For anyone living with IBS, you probably already know what we’re about to tell you. Finding IBS-friendly ingredients to swap out for the ones we love but aren’t good for us can greatly impact our well-being. This is easier said than done. But with a little bit of effort and an IBS meal plan to help you out, you’ll soon be living a more enjoyable life.
In this article, we’ll talk a little more about IBS, introduce you to a low-FODMAP diet and tell you all about the IBS-aggravating ingredients that you need to be on the lookout for and what you can swap them out with.
What Is IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s a condition where someone will experience pain and discomfort in their stomach, which has no visible cause. IBS is considered a chronic disorder. People have different symptoms, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and sometimes constipation, frequent stomach aches and more. IBS affects the body’s digestive system and can be caused by what you eat, stress and other factors.
If you have these symptoms and think you might have IBS, consult a doctor or trained dietitian. Self-diagnosis can be risky and cause unnecessary worry.
What Is a Low-FODMAP Diet?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates. High-FODMAP foods are mainly carbohydrates but also include some dairy and meat products.
FODMAP foods may cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach aches and diarrhea to those who have IBS.
Implementing a low-FODMAP meal plan has been scientifically proven to help reduce the symptoms of IBS. You may also see it referred to as a FODMAP elimination diet or the low-FODMAP challenge.
It is a diet that excludes and then gradually reintroduces FODMAP foods in the body to help you figure out which foods are causing the symptoms. It is a long process and many find it beneficial to receive guidance from a dietitian or a medical practitioner. This is to better identify FODMAP foods that may be affecting you.
There are many low-FODMAP diet lists readily available on the internet. Still, it is essential to note that these lists are not entirely exhaustive and may miss out on some low-FODMAP foods.
It can be challenging when it comes to making changes to your diet to embrace a low-FODMAP (typically temporary) lifestyle. This may be because you may have some cooking or snacking habits that are hard to break, or you might have trouble identifying foods with high-FODMAP ingredients. For many, the most significant barrier isn’t just eliminating high-FODMAP foods, but figuring out what to introduce and use in their diet instead.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of IBS-friendly ingredient swaps to help you better manage your symptoms and make the process easier.
Five IBS-Friendly Ingredient Swaps
1. Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic have been used in various culinary dishes across cultures for centuries, if not millennia, to impart delicious flavors and aromas. Unfortunately, they are high in fructan and must be avoided. But they’re in a ton of different dishes, which can make this hard, and that’s why they earned their own spot at the top of this list.
When cooking and preparing dishes, you can replace onions and garlic with Asian (garlic) chives, green chives, garlic-infused oil and green onion tops (not the white bulbs).
2. Fruits: This is tricky because all fruit will contain the FODMAP fructose, and some dried versions will also have sorbitol and fructan. Fortunately, not all fruits are high-FODMAP foods.
High-FODMAP fruits you’ll want to avoid include apples, cherries, mangos, pears and watermelon. You’ll also do best to avoid tinned fruit in natural juices, fruit juice and dried fruit. Some low-FODMAP fruits you can focus on are blueberries, grapes, honeydew melon, oranges and strawberries.
3. Vegetables: We already mentioned onions and garlic, but other veggies might be hit or miss as well. Like with fruits, some vegetables will be high-FODMAP and a potential field of landmines for IBS sufferers. This is because vegetables can contain a variety of FODMAPs, including fructose, mannitol, sorbitol, galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and fructan.
High-FODMAP veggies to avoid include asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and mushrooms. Low-FODMAP veggies you can incorporate instead are bell pepper, carrot, Bok choy, cucumber, lettuce, potato, tomato and zucchini.
4. Wheat and Other Grains: Yikes! This is a big category. And perhaps the sneakiest. That’s because wheat doesn’t actually contain a lot of FODMAPs by weight. Still, the sheer amount that we consume as part of a Western diet makes it a red flag situation. When it comes to other grains, many of them contain way higher amounts of FODMAPs than wheat and can spell disaster for IBS sufferers.
You’ll want to avoid bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, pastries and other bakery treats. But you can replace these with brown rice, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, tapioca and specially selected low-FODMAP cereals.
5. Sweeteners: These are a notorious hidden source of FODMAPs that people often ignore but can easily swap out for alternatives to ease IBS symptoms. When buying items from the store, it’s always important to read labels carefully as well.
High-FODMAP sweeteners that you’ll need to steer clear of include agave nectar, honey, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, Mannitol and Isomalt. Instead, look for maple syrup, glucose and sucrose.
Keep at It
These are just a few of the foods you need to avoid and substitutions you can make when it comes to embracing a better lifestyle that will ease your IBS symptoms and allow you to live freer. Nevertheless, you’ve taken a significant step in moving your personal health in the right direction by better educating yourself on which ingredients you should eliminate from your meals and what some great substitutes are. So give yourself a pat on the back for that!
It’s important to stay diligent in this process and not give up. The time and effort you invest now will be repaid to you in relief and a better quality of life later. Keep at it! You won’t regret it!