Choosing bread that won’t cause an IBS flare can be complicated and different for everyone. While whole wheat may be off the table, other options could be worth a try. Once you determine your individual IBS triggers, you may find more bread choices than expected.

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Flares can be unpredictable, and IBS triggers can be different for everyone.

It’s not clear exactly what causes IBS. Management of IBS can include medications, supplements, activity, and dietary changes. There’s no specific IBS diet, and most diets revolve around identifying individual food triggers.

For some people, adding more soluble fiber can help. Others may get some relief with a low-FODMAP diet. Some people find success with a gluten-free diet. In other words, the IBS diet is very individual.

If you have IBS, bread options can be tricky, especially if you’re still learning how to navigate your triggers. However, certain ingredients and bread types tend to be better tolerated by people with IBS. Knowing this can be helpful as you make your way through the grocery store.

This article will take a closer look at how to choose the best bread for you when you live with IBS.

There’s no one type of bread that will work for everyone with IBS. However, there are some types of bread and ingredients that are less likely to cause symptoms.

Soluble vs. insoluble fiber

Fiber type can make a difference. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that can dissolve in water. Oatmeal gets its sticky texture from the soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber helps to keep stool soft and formed.

The other type of fiber is called insoluble, sometimes known as roughage. Our body can’t break it down, and it adds bulk to your stool.

Many people with IBS find that foods high in insoluble fiber are harder to digest and make symptoms worse. Whole wheat or whole grain bread are both high in insoluble fiber. These may worsen cramping, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.


Another consideration for IBS is what’s used to make the bread rise. Sourdough bread uses a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast to give it texture. Sourdough starter is made from wheat so it’s not a gluten-free option.

However, the benefit of sourdough is that the fermenting process breaks down some of the gluten and FODMAPs. This means it’s often better tolerated compared to bread made with yeast.

What does FODMAP mean?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that ferment easily in the digestive system. Because of the way they digest, high-FODMAP foods are more likely to worsen IBS symptoms.

A low-FODMAP diet is a short-term elimination diet. Many people with IBS may try this to help determine whether their symptoms are caused by specific food triggers. Often, people with IBS will continue to eat low-FODMAP foods.

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Low-FODMAP breads

There’s good evidence that a low-FODMAP diet may help with IBS symptoms. This is especially true for bloating and pain. A low-FODMAP diet actually involves three phases:

  1. an elimination phase that only includes low-FODMAP foods
  2. a phase when each group of FODMAP foods is re-introduced while monitoring for symptoms
  3. the final stage in which you follow your long-term diet, avoiding specific types of FODMAPs that cause symptoms for you

If you’re following a FODMAP elimination diet, you’ll need to limit rye, wheat, or barley sources. In those cases, gluten-free bread made with other low-FODMAP ingredients will still fit. Sourdough bread is often still allowed on a low-FODMAP diet.

If you plan to do an elimination diet, it’s smart to work with a dietitian who can provide guidance on low-FODMAP breads.

Does bread have to be gluten or wheat-free?

Not necessarily. People with IBS may switch to gluten-free or wheat-free bread and find that it helps prevent flares. However, it’s important to figure out what ingredient in the bread may trigger your flares. Gluten is found in rye, barley, and wheat. Wheat also contains fructans, a source of FODMAPs.

Many people believe that gluten may trigger their flares, but it could actually be the fructans found in wheat.

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Yes! The good news is that there are more options available now than ever.

Sourdough bread is becoming more popular, and there are different types out there, both from bakeries and grocery stores. Depending on where you shop, you may even find bread labeled as low FODMAP.

Gluten-free bread is usually found in the freezer-section of a store. This helps to keep the bread fresher as it can dry out quickly at room temperature.

Be sure to read ingredient labels carefully, however. It’s possible you may be sensitive to some commonly added ingredients in store-bought breads.

If you’re avoiding high-FODMAP foods, here are some ingredients to watch out for:

If your primary IBS symptom tends to be constipation, certain ingredients may be helpful. Sources of soluble fiber such as oats and ground flaxseed can help hold water in your stool to keep your digestive system moving.

Insoluble fiber can be hard to digest. Some ingredients to avoid include:

  • whole wheat flour
  • bran
  • brown rice
  • nuts

IBS affects up to 45 million people in the United States. When you live with IBS, bread choices can be complicated, and everyone is very different. Using some general guidelines in bread choices can help reduce your symptom flares.

Sourdough bread is often better tolerated with IBS. The fermenting process that makes it rise helps break down some gluten and FODMAPS. If you are prone to constipation, ingredients like oats or ground flax may help.

Bread choices for IBS may be complicated, but there are better options now than ever before.