One glowing, happy jack-o-lantern in a line-up of unlighted, scary-looking jack-o-lanterns.

How to Handle Halloween While Living With IBS

Don’t let gastrointestinal distress feel like the scariest part of the Halloween season. With a bit of extra effort, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this sweet holiday while managing IBS. Check out these tips to trick or treat yourself without triggering unwanted symptoms and keeping your health goals in check.

It’s all about portion control

Whether your household goes door-to-door or you still have treats to giveaway, your home has now transformed into a spooky version of candy land. But many sweets contain high FODMAP ingredients that may wreak havoc on your gut—and possibly a tooth or two. However, since many candy options are "fun-sized," your gut may be able to keep the party going by tolerating certain selections in small amounts and not being excessively restrictive.

For fun-sized candy bars, stick to one portion and for mini-sized candy bars, stick to two pieces, or around 20 grams. Track and trend to see what you can tolerate by first starting with a small portion, then letting a few hours pass to see if you present with any unwanted symptoms. While it may be tempting to indulge in a table full of treats, ration your candy treasure over the next few weeks to enjoy a symptom-free indulgence than donate the extra candy. Your gut (and the rest of your body) will thank you!

What about sugar-free candy?

Since high-fructose corn syrup is a high FODMAP and prevalent ingredient in candy, you may feel inclined to opt for sugar-free alternatives. But the body struggles to digest sugar alcohols, causing water to get drawn into the gut—which may lead to abdominal distension, diarrhea, and gas. Research shows that 10 grams of sorbitol or mannitol—commonly used sugar alcohols, increased gastrointestinal symptoms in people with IBS.1

While sugar-free candy may help satisfy your sweet tooth, certain selections can be bad news for your gut health. For instance, options such as saccharin, sucralose, and stevia may not immediately trigger symptoms, but they may alter the composition of the microbiome over time. Having diverse gut bacteria is critical for improving digestive health, bowel function, chronic inflammation, immunity, disease risk, and more.2 So, while opting for the sugar-free versions of your favorite treats may provide short-term, symptom-free satisfaction, they can have negative health implications over time.

How to enjoy a symptom-free Halloween

There isn’t anything sweeter than catching up with neighborhood or family friends for a holiday celebration. So, this year, skip the unwanted symptoms by keeping these must-know holiday tricks to treat your gut right.

Go homemade

Sometimes, if you want something done right, you just need to do it yourself! Take the guesswork out of your sweet tooth satisfaction by making your own gut-friendly Halloween creations. For the extra-savvy foodies, experiment with making gluten-free dark chocolate-covered pretzels, your own hard candies, brittle, or chews made with FODMAP-safe sweeteners. Consider making your favorite well-tolerated cookies, chocolate nut butter fudge, chocolate peanut butter cups, bite-size brownies, peppermint chocolate brittle, or chocolate sun butter truffles in spooky-shaped cookie cutters or silicone molds.

Know your triggers

When it comes to managing symptoms of IBS, knowing the food do's and don’ts are key. Refer to the ingredients list on your holiday treats to identify items that may cause unwanted distress. Examples of low FODMAP sugar options include cane, palm, brown, white, raw, coconut, and icing sugar. Ingredients such as maple syrup and rice malt syrup are also well-tolerated.3

Focus on the fun

Be about the trick rather than the treat. Create a ghost, goblin, or ghoul’s ideal hangout spot by focusing your efforts on the holiday décor. After all, a memorable Halloween comes from the best neighborhood scare rather than accumulating yet another KitKat or Snickers bar.

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