sure.

If you normally don’t season much with garlic but take a garlic supplement on a daily basis, see if your IBS improves when you stop taking the supplement.

IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion.

If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, make sure that you’ve had every test possible to rule out more serious causes of your symptoms, as well as a condition that is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome: microscopic colitis.

Though the symptoms of IBS and microscopic colitis overlap quite a bit, the treatments are very different.

Have you been diagnosed with IBS but never had a colonoscopy? A colonoscopy allows a physician to see what might be inside the large intestine that could be causing abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating.

The doctor can extract a sample of tissue and send it to a lab for an analysis. This is how microscopic colitis is confirmed.

And by the way, garlic is not known to aggravate microscopic colitis. Just make sure that your diagnosis of IBS is truly that of exclusion rather than one done out of haste.

Follow Dr. Sethi at Twitter (twitter.com/sethsethimd) and Instagram (instagram.com/doctor.sethi/). 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and personal/cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.