by Kelly Cardamone, MS, RDN, CDCES, CDN, IFNCP

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), previously referred to as spastic colon or nervous bowel, is a common disorder affecting the large intestines. The Mayo Clinic says that individuals with IBS experience cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Since IBS is a chronic disorder, it can last for years. However, dietary changes are often recommended to help treat symptoms. Dietary changes typically must be instituted for several weeks to see if symptoms improve.

In treating IBS patients, I recommend consuming easily digestible foods, an approach known as a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs are carbohydrates not easily digested or absorbed by the small intestines, and increase the amount of fluid in the bowel. Any undigested carbohydrates are later metabolized by intestinal bacteria in the colon, which produces excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Harvard Medical School researchers point to a recent study which found that 76 percent of IBS patients following a low-FODMAP diet reported improvement with symptoms.

The following suggestions are often helpful for IBS patients in alleviating their symptoms with a low-FODMAP diet.

Consume less or avoid the following:

  • Lactose, which is found in cow’s milk, custard, ice cream, pudding, cottage cheese, ricotta, and mascarpone.
  • Fructose from apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, and watermelon, as well as sweeteners including honey and agave nectar.
  • Fructans in vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, garlic, and onions, and also grains, such as wheat and rye.
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides from chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soy products, and broccoli.
  • Polyols from apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums, watermelon, cauliflower, mushrooms, snowpeas, and several sweeteners such as sorbitol and xylitol.

Foods to enjoy:

  • Lactose-free milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hard cheeses, and lactose-free yogurts.
  • Bananas, blueberries, papaya, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, oranges, and strawberries.
  • Bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bok choy, carrots, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, lettuce, olives, parsnips, and turnips.
  • Beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, and tofu.
  • Almonds, brazil nuts, chestnuts, macadamia, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts.
  • Oats, oat bran, gluten-free pasta, sourdough bread, and quinoa.

It is helpful to speak with a dietician or doctor to experiment with dietary changes to help manage your IBS. Some individuals tolerate certain “safe” foods better than others. Also, research suggests taking a soluble fiber supplement prior to a potential trigger meal can help prevent symptoms. Avoiding cooking oil, and relying on grilling, baking, steaming, or broiling is helpful. A great resource for low-FODMAP diets and IBS is

Kelly Cardamone, MS, RDN, CDCES, CDN, IFNCP is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist, and Nutrition and Diabetes Program Manager of General Physician, PC. Learn more about her at, or call 716-631-8400 to make an appointment.