Malabsorption of poorly digested, fermentable Sugars/Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate malabsorption is another possible cause of IBS symptoms resulting from food.  Decreasing the sources of these can be part of an IBS diet.  Many IBS sufferers have discovered this on their own and subsequently start to eat an ‘IBS diet’ consisting of sugar and carbohydrate restriction to control their IBS symptoms.
Lactose (in dairy products) and fructose (in fruits and honey) are the most common sugars connected with giving IBS symptoms.  A few other groups of foods have specific sugars (fructans, and sorbitol for example) that are problematic for IBS sufferers, and should be cut down on or temporarily cut out while trying out an IBS diet.
Examples of foods that have fructans are:
  • wheat
  • rye
  • garlic
  • onion
  • cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage

Why do These Types of Sugars Cause IBS Symptoms??

Because certain sugars produce more gas and more fluid in the intestines when they are being digested.  This increased gas and fluid produces the bloating, pain, gas and diarrhea that are part of irritable bowel syndrome.
Working with a health professional who understands IBS nutrition and gut physiology is very important to sorting through all the potential confusing IBS Diet information that is out there!

High Gas-Forming Foods

Compared with fasting (i.e. no food intake), all food produces some gas in the colon, the last part of the gut before the waste is eliminated.  However, research on the IBS diet and dietary factors has shown that certain foods produce up to 10 times the amount of gas than most.  The following foods are the leading ‘gas forming’ culprits:


  1. People with IBS do NOT make more gas that normal when they eat these foods, but the brain-gut pathways are thought to be more sensitive and they get more bloating and discomfort vs. someone without IBS.  It is possible using a MIND-BODY approach to CHANGE these pathways and make you LESS sensitive to gas in the gut and will give you relief from your IBS (please read my articles on the Brain-Gut connection and the Mind-Body approach for details!).
  2. However, with all dietary approaches to IBS within the Holistic Treatment of IBS, LONG TERM restrictive diets are NOT recommended!  Strict ‘IBS Diet’ and eating only ‘IBS safe foods’ is only practiced for a short time (2-4 weeks) to see what YOUR biggest triggers are, and then foods are introduced one by one to resume a HEALTHY BALANCED and TASTY diet you can STICK TO!

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