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Low-Fructose Diet May Ease IBS Symptoms

Low-Fructose Diet May Ease IBS Symptoms

As a spoonie, I am no stranger to trying different diets in order to gauge what works better for my body. Over the years, I’ve had to tweak and re-tweak what and how I eat repeatedly, acclimating to new symptoms or diagnoses as they arise. As an adult, I’ve given up several staples I used to have in my daily diet, including coffee, milkshakes, certain cereals, most alcoholic beverages, and several kinds of condiments. While I may miss these things, I find the benefits of lower pain and experiencing less frequent flares that require immediate and uninterrupted access to a bathroom, outweigh the cost of gratifying a temporary sweet tooth or caffeine fix.

One thing I noticed early on in my IBS journey was that many foods contained fillers that triggered my symptoms, and I learned to become an avid ingredient-label-reader as a result. I remember my first foray into trying a fiber powder as a way to manage my IBS backfired terribly. It was years before I would try a fiber regimen again. But by then I realized: it wasn’t so much the fiber that had caused me more issues than they solved that first time around, but the fillers in the brand of fiber I had purchased and consumed. It had contained added sugars and sweeteners, which is a notorious IBS offender. The fiber I use now is pure, and contains no additives or fillers–and it works miraculously in managing my IBS.

Low-fructose diet and IBS

But this also goes for other things I eat, like snacks and drinks. Additives like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can actually flare IBS symptoms. The bad news is this is a relatively common–almost ubiquitous–additive found in many pre-packaged foods. The good news is, more awareness in recent years have led to more companies repealing it from their ingredient list. It is now easier to find HFCS-free snacks and drinks than it was not even a half-decade ago (whole and natural food stores are especially good at offering additive-free foods).

Recently, I even stumbled upon a study from 2014 that seemingly confirmed the role of fructose in worsening IBS symptoms. In particular, the study asserted that “[a] low-fructose diet has been found to improve IBS symptoms in some patients.” It noted that though fructose is found in small to modest amounts in fruits and vegetables, it is found in excessive amounts in highly processed “convenience” foods. As such, the study concluded that: “Encouraging patients to choose whole foods (e.g., vegetables, grains, nuts, and a selection of fruits as tolerated) and avoid highly-processed foods (e.g., sodas and industrially produced baked goods full of fructose-predominant added sugars), might lead to decided benefit and symptom control in patients with IBS.” 1

It should be stressed that even though fruit is healthier than processed snack foods, some fruit can still aggravate IBS, especially those with higher fructose content–such as apples, pears, peaches and watermelon. As an alternative, the Cleveland Clinic suggests a diet that includes more low-fructose fruits that are less likely to flare IBS. These include bananas and berries such as blueberries and strawberries, grapes and cantaloupe. 2

I personally find low-fructose fruits fairly benign when it comes to my IBS, and tend to steer clear of more high-fructose fruits—and I definitely notice a difference.

How about you? Do fruits or processed foods containing a lot of fructose bother your IBS? Did you reduce your fructose intake and notice an improvement in your IBS symptoms? Please feel free to discuss in the comments section below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. DiNicolantonio, J. J., & Lucan, S. C. (2015). Is fructose malabsorption a cause of irritable bowel syndrome?. Medical hypotheses, 85(3), 295-7.
  2. Lashner, Bret. Best and Worst Foods for IBS - Low-FODMAP diet may control symptoms (February 18, 2014). Retrieved December 19, 2018, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/take-control-of-ibs-with-low-fodmap-diet/

Comments

  • ozziecookie
    5 months ago

    The FODMAPS diet (which eliminates foods based on class of sugars-such as you mention here) has made a big difference for me. I have gone on and off it the past few years. Recently, I had a bad flare up and have been doing diet for about 1 1/2 months. I’ve had to eliminate more foods this time-which is hard at first, but really worth the effort for me. I have had a range of symptoms (D and C) but the last few years, extreme fatigue has been the most disabling. I get so tired when digestive symptoms start, I can’t keep my eyes open and that sometimes last a couple days-which effects work, family, socializing, exercise, etc). Very disabling. The diet is helping and I recommend anyone who is suffering to give it a try.

  • HessP moderator
    5 months ago

    I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles the past few years, ozziecookie! Trying to manage IBS can certainly be a daily struggle. I also understand what it’s like to be extremely fatigued due to IBS symptoms and it can be very debilitating at times. Here is an article I think you may be able to relate to, in case you’re interested: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/anxiety-and-fatigue/ . I hope you find it useful. Please know you’re in the right place for support and many people in the IBS community can relate to your story. I’m glad you found a diet that works best for you, and I hope it continues to do so! Thanks so much for being a part of the IBS community! Take care – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • ExplodingGuts
    5 months ago

    I’ve been a ‘slow food’ chef for many years so never eat pre-fab food unless we’re out at a restaurant – a rare occasion – typically some burger joint to appease offspring, who departs forever shortly so those rare occasions will now pretty much cease.

    No, for me, the single most important connection is NOT food but the connection btwn asthma/respiratory health and stomach health. If I feel like I’m catching cold it’s usually b/c stomach acid is high and vice versa. If I manage one, I can often manage the other. Not always. Stomach does maintain the upper hand too often.

    I have a stash of Dexilant, Metamucil and Olestyr acquired on advice from gastroenterologist, a top man in his field. An expensive waste of $! When symptoms – exploding diarrhea – persisted, I put all but over the counter Immodium and Zantac 150 aside. Slowly, I seem to be getting better. I can now go for long-ish walks in the one place nearby with public washrooms. About every few days, I have to take some Immodium, Zantac 150 and sometimes Tylenol for actual stomach pain, and this seems so far to be mostly effective.

    My theory now is that maybe just maybe there is, in fact, a stress connection though for me it may be so entrenched I don’t notice it anymore. Really I love my life and my work, but there must be some pattern. I’m trying to become more aware of it so that I can control it.

    Not looking for fast answers. I feel that it took me a long time to acquire this annoying condition so it may take some time to heal. Self-focus to identify stressers is dull work but effective, I think. For example, I noted recently that driving in the city is now a terror so we have committed to do much less of it. Visiting certain relations is also a terror so now that offspring is departing there is no longer any reason to do so more than very intermittently. This should help enormously. It helps just to say it.

    Sounds so simple but it isn’t at all. I would advise everyone with IBS to rid your lives of some unessential negativity and see how you feel. As Milan Kundera famously put it, seek The Incredible Lightness of Being. Shedding stressful obligations if you possibly can should give us all some much-needed relief. Here’s hoping.

    My stress increased when exploding guts made workouts on my elliptical trainer (plus floor exercises) so challenging. I finally gave it up. A few false starts. Hoping to re-start shortly, which may yield a good result.

    Again, food for me nor drink changes anything. My guts explode with or without cocktails, fibre, chocolate.

    OR IBS may be a persistent and/or recurring infection one of many current medical practice fails to reveal. MDs are just not that smart yet. I’ve had all the requisite tests. They all suggest I’m as healthy as an ox. So it’s back to the stress test/modification approach for now.

  • HessP moderator
    5 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your theory and what works best for you, ExplodingGuts! I can certainly relate on many levels, and I’m sure others in the IBS community can as well. Stress can definitely play a role in triggering our symptoms, and it doesn’t always matter how big or little the stress is either. Here are a couple of articles I think you may find useful to your understanding of how stress affects IBS: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/clinical/do-stress-and-anxiety-cause-ibs/ AND https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/stress-ibs-getting-on-with-it/ . I truly hope you find the articles to be helpful. Thanks again for sharing because I know your comment will not only resonate with others, but also help them feel less alone. Wishing you lots of strength and sending lots of positive vibes your way! Thanks for being a part of our IBS community. Best, Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

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