If you have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and you are a vegan, you know how difficult it can get when it comes to making food choices.
There are a lot of foods that need to be avoid, and consuming any of these may trigger bothersome symptoms anytime.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects 10-15% of the worldwide population, primarily women. It is in fact the most common functional disorder of the digestive system.
The vegan diet offers a lot of healthier options for people with illnesses and disorders. However, if you have IBS, a vegan diet may be the last thing on your mind.
In that case, keep reading to learn why the low FODMAP vegan diet may be for you!
Just a disclaimer though, keep in mind that there is no guarantee that a FODMAP diet will work for you. In fact, many people who have tried it say it doesn’t work.
With that being said, give it a try, what do you have to lose! Keep reading to learn more about it.
What Happens When You Have IBS?
In the case of IBS, the dysfunction occurs in the large intestine, which becomes hypersensitive, subsequently affecting its motility.
There are many factors that come in play, and foods in particular are what trigger its symptoms, which lead to either constipation or diarrhea.
IBS is one of the many disorders that does not have a specific cause. There is no definitive test that doctors can do to diagnose it. Instead, they base the diagnosis on the symptoms, physical exam, medical history, and some lab tests.
In severe cases, IBS can disrupt your normal daily activities. However, there are people who may have it but do not know it since the symptoms are very minimal.
While there is no real treatment for IBS, as medicines can only address symptoms, lifestyle changes can be made.
If you have symptoms listed below, I suggest you see your doctor:
- Abdominal pain and/or cramps relieved by passing stool
- Excessive gas
- Stool mucus
- Diarrhea and/or constipation (may alternate)
Possible Causes Of IBS
- Changes in the intestinal microflora (the good gut bacteria)
- Food sensitivity
- Overgrowth of bacteria
IBS Risk Factors
These are the things that may increase your chances of having IBS:
- Age under 50
- Female (over 60% of people with IBS are females)
- Have family members or relatives with IBS (genetic predisposition)
- Mental health issues
If you are keeping a food journal, you might already know what possibly triggers your IBS. If not, take a look at these known triggers:
Sensitivity varies from one person to another, although dairy and fiber are the most common culprits.
This is why there are more women with IBS than men. Hormonal changes during or around the menstrual period often trigger symptoms.
You may notice your symptoms getting worse when you are inconsistent in your daily routine or when your stress levels increase.
Important Things To Know About IBS
You might think of the worst things when you have IBS. So before you freak out, you might find some comfort in these facts:
- It is NOT life threatening
- It does NOT increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer (or any other cancer)
- Long term lifestyle and diet changes may provide long term relief
Foods That Trigger IBS Symptoms
Now that I’ve helped you understand IBS a little better, let’s talk about the most important part, the worst trigger, FOOD! Not all food of course.
While you may not be specifically sensitive to all of the following, they are the most common triggers that you may want to steer clear of.
If you have constipation from IBS, avoid these:
- Carbonated drinks
- High-protein food items
- Processed foods
- Refined grains (in breads and cereals)
If you have diarrhea from IBS, avoid these:
- Too much fiber
- Large meals
- Carbonated drinks
- Fried and fatty foods
- Wheat (gluten)
If you feel bloated or have excessive gas from IBS, avoid these:
- Brussels sprouts
- Wheat germ
- Other gassy foods
Foods are the main triggers for IBS. This is why changing your diet when you have IBS can go a long way.
There’s a big challenge though. How can you manage your diet if your symptoms are alternating? Imagine alternating between constipation and diarrhea, the foods that may trigger and cause relief will be contradicting!
This is where careful planning and a gradual diet change will help you strike a balance that won’t trigger any of your symptoms.
Of all your symptoms that alternate between constipation and diarrhea, aim for regularity when it comes to sleeping and eating schedules.
Is There An Ideal Diet For IBS?
Recommending a single diet for IBS will not work because of the contradicting symptoms. Most people with alternating IBS symptoms find themselves alternating between low and high fiber diets, too. If you have IBS, you probably know how frustrating that is.
However, in general, people who suffer from IBS can benefit from these diets:
- Elimination diet (eliminating common trigger foods for at least 12 weeks)
- Gluten-free diet
- Low-fat diet
- Low-FODMAP diet
You can combine these diets to get better results. I would also suggest that you start and keep a FOOD JOURNAL.
Can People With IBS Go On A Vegan Diet?
Most people with IBS tend to avoid vegetables because of the high fiber content. This is why it’s hard to imagine how a vegan diet can be beneficial to them.
So, if you have IBS, will going vegan help? Well absolutely, YES! There are people who even claim to be cured by it, although I personally don’t have IBS so I cannot assure this.
Medicine tells us that there’s no real cure, so people with IBS should aim for this: relief that lasts so long that it feels permanent.
If you have IBS, you will find yourself in either one of these situations:
- you’re not vegan with IBS and have tried all the diet fads out there to no avail. What else is there?
- Or two, you’re a vegan and have just been told by your doctor you have IBS. Now you’re wondering if you should stop being a vegan, or how you can continue being a vegan.
Either way, know that you can be a vegan with IBS! So, what could be the answer to your woes? Meet the low FODMAP diet, vegan style!
Have you heard of FODMAPs? Don’t worry if you haven’t! This blog post will tell you all about it!
And if you have had IBS for a while now, you’ve probably already heard of a low FODMAP diet. But did you know there’s a vegan way to do it?
What Is FODMAP?
Before you get a nosebleed, let’s talk about FODMAP. It’s an acronym for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”. Umm, okay that’s still nosebleed-worthy, I know. Let me put that in layman’s term for you:
this is another scientific name for sugar. The prefixes pertain to the number (complexity) of the sugar molecules. Mono- and di-, as you might already know, means, single and double, respectively. Oligo- means few, although it’s pretty much really, since an oligosaccharide is a sugar with 3-10 molecules.
low calorie sugars, which are sugar alcohols, to be exact.
this pertains to food items that are not absorbed well during digestion so the large intestines “ferment” them instead. This fermentation by gut bacteria results in gas and potentially, other digestive issues for sensitive individuals.
There are some people who suffer from IBS with FODMAP sensitivity. The problem is, most of them are yet to figure that out.
So if you’re still suffering from IBS symptoms despite your exhaustive diet trials, you might want to try a low FODMAP diet. There are studies that show 70% of people with IBS find relief from it.
Are FODMAPs Bad For Your Health?
Only if you are FODMAP sensitive. FODMAPs are not really bad for one’s health. In fact, a lot of high FODMAP food items are healthy and are essential to health.
Since high FODMAPs undergo fermentation in the large intestine, they help our gut’s healthy flora. This means they promote good bacteria.
However, if restrictions will cause you to fall short in some nutrients, then a low FODMAP alternative must be taken. More importantly, this kind of diet should only be done by those who have FODMAP sensitivity.
The Low FODMAP Vegan Diet For IBS
One of the many great things about the vegan diet is that it can be modified to fit any need, and I mean EVERYTHING! From vegan milks and meats to vegan cheese! So who says you can’t be a vegan if you have IBS?
Are you ready?
If you have IBS, I would suggest, again, a food journal. You can use this to keep track of your food triggers, and the reactions or issues you get from them. Because let’s admit it, trying to remember everything you eat is just impossible!
Now, avoiding dairy (high FODMAP!) is easy peasy for vegans so I will start with the vegan items that fall under the high FODMAP spectrum. Yes you will have to avoid some vegetables! Including some fruits and grains, too! Think it’s hard? It can be, in the beginning. So, here’s a low FODMAP vegan list to get you started!
Note: If you have food triggers on these lists, even if they are LOW FODMAP, AVOID them! Likewise, if your food trigger doesn’t appear on low FODMAP, it doesn’t mean you can have them.
Spices and Seasonings
High FODMAP Spices
Low FODMAP Spices
Garlic, onion, shallots, spices that contain dried mushrooms, wheat, beans, and low calorie sugars
All-spice, basil, chives, chili, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, five spice, ginger, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, turmeric, thyme,
High FODMAP fruits (high fructose)
Low FODMAP fruits (low fructose)
Apples, apricots, avocado, blackberry, cherries, figs, grapefruit, lychee, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and watermelon
Bananas, blueberries, kiwi, limes, mandarins, oranges, papaya, pineapple, rhubarb and strawberries
High FODMAP Vegetables
Low FODMAP Vegetables
Asparagus, artichoke hearts, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory leaves, corn, globe, Jerusalem artichokes, karela, leeks, mushrooms, okra, pumpkin, snow peas
Bean sprouts, bok choy, capsicum, carrot, eggplant, kale, tomato, spinach, zucchini
Legumes and Nuts
High FODMAP Legumes
Low FODMAP Legumes
Baked beans, black-eyed peas, broad beans, butter beans, cashew, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pistachio, soybeans, split peas,
Tofu, most nuts and seeds (boiling and straining legumes and nuts is an effective way to make them low FODMAP)
Sugars and Sweeteners
High FODMAP Sweeteners
Low FODMAP Sweeteners
Agave nectar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, molasses, added polyols in sugar-free mints and chewing gums (check the labels for sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol or isomalt)
Glucose, maple syrup, sucrose, sugar and most artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and Stevia
High FODMAP Grains
Low FODMAP Grains
Amaranth, barley, couscous, pasta, rye, wheat
Brown rice, buckwheat, maize, millet, oats, polenta, quinoa, tapioca
High FODMAP Beverages
Low FODMAP Beverages
Chai tea, chamomile tea, coconut water, dandelion tea, dessert wine, fennel tea, oolong tea, rum
Black tea, coffee, gin, green tea, peppermint tea, vodka, water, white tea
High FODMAP Vegan Milk
Low FODMAP Vegan Milk (up to 250ml serving)
Oat milk in servings from 125ml and up, soy milk from whole soybeans
Almond milk, hemp milk, macadamia milk, oat milk (BELOW 125ml), quinoa milk (unsweetened), rice milk, soy milk from soy protein
Points to remember:
Serving size matters
Just because it’s low FODMAP does not mean you can eat too much of it. This will of course increase the FODMAP content as well. On the bright side, you may still be able to enjoy high FODMAP foods but in much smaller amounts. This will depend on your level of sensitivity.
Decreasing FODMAP content
There are some ways to lower a food’s FODMAP content: through boiling and fermentation. Boil high FODMAP legumes and nuts and strain the water.
High FODMAP grains that undergo fermentation will also have lower levels, like in the case of rye bread (sourdough bread).
Low FODMAP Vegan Meal Ideas
Need a start? Plan your daily meals with these ideas for low FODMAP vegan meals from Bloom Nutritionist:
1. Low FODMAP Vegan Breakfast Ideas
- Porridge made with 1/2 cup rolled oats or quinoa with chia, unripe banana, strawberries and low FODMAP vegan milk of choice
- Spelt sourdough toast with vegan peanut butter and unripe banana slices
- Gluten-free Weet-Bix with low FODMAP vegan milk of choice and low FODMAP fruit
- Spelt sourdough toast with firm tofu scramble (add low FODMAP vegetables)
- Brown rice pudding with low FODMAP vegan milk of choice and cinnamon
- Berry or unripe banana smoothie with low FODMAP vegan milk of choice and chia seeds
2. Low FODMAP Vegan Lunch And Dinner Ideas
- Rice paper rolls with grilled tofu, rice noodles, carrot, cucumber, coriander and capsicum with a homemade low FODMAP vegan peanut butter and lime juice dressing
- Sushi with brown rice, tamari-marinated tofu, capsicum, cucumber and carrot
- Buckwheat or gluten-free pasta with canned diced tomatoes (up to 1/2 cup per serving) and low FODMAP vegetables (e.g. grated zucchini, carrot, baby spinach) and either crumbled tofu or 1/2 cup canned brown lentils/red kidney beans
- Fried brown rice or quinoa with tamari-marinated tofu, chives, diced carrot, diced zucchini and spinach
- Tofu and low FODMAP vegetable stir-fry (e.g. green beans, capsicum, bok choy, carrot, zucchini) with homemade peanut satay dressing
- Grilled marinated tofu or tempeh (in a tamari, ginger, orange juice and maple syrup marinade), served with brown rice or quinoa and steamed low FODMAP vegetables
3. Low FODMAP Vegan Snacks
- One serving of low FODMAP fruit
- A handful of low FODMAP nuts, e.g. walnuts
- One slice of spelt sourdough toast with peanut butter
- Smoothie with berries or banana, chia and low FODMAP vegan milk of choice
4. Low FODMAP Vegan Desserts
- A serving of low FODMAP fruit mix
- Vegan and gluten-free ice cream (in low FODMAP fruit flavors)
BONUS: To learn how you can heal your gut from IBS while being on a vegan diet, check out the video below!
Low FODMAP Vegan Protein Sources
With the need to eliminate a lot of legumes and nuts to go on a low FODMAP diet, you might worry about your protein source as a vegan. Here are your alternatives! Just follow these serving sizes from The FODMAP-Friendly Vegan.
These are small servings already, but I suggest you adjust it according to your tolerance.
- Almonds (10 pcs. max)
- Broccoli (1/2 cup max)
- Brown Rice (1 cup)
- Chia Seeds (2 tbsp)
- Chickpeas (1/4 cup)
- Cooked Quinoa, Amaranth, or Millet (1 cup)
- Gluten-free oats (1/2 cup uncooked)
- Hazelnuts (10 max)
- Hemp seeds (2 tbsp)
- Lentils (1/4 cup)
- Macadamia Nuts (20 nuts)
- Peanuts (32 nuts) & Peanut Butter (2 tbsp)
- Pecans (19 halves)
- Pine Nuts (1 tbsp)
- Pumpkin Seeds (2 tbsp)
- Sesame Seeds (1 tbsp)
- Soy yoghurt
- Spinach (1 cup)
- Sprouted brown rice protein powder (Sunwarrior, Amazonia) 20g scoop
- Sunflower Seeds (2 tbsp)
- Tempeh (1 cup)
- Tofu (1 cup)
- Unsweetened vegan milk (up to 2 cups max)
- Walnuts (14 halves)
Helpful Lifestyle Tips For People With IBS
Finding the most suitable diet when you have IBS can be really challenging. It may even test your patience and persistence. However, it’s not just your diet that will need a modification. Control your symptoms even better with these tips:
- Manage stress and avoid it as much as possible.
- Use a food journal to record everything you eat to identify triggers.
- Engage in regular physical activities to relax your body and mind.
- Do not smoke.
- Eat smaller meals and avoid large meals.
- For women, use warm compress to reduce abdominal cramps and bloating during period.
- If you have alternating IBS symptoms, aim to have a regular eating and sleeping pattern.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
Changing your lifestyle will also require discipline. A LOT of it. Ultimately, along with a healthier lifestyle, knowing your triggers and being able to find food alternatives that you can enjoy will help you embrace all the changes.
People with IBS can still be vegans. If you are FODMAP sensitive, a low FODMAP vegan diet can be your long term relief.
However, it is also important to practice a healthier lifestyle and not just a healthier diet to get the right balance that won’t trigger a mixture of symptoms.
Have you had help from a vegan diet while suffering from IBS? What other lifestyle changes have you made? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.