Is Sugar an IBS Trigger Food?

  • Sugar usually means sucrose. Sucrose is the refined white granulated, powdered, or brown sugar found at grocery stores, used in home cooking.

  • Sucrose is not an IBS trigger. Refined sugar is certainly not a health food, but it isn't a GI stimulant or irritant.

  • What about dessert?! You can have your IBS-friendly cake and eat it, too. IBS safe dessert recipes depend on a low fat, dairy-free, high soluble fiber foundation. The sugar itself won't cause problems, so feel free to enjoy some sweet treats.

  • However! Another type of sugar, fructose (fruit sugar) is a very likely trigger for IBS symptoms, especially diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps. Fructose is considered a FODMAP.

  • Fructose is found in concentrated amounts in commercial drinks and sweets made with high-fructose corn syrup and fruit juice concentrate.

  • It's possible to be fructose intolerant (your doctor can - and should - test you for this).

  • But, even people without fructose intolerance can suffer GI side effects from too much fructose.

  • To avoid fructose, watch for: agave, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, levulose, and invert sugar.

  • About 40% of the sugar in honey is fructose, so if you're fructose intolerant you may have to limit this.

  • Fructose is in fresh fruits, but don't just eliminate all from your diet, as you need the nutritional benefits.

    • High fructose - Grapes, apples, pears, cherries, and mangoes.

    • Low fructose - Peaches, apricots, honeydew, cantaloupe, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, citrus.

    • Small amounts of fresh fruits are more tolerable, so try to have a little bit with each meal.

    • Even lower fructose fruits can still be high insoluble fiber, so be cautious with that.

  • Dried fruit and fruit juices are far more concentrated sources of fructose, and you may have to restrict them.

Tip Takeaway: Plain old sugar is not a health food, but it's also not an IBS trigger. An occasional IBS safe dessert should be fine. Fructose, however, is hard to digest even if you don't have IBS, so be careful and avoid or limit fructose as needed to stay stable.

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