Life can still be sweet if you are following the low-FODMAP diet to help with your symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). When you do find sugars or sweeteners in candies, chocolate or other goods, the best advice is to not go overboard (for several reasons). Be an educated consumer and be good for your health! Read on to learn more about low-FODMAP sugars and sweeteners.
Explore which Low FODMAP sugars and sweeteners will be High/Low FODMAP
Sugar and Sweeteners on the low-FODMAP Diet
- With regard to your overall health, consider being mindful of how much-added sugar is healthy to consume on a daily basis. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are (7): Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons). Added sugars are simple sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food. The AHA recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men).
- Read those labels! When looking to buy chocolate, candy, or anything sweet you should know which sugars and other ingredients are low-FODMAP and which are high-FODMAP. —See my printable list below for sugars and sweeteners.
- Be cautious of any other high-FODMAP ingredients listed on the food label.
- Also know that if a high-FODMAP ingredient is listed near the bottom of the ingredient list, it should be present in small quantities and therefore safe to consume.
- If you see something like an apple or beet juice but they are used to add color to the product and not flavor it, again the product should be safe to consume.
- Don’t go overboard – Pay attention to servings. On the Monash FODMAP app, you can find listings for different chocolate products. For example, dark chocolate should be limited to 5 squares or the equivalent of 1/2 small bar, or 30 grams. Milk and white chocolate – 1 fun-size bar is LOW but 5 squares or 30 grams or more has MODERATE amounts of lactose. Intake should be limited if you malabsorb lactose. Chocolate Chip Cookies, Biscuits – 1 cookie is LOW in FODMAPs. Drinking Chocolate 23%, 60% and 70% cocoa powder – 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons is LOW. See the Monash app for more information.
Another reason to not go overboard with sugar:
- A diet poor in nutrition (forget your veggies?) and high in sugar can lead to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO occurs when the bacteria in your small intestine get out of balance and overgrow. The excess bacteria feed on sugar, simple and complex carbohydrates, starches, and alcohol. When all is said and done, symptoms can lead to belching, flatulence, severe bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Another reason to keep sugar in check!
- A diet high in sugar can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, weight gain, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Too much sugar can drain your energy and lead to depression (source).
As you can see there are many reasons to be mindful of the impact of sugar on your gut, body, and mind.
SUGAR COULD BE THE REASON FOR YOUR Issues
Sugar intolerances can cause different symptoms, depending on the particular type of sugar. Gas-producing bacteria in the GI tract love sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup. If you’re not careful enough, you might be ingesting high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by way of sodas, candies, breads, cakes, dairy, crackers, cough syrups, relish, bakes beans, ice cream, jams, jellies, syrups, salad dressings, sauces and more. HFCS is a FODMAP and one of many sugars to cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Candida is a yeast specie that also loves to chow down on sugar, and too much can lead to dysbiosis, which is a bacterial imbalance and a major cause of bloating. Dysbiosis has been associated with illnesses, such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cancer and colitis. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Corrie Pikul, quoting Robynne Chutkan MD, a Maryland-based gastroenterologist and the author of Gutbliss: A 10-Day Plan to Ban Bloat, Flush Toxins, and Dump Your Digestive Baggage, “the amount (of sugar) that most of us can comfortably process in a day is only about 50 grams (a 12-ounce can of cola has 33 grams; a drinkable low-fat yogurt could have 22 grams). Chutkan says that about one-third of the population has something called fructose malabsorption, which means that an excess of about 25 grams of sugar is fermented by colonic bacteria — and results in lots of stinky gas.”
Those with fructose malabsorption can benefit from an elimination diet like the low-FODMAP diet because the diet eliminates fructose as well as other sugars in addition to fructose. If you have fructose malabsorption it means you have trouble completely absorbing fructose in your small intestine, and the undigested fructose is then carried to the colon where normal bacteria rapidly devour it. The bacteria then produce gases which cause the intestine to swell. The most common symptoms are distention, bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea and some people may also experience fatigue, headaches, brain fog, and mood changes. The undigested particles of fructose may also be the cause for diarrhea.
If you have diarrhea, read food labels so that you can avoid sorbitol which is a Polyol and FODMAP. This artificial sweetener causes digestive problems and is also a hard-to-digest sugar found naturally in some fruits, including prunes, apples, and peaches, and its also used to sweeten gum and diet foods. Once sorbitol reaches the large intestine, it often creates gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Other sugar alcohols and FODMAPs that can be hard to digest are mannitol, maltitol, xylitol and isomalt.
When people with lactose intolerance ingest the sugar lactose found in milk and other dairy products, it isn’t digested properly and causes symptoms of gas and bloating. Consuming too much lactose (a FODMAP), sends it into the large intestine, where diarrhea can develop or worsen. Lactose intolerance is also called lactose malabsorption, and its where a person has a deficiency of lactase — an enzyme produced in your small intestine. Symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas can occur within 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting lactose.
Having digestive problems and love chocolate? It’s time to be more selective with your beloved chocolate treats. Chocolate can cause different types of digestive issues, including heartburn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Know What Sugar is Called
Common names for sugar include brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, galactose, glucose, honey, hydrogenated starch, invert sugar maltose, lactose, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, polyols, raw sugar, sorghum, sucrose, sorbitol, turbinado sugar, and xylitol.
Reduce Sugar in Your Life
- Do you always get dessert when out to dinner or always have it at home at night? Start out by only having dessert on odd days of the week, then make it down to once a week, and cut down more if you can. Opt to slowly sip some decaf tea.
- Skip energy bars and drinks. Buy water with electrolytes, and eat natural foods with natural energy boosters.
- Opt for low-sugar breakfast cereals and oatmeals.
- If you get a craving, get up and grab a glass of water, then go for a walk or complete a task!
- Don’t keep any ice cream, cookies or other desserts at home. Someone offering you birthday cake leftovers to take home? Kindly refuse the offer.
- You don’t need extra sugar. Read food labels for hidden sugars in cough syrups, dressings, spreads, peanut butter, breakfast cereals, soda, chewing gum, mints, tomato sauce, ketchup, baked beans, and lunch meats.
- Don’t deprive yourself – if you really need to feed your sugar fix, have half of what you would normally and stick to it. Buy smaller squares of dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Have some delicious low-FODMAP fruits.
- You may know Mark Hyman, MD. These are some of his very helpful tips for balancing your blood sugar: Research studies say that low blood sugar levels are associated with LOWER overall blood flow to the brain, which means more BAD decisions. To keep your blood sugar stable:
- Eat a nutritious breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shakes, or nut butters. Studies repeatedly show that eating a healthy breakfast helps people maintain weight loss.
- Also, have smaller meals throughout the day. Eat every 3-4 hours and have some protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds, beans).
- Avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime.
Choosing Chocolate per Monash University
- Dark chocolate (low-fodmap) 1 serving = 5 squares or 30 g
- Milk chocolate (moderate fodmap) 1 serving = 5 squares or 30 g – Lactose is the fodmap
- White chocolate (moderate fodmap) 1 serving = 5 squares or 30 g – Lactose is the fodmap
- Avoid large servings of chocolate. Chocolate is high in fat, and when consumed in excess can affect gut motility and may trigger symptoms.
- Avoid carob chocolate. Carob powder is high in oligos (fructans), and much higher than cocoa powder (as reported by Monash University).
Make an appointment with your doctor if you frequently have any of the symptoms listed above and ask to be tested for lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, sorbitol intolerance, celiac disease and also ask for your doctor to rule out small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
So which types of sugars are safe on the low-FODMAP diet?
- Fructose (natural sugar from fruits) **Only OK when a food or food product contains equal glucose to fructose ratios
- Lactose (natural sugar from milk) **Only OK in small amounts
- Maltose (sugar made from grain)
- Sucrose (made from fructose and glucose)
- Glucose (simple sugar, product of photosynthesis)
- Dextrose (form of glucose)
And which sugars or sweeteners are high in FODMAPs?
- EXCESS fructose – When there is more fructose than glucose a food becomes high in FODMAPs. The fructose can then by malabsorbed by your body and it becomes food for your gut bacteria, triggering symptoms. Avoid high-fructose containing foods such as high fructose corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup solids, apples, cherries, boysenberries, figs, pears and mangoes, honey or agave nectar, asparagus, and sugar snap peas. For a full list of foods with excess fructose, use the filter in your Monash FODMAP app to view only foods high in fructose. Having trouble using the filters? Read “Using the filters on the Monash FODMAP Diet App”.
- Lactose – the threshold limit for lactose on the low-FODMAP diet is 1 gram. According to Monash University, “research suggests that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate 12-15g of lactose per day (equivalent to up to 250ml of regular milk) and possibly even more if lactose consumption is spread throughout the day rather than in a single sitting. Examples of foods containing low, moderate and high amounts of lactose are as follows:
- LOW – Cheddar cheese 0.04 grams lactose (40 grams or two slices)
- MODERATE – Ricotta cheese 1.6 grams (80 grams)
- HIGH – Skim milk 12.5 grams lactose (250 ml) Lactose – the threshold limit for lactose on the low-FODMAP diet is 1 gram. According to Monash University, “research suggests that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate 12-15g of lactose per day (equivalent to up to 250ml of regular milk) and possibly even more if lactose consumption is spread throughout the day rather than in a single sitting.
- Inulin – a class of dietary fibers known as fructans also known as inulin fiber, chicory root fiber, chicory root extract
- Polyols – the “P” in FODMAPs – these are sugar alcohols found naturally in fruits and vegetables and also in sugar-free products (xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol).
Low FODMAP Sugars List
Beet Sugar (Low FODMAP)
This sugar comes from sugar beet plants and it is one of the most common sources of table sugar
Beet sugar consists of 99.5% sucrose and is considered low FODMAP.
Brown Sugar (Low FODMAP)
Brown sugar is made by adding molasses to refined white sugar, or by leaving the molasses intact when refining sugar crystals. According to Monash University research one tablespoon of brown sugar is considered low FODMAP
Cane Sugar (Low FODMAP)
Cane sugar is produced from sugar cane and is the other most common source of white sugar
Dextrose (Low FODMAP)
Dextrose is a form of crystalline glucose, which is produced from starch. As dextrose is made from glucose it is considered low FODMAP.
Fruit sugar (High FODMAP)
Fruit sugar is often another sneaky name for fructose. We recommend avoiding any product that has fruit sugar listed as an ingredient.
Fructose (High FODMAP)
Any ingredients that state ‘fructose’ whether it be fructose isolate, fructose, fructose syrup, crystalline fructose, or fructose sugar should be avoided as these ingredients will contain excess fructose.
Agave syrup (High FODMAP)
Agave nectar is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave. Agave syrup is incredibly high in excess fructose and according to Monash University it is high FODMAP in serving sizes larger than 1 teaspoon
High Fructose Corn Syrup (High FODMAP)
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is cheap to make, which is why food manufacturers use it extensively in processed food to help give it flavour. HFCS is fructose-enriched syrup that has been blended with dextrose syrups. HFCS is High FODMAP.
Honey (High FODMAP)
Honey consists of a mixture of sugars collected by bees from plant nectar
Molasses (High FODMAP)
Molasses is high FODMAP.
Low FODMAP Sweeteners List
Aspartame is known by the brand names of Equal, NutraSweet and Sugar Twin. Because aspartame is made from amino acids not carbohydrates, it is unlikely to be high FODMAP.
Polyols (High FODMAP)
Mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, and isomalt are all high FODMAP sugar alcohols.
Saccharin (Low FODMAP)
If used in high enough concentrations saccharin has a bitter aftertaste. It is sold under the brands Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet. In some cases, saccharin can cause an allergic reaction resulting in symptoms such as headaches, skin problems, diarrhoea, and breathing difficulties. Saccharin is currently considered a low FODMAP sweetener.
Stevia (Low FODMAP)
Stevia is a zero calorie sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of Stevia. Avoid stevia blends that contain inulin. The low FODMAP serve for stevia is 2 sachets or 2 grams.
Sucralose is a calorie-free sweetener that sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is untested and not listed as high FODMAP at this stage, however there is evidence to suggest that sucralose could have a negative impact on gut bacteria. We suggest discussing the use of sucralose with your health care provider or dietitian.