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If you’ve recently been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may discover that dietary changes limit the types of foods you can — and can’t — eat, particularly if you’ve begun a low FODMAP diet.
But just because many of the foods you love aren’t necessarily gut-friendly doesn’t mean you can’t create delicious meals.
Below are 30 different food options that are considered IBS-friendly. We’ve broken them down by food type to make it easier to reference as you create your weekly — or daily — menus.
Keep in mind that some individuals may find that some of these foods (or carbohydrate portion sizes) create digestive symptoms for different reasons. When in doubt, work with a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Some vegetables can irritate IBS symptoms, including beans, cauliflower, and asparagus.
The vegetables below are considered IBS-friendly and are easy to incorporate into your meals.
- Lentils with okra and carrots: Spice them up with a little cumin and serve with grilled plaice or other fish.
- Butter lettuce, broccoli, olives, and cherry tomatoes: Toss them in a salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.
- Bok choi, water chestnuts, green pepper, zucchini: Make a zingy stir-fry and serve with braised pork and rice noodles.
- Green beans, eggplant, turnip, potato, celery: Add some cubed beef, rosemary and black pepper for a hearty stew.
- Very berry smoothie: Blend bilberries, blueberries, and raspberries with lactose-free yogurt for a delicious drink.
- Fruit salad: Mix honeydew melon, grapes, mandarin oranges, and strawberries. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.
- Banana pancakes: Top pancakes with nutmeg, cinnamon, blueberries, and coconut yogurt.
- Melon boats: Top wedges of Galia melon with kiwi, guava, and passion fruit with a sprinkle of dark chocolate shavings.
The main guideline when it comes to meat is to avoid fatty and very spicy meat. Alternatives to fast food and fatty meats include:
- Pork loin: Stuff it with basmati rice with a blend of rosemary and thyme.
- Sesame chicken: Coat the chicken with sesame seeds and serve with a crisp cucumber salad.
- Gluten free crab cakes: Serve these small bites on a bed of romaine and arugula.
- Grilled steak: Serve your steak with braised parsnips and creamed mashed potatoes.
Any fish or seafood can be IBS-friendly — provided that it has no additives and is cooked healthily. That means no fried fish. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Coconut shrimp: Cook shrimp in coconut milk and serve with zucchini noodles.
- Steamed haddock: Garnish with fennel and serve with 1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes.
- Mediterranean baked fish: Bake any thick white fish such as haddock with baby new potatoes, olives, and cherry tomatoes.
- Steamed salmon steaks: Serve with roast potatoes and parsley sauce.
Cereals, Grains, and Breads
Some IBS sufferers are more comfortable with a gluten-free diet, even though they may not have celiac disease. Here are some alternative cereals, grains, and breads. Sensitive individuals will need to experiment with portion sizes of these foods.
- Wheat and gluten-free: Flour and bread alternatives include buckwheat, teff, arrowroot flour, oat flour, and brown rice flour.
- Noodles: Gluten-free noodles or pasta should be made from buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, or chickpeas.
- Cereal: Cornflakes, oats, porridge, and rice flakes are healthy cereals that can be mixed with fruit and seeds.
- Seeds: These can be added to cereal, salad, and drinks. Seeds include chia, sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and egusi.
Onion and Garlic Replacements
Onions and garlic are not part of many IBS-friendly diets (like the low FODMAP diet) because they contain fructans.
Fructans are a type of carbohydrate that can cause strong digestive symptoms for IBS sufferers.
Fortunately, there are other ingredients that you can use to add a savory aroma and flavor to your dishes, including:
- Dark green tips: These parts of the leaf from leeks and spring onions do not contain fructans.
- Onion or garlic infused oil: Fructans are water soluble, but not soluble in oil, meaning onion-infused oil is safe to use.
- Chives: Chives will give you a mild onion flavor with a hint of garlic.
- Asafoetida: Just a small pinch of asafoetida will provide a mild onion flavor.
Many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant. If you want to avoid lactose but enjoy milk or cream-based meals, there are many alternatives. Always choose gum-free brands with minimal ingredients — and be mindful of your portion sizes.
- Almond, macadamia, and hemp milk: With their slightly nutty flavor, these milk alternatives add a delicious sweetness to desserts, puddings, and smoothies. Look for gum-free brands.
- Goat’s yoghurt: Blending this with rice milk makes a great substitute for cream — you can make it as thick as you like. It’s great for cream-based soups and sauces.
- Yogurt: There are several suitable yogurt options including coconut milk yogurt, hemp milk yogurt, and almond milk yogurt.
There are plenty of herbs and spices you can use to add lots of flavors, such as:
- Herbs and spices for fish: Fennel, tarragon, cilantro, parsley, thyme, black pepper, lemon pepper, and paprika.
- Herbs and spices for red meat: Rosemary, basil, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, and cardamom.
- Herbs and spices for white meat and poultry: Coriander, basil, sage, thyme, five-spice powder, cumin, and lemon pepper.
Why Change Your Diet?
IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder, and because of its symptoms — such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and constipation — it can have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
While following a restricted diet like the low FODMAP diet does not cure IBS, it can make living with IBS much more manageable.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are a family of short-chain carbohydrates. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These include:
- Oligosaccharides: Also known as fructans, these are indigestible by humans. Because they are not absorbed in the small intestine, they can cause problems for people with IBS.
- Disaccharides: The primary disaccharide is lactose, which is found in cow’s milk and other dairy products. Although many IBS sufferers can tolerate it, others have difficulty absorbing lactose.
- Monosaccharides: The primary source of monosaccharide is fructose. Fructose is a simple sugar absorbed by sugar transporters in the lining of the small intestine. How it is absorbed depends on how much glucose is present in your meal. If there is more or the same amount of glucose as fructose in your meal, the fructose is readily absorbed with the help of the glucose. But if there is more fructose than glucose, the fructose is not easily absorbed.
- Polyols: A form of sugar alcohol, polyols such as mannitol and sorbitol are common in the human diet. Their intestinal absorption is slow, so only around one-third of what is consumed gets absorbed.
Why the Low FODMAP Diet?
Research shows that the small intestine does not always absorb FODMAPs very well. This can cause an excessive amount of fluid and gas in the intestines, which in turn, leads to pain, gas, and diarrhea. A low FODMAP diet eliminates the foods that often trigger IBS.
Use our suggestions above to adapt your IBS-friendly diet to your tastes and needs.
You and your healthcare practitioner may also decide to add supplements to your diet. If so, we suggest the following supplements to promote a healthy gut:
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