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What vegetables can irritate IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. It can cause symptoms like abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. For many people with IBS, certain foods can trigger or worsen their symptoms. Vegetables contain important nutrients but some types may irritate the digestive system.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the large intestine. It is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. Symptoms commonly include:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

These symptoms may fluctuate in frequency and intensity. IBS is thought to affect the colon’s motility, causing abnormal contractions in the intestinal muscles. This can trigger pain, diarrhea or constipation. The exact causes of IBS are unknown but major factors appear to be:

  • Brain-gut signal problems – Issues with communication between the brain and digestive system
  • Inflammation – Chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Intestinal bacteria – Imbalance of gut microbes
  • Sensitivity – Heightened visceral sensation in the intestines

IBS symptoms are often triggered or exacerbated by certain foods and stress. The disorder affects approximately 10-15% of the population and is twice as common in women as men.


Many foods contain short-chain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs. FODMAP stands for:

  • F – Fermentable
  • O – Oligosaccharides
  • D – Disaccharides
  • M – Monosaccharides
  • A – And
  • P – Polyols

FODMAPs are poorly digested by the small intestine and rapidly fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas, abdominal distension and other IBS symptoms. Studies show that a low-FODMAP diet can significantly reduce symptoms in more than 70% of IBS patients.

Many vegetables contain FODMAPs. Limiting high-FODMAP veggies may help control IBS symptoms.

Vegetables High in FODMAPs

The following vegetables are higher in FODMAPs and more likely to trigger IBS symptoms:


Onions are part of the onion family, which includes shallots, leeks and scallions. They contain fructans, a type of carbohydrate that can cause bloating and gas. Cooking onions may reduce, but not eliminate their fructan content.


Like onions, garlic contains fructans that can aggravate IBS symptoms. Some people find that cooked garlic is better tolerated.


Asparagus contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a chain of fructose molecules. For people sensitive to FODMAPs, asparagus may contribute to digestive issues.


Artichokes contain inulin and oligofructose, types of fructans that can be problematic for some with IBS. Artichoke hearts may be higher in FODMAPs than the leaves.


Beets contain fructans and polyols, including the sugar alcohol sorbitol. Many people with IBS have difficulty digesting sorbitol.


Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower contains oligosaccharides that may worsen IBS symptoms. Cooked cauliflower florets tend to be easier to digest.


Mushrooms contain mannitol, a sugar alcohol that can cause digestive problems for some people with IBS. Portobello and white button mushrooms have the highest amounts.

Snow Peas

Snow peas contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), a type of FODMAP that can be gas-producing. Snow peas also have fructans and mannitol.


Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage, which contains FODMAPs. The fermentation process may create even more gas-producing compounds.

Dried Vegetables

Dried vegetables like sun-dried tomatoes are often preserved in fructose, oligosaccharides or other FODMAPs. They tend to be higher in these carbs than their fresh counterparts.


Beans, lentils, peas and soybeans are all legumes. They contain galactans and raffinose, types of FODMAPs that can cause gas production. Sprouting and fermenting legumes may improve their digestibility.

Vegetable Juices

Juices made from vegetables high in FODMAPs, like onion and tomato, can be tricky for those with IBS. Juicing extracts liquid from the vegetables, concentrating the FODMAPs.

Vegetables Low in FODMAPs

These vegetables tend to be low in FODMAPs and less likely to cause issues:


Carrots are low in FODMAPs and generally well tolerated. But large amounts of carrot juice could be high in fructose.


Most people with IBS can handle tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes may be a better choice than larger varieties.


Zucchini is low in FODMAPs and can be enjoyed cooked or raw by most with IBS.


Eggplant is a good source of fiber that’s low in FODMAPs. The skin may be removed if eggplant is bothersome.


Cucumbers are low in FODMAPs and can be eaten in moderation by many with IBS.

Bell peppers

Red, green, orange and yellow bell peppers are low in FODMAPs. But hot peppers may be an issue for those sensitive to spicy foods.


Most types of lettuce, including romaine, butterhead and iceberg, don’t contain significant FODMAPs.


Spinach is low in FODMAPs, but some people find large amounts can aggravate IBS symptoms.


In reasonable portions, kale is low in FODMAPs and well-tolerated. It’s a good source of folate and vitamins A, C and K.

Green beans

Both green beans and yellow wax beans are low in FODMAPs. They make good substitutes for legumes.


Carrots are low in FODMAPs and generally well tolerated. But large amounts of carrot juice could be high in fructose.


Winter squashes like butternut, acorn and pumpkin are low in FODMAPs. Summer squashes like zucchini are also safe.


White potatoes contain no FODMAPs. Sweet potatoes have some fructans but are low-FODMAP if consumed in small portions.


Corn kernels are low in FODMAPs and often well tolerated. But corn products like polenta may be less so.

Tips for Managing Vegetable Intake with IBS

Here are some tips for managing vegetables with IBS:

  • Try eliminating high-FODMAP vegetables to see if symptoms improve. Then reintroduce them one at a time.
  • Limit portion sizes of veggies higher in FODMAPs.
  • Cook vegetables instead of eating them raw – this helps break down FODMAPs.
  • Sprout beans, grains and seeds to potentially reduce their FODMAP content.
  • Choose canned vegetables with no added sugars or preservatives.
  • If juicing vegetables, use low-FODMAP options and limit portion size.
  • Try fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut – the fermentation process may reduce total FODMAPs.

Track your dietary intake and symptoms to identify your own trigger foods. Over time, you may be able to tolerate more foods by gradually increasing your FODMAP intake.

Other Tips for Managing IBS

In addition to limiting high-FODMAP foods, the following lifestyle tips can help control IBS symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage stress through relaxation techniques
  • Eat meals slowly and mindfully
  • Avoid trigger foods like coffee, alcohol and spicy foods

Some patients benefit from medications like antispasmodics, laxatives, anti-diarrheals and low-dose antidepressants. Probiotics may also help reduce abdominal pain and bloating.


Some vegetables are more likely to aggravate IBS symptoms due to their FODMAP content. Onions, asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower and mushrooms tend to be the biggest offenders. Carrots, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers and zucchini are safer choices.

Modifying vegetable intake by limiting portion sizes of high-FODMAP veggies can help control IBS symptoms. Cooking vegetables may also improve digestibility. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine your optimum diet and find an appropriate treatment plan.