[x] close

Like this on Facebook

Digestive Health | Family Health | Living With Chronic Conditions
dish of brocolli and chick peas

Best and Worst Foods for IBS

Low-FODMAP diet may control symptoms

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), knowing what to eat can feel like the holy grail. For some patients, the right diet, along with attention to exercise, can control symptoms without medication.

For my patients, I often recommend a special diet of easily digestible food, called a low-FODMAP diet, which is detailed in this chart.

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols” – a mouthful to say, but in more common terms, FODMAPs are carbohydrates that may not be digested or absorbed well.  Undigested carbohydrates are then metabolized by intestinal bacterial to produce excess gas, which leads to abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.

What foods to limit (and good substitutes)

Here’s a breakdown of what foods to *limit* when you’re following a low-FODMAP diet, as well as some suggested substitutes:

  • Lactose is found in milk and other soft dairy products like cottage cheese, cream cheese, ice cream and sour cream. Anyone can handle a very small amount of lactose, but if you eat more than your intestine can handle, you will get gas and abdominal pain. About half the population is born with low levels of lactase, which metabolized dietary lactose.
    What to eat instead: Try lactose-free milk, oat milk, rice milk or soy milk as good alternatives to cow’s milk, as well as lactose-free yogurt. For cheese, try any of these three: hard cheeses, brie and camembert. Need butter? Go for olive oil instead.
  • Fruits contain the sugar fructose, which can cause issues for IBS sufferers. Fructose is particularly high in apples and pears, and somewhat high in watermelon, concentrated fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice. Fruits with lower levels of fructose include bananas, citrus, grapes and berries.
    What to eat instead: Eat fruits that are lower in fructose, such as banana, blueberry, boysenberry, cantaloupe, cranberry, grape, orange, lemon, lime, kiwi and strawberry.
  • Certain vegetables cause gas and abnormal bowel habits.  Avoid cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coleslaw and sauerkraut. Also, limit artichoke, brussels sprouts, onions, shallots, leeks, and asparagus.
    What to eat instead: Vegetables that are good to eat include eggplant, green beans, celery, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, yam, zucchini, and squash. For more good options, see this chart. You can enhance flavors of these veggies with herbs. On the safe list, you’ll find: basil, chili, coriander, ginger, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.
  • Legumes, or beans, are often called the “musical fruit” because they contain indigestible saccharides. Baked beans, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans have high amounts, and IBS patients should avoid them, or eat them in very small quantities.
    What to eat instead: While not exactly a substitute for beans, you can enjoy rice, oats, polenta, millet, quinoa and tapioca. Also, as long as you do not have Celiac disease, you can eat gluten on a low-FODMAP diet, which is an inaccuracy of the chart.
  • Polyols, sugar substitutes found in sugarless gum and candy, also can cause problems. Avoid them, including sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol and xylitol.
    What to eat instead: It is perfectly fine to eat (in moderation, of course) good old-fashioned sugars; other artificial sweeteners that do not end in “ol,” such as NutriSweet®; Splenda®; and honey substitutes such as maple syrup, molasses and golden syrup.

The best treatment for IBS

Sometimes IBS is treated with medications, but a change in diet is the first thing we try. A healthy lifestyle — with a low-fat diet, exercise and avoidance of alcohol and cigarette smoking — often makes a great difference. For people who still need help, special diets, such as a low-FODMAP diet, can provide relief.

The good news is that a low-FODMAP diet is not a terribly restrictive diet. When you study the FODMAP chart, you will find there are plenty of good foods you can eat.

Your doctor may find that medication is also necessary to keep your symptoms at bay.  These therapies include anticholinergic medicines, which calm the spasms, and antidepressants to reduce stress.

Tags: diet, IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance
avatar

Bret Lashner, MD, is a gastroenterologist, Director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and a Professor of Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic now offers same-day appointments. Get the care you need, right away at 888.223.CARE.

We welcome your comments. However, we cannot provide a medical opinion without an in-person consultation. To learn about Cleveland Clinic services available to you, please fill out our WebMail form.
  • i knowledge

    Cute article.
    Perhaps the public will benefit more with moderate depth to the subject. For instance, the author could categorise between food to eat, food to avoid and food to eat. Otherwise great editorial, informative and insightful for people who need to know. Also reflective point for individuals to monitor how their own body reacts to ingested food even if not experiencing IBS

  • Chris Bechetti

    He did. You need to click on the chart and it brings up foods to eat and avoid.

  • Lydia Jay Martin

    I’d love to see Stevia listed as a natural, plant-based sugar alternative – so much healthier than substitutes such as Splenda.

  • Melinda Pace

    I have had a customer who was taking Humera injections for his IBS and after a month of taking Vemma, the state of TN revoked their approval of that drug for that use and he was extremely worried about it. Another month went by, and even without the injection, he was fine! Vemma helped him…what if it worked for you too? http://www.getvemmahere.com

  • Mom of 3

    My daughter has IBS/fructose intolerance/ & other suspected intolerances. After reading about the Fod diet ( and there are some very current books on this diet that go into great detail) we see great promise with this diet. Unfortunately, many GI doctors are not educated about the specifics of this diet or feel its too restrictive which we have to disagree. It’s also very hard to find a Dietition who specializes in this diet as it is fairly new. If anyone could knows of a Dietition that specializes in this diet at the Cleveland Clinic we would be very grateful!.

  • Jenny Porter

    I disagree with suggesting someone to eat cauliflower (it contains the nicotine alkaloid), eggplant, chili as written in this article. They contain the natural toxic poison called nightshade alkaloids. Research is showing they are the cause of pain, arthritis, and the American Heart Association explains graphically how the nicotine causes all manner of heart disease. Nightshade veggies and “foods” are green peppers, green tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, white organic potatoes, hot peppers, red cayenne pepper, paprika, chili pepper, tomatillos, pepinos, hot sauces, salsas, “firey” snack chips.

    • Jenny Porter

      I agree with him not to eat cauliflower.

  • fizzy bubbles

    Brie is a hard cheese? Who’s editing these pieces?!?

  • Sarah Stinebaugh

    I have/had IBS for a long time was diagnosed around 1989 worse things for me to eat/drink Peanut butter , eggs, and milk,so I stayed away from them. Then in 2008 I found out I was allergic to Pork and pork by-products and it is amazing what all pork is in . Now I don’t have problems with my IBS since i cut pork out of my diet. It is in Peanut butter that has roasted peanuts, it is in milk and cheese that has rennet. Dairy products like sour cream and cottage cheese sometimes contain Gelatin. Bread , pie crust, pizza crust that has L-cysteine. Read your labels people. I stay away from vegetable and fruit that have big seeds I limit them if I do have them but like I said my IBS cleared up when I found my allergy…now it only rears its head when I’m extremely stressed. Everyone’s body is different . I did my own research and got tested by an allergist. made a list everytime something bothered me wrote it down . Good luck .

  • everett

    Not a Lot of Information out there if One Has GASTROPREASES ( Lazy ) Stomach. –Foods that are Low Sugar, Palatable, and Do not Impact are Hard to find . —-

  • Nancy Weiss

    Where do I find the god map chart?

    • Sandra Sneden

      google FODMAP – originally
      developed our of Standford

  • Kyra Swim

    First thing to do is keep a food diary with symptoms to help narrow down stressors. I went to the Cleveland clinic of integrative medicin and got food allergy tested and it turned out to be wheat! Not celiac disease just wheat. Took me forever to have someone tell me to do those simple things first. Also you can use digestive enzymes to help you digest foods. I learned this from the dietician at vital choice healthstore in north royalton! Don’t just accept ibs and take a pill. Do your homework

  • glenn47

    I had bad IBS for 10 years. Several Drs. Had no idea what to do, told me to get used to it. If I wanted to leave the house, I couldn’t eat breakfast. Made no difference what I ate, it went through me at record speeds. So I started doing some home work and finally decided on a colon cleanse, it was two pills a day and some fiber mixed in some juice. On the fifth day, I had my first normal BM in 10 years.
    I now take probiotics and checked for a yeast build up in my system. took care of it and still use probiotics and digestive enzymes and things are great. I can eat anything.
    Most people are not told as we age, usually around 40 and up, our stomach do not produce as much digestive enzymes as we used to. So they do the opposite that is needed, they take antic acids, when we need the acid.

  • Sandra Sneden

    My doctor (with a pretty good sense of humor) to me, if it tastes (or looks good) don’t eat it.

  • Finallypainfree

    I have just recently discovered the low fodmap diet and it is miraculous! On the first day of limiting FODMAPS, I had NO pain. Still figuring out what the exact trigger might be but I’m grateful none the less. Actually cried from the relief.