One of the biggest challenges of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is that everyone’s trigger foods are different. And, for many of us, the foods that cause gastrointestinal distress and discomfort seem to take on no pattern at all — some days it’s dairy, other days it’s garlic. But, by and large, there are a few categories of foods that tend to elicit more discomfort than others.
All About FODMAP Foods
While trigger foods vary widely from individual to individual and meal to meal, they often fall under the category of FODMAP foods. What is FODMAP, you ask? The acronym stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are types of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that are slowly absorbed or not digested in the small intestine.
According to the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO), these carbs cause digestive duress because they increase water content and are quickly fermented by the body’s gut bacteria, which in turn creates gas causing symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, gas constipation or diarrhea.
FODMAPs to Avoid
Understanding FODMAPs may be crucial to helping you follow an IBS diet plan that works for you and finally enables you to get some relief. Here are a few specific ones to keep on your radar. Note: The key is not to banish all FODMAPs, but to know which ones are especially problematic and to cut down on your consumption of them.
Dairy Products — Certain dairy products are high in the “D” in FODMAP — disaccharides. These include lactose-rich foods like milk as well as soft cheeses and ice cream. Interestingly, some dairy products can be beneficial to the gut — especially probiotic-rich foods like kefir and yogurt — because they break down lactose and help prevent gassiness. They are also slower to ferment.
- Fruits — High-fructose foods, such as honey, apples and high fructose corn syrup, contain a higher concentration of monosaccharides that tend to ferment faster and worsen IBS symptoms. But that doesn’t mean you should banish fruit from your diet. Just make sure to seek out low-fructose options, such as berries and bananas.
Vegetables — Of course, you shouldn’t cut vegetables out of your diet, as they’re a crucial supplier of key vitamins, minerals and nutrients that help your body thrive. However, some unsuspecting veggies may be worsening your symptoms. Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower can increase gassiness and aggravate your IBS. What’s more, some studies suggest that raw veggies tend to take a harsher toll on your digestive tract because it has to work harder to break them down. On the flip side, cooking your veggies softens them and aids in digestion.
Onions and Garlic — We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but onions and garlic — especially raw — are common culprits of IBS symptoms. Though flavorful and rich in antioxidants, these foods are high in a specific type of oligosaccharide called fructans, which are highly fermentable and tend to cause gassiness and discomfort. Fructans are also found in high concentrations in shallots, leeks and artichokes.
Wheat — Often, people avoid gluten when they are searching for their IBS cure. Although, there may be some relief, it is important to acknowledge the relief is not from the gluten avoidance. Rather, it is from the avoidance of wheat. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Although, the IBS symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea) can be caused by the oligosaccharide fructan. If gluten containing foods like rye and barley bother you, check in with your doctor to assess for Celiac Disease.
- Artificial Sweeteners — In small amounts, artificial sweeteners can help us curb our sweets cravings, but they can also wreak havoc on our guts. You might remember the time sugar-free gummy bears gave everyone diarrhea. This is an excellent example of how a seemingly harmless food can do significant digestive damage. Gummy bears, and other sugar-free candies, are rich in artificial sweeteners that fall under the P in FODMAP — Avoid polyols such as maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and isomalt.
We know sorting out a low-FODMAP meal plan can be challenging, which is why we’re committed to helping simplify the process for you. ModifyHealth offers a low-FODMAP meal plan that takes all the guesswork out of IBS meal planning for you — no stressful grocery lists, ingredient-vetting or eliminating needed. Simply sign up and see what switching to an IBS-friendly diet feels like!