Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may mean you need to change your diet. You may want to know whether a vegan diet is healthy to follow if you have IBS.

Veganism features only plant-based foods and avoids all animal-based products. This diet may appeal to those who want to focus on their health, animal rights, or the environment.

While there are benefits of a vegan diet for many, it is not a clear solution for those with IBS. Many plant-based foods can irritate your gastrointestinal (GI) system and cause or worsen IBS symptoms.

One major component of managing IBS symptoms relates to the foods you eat.

A 2017 study found that two-thirds of people with IBS attribute symptoms to the intake of certain foods. Symptoms include:

Adopting a diet that eliminates foods considered difficult to digest, such as the low FODMAP diet, may be a better way to control IBS symptoms than following a strictly vegan diet.

You can adopt this diet and practice veganism, but it is best to work with a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist to be sure your diet supports your overall health.

Following a vegan diet isn’t a surefire way to control IBS.

As with any dietary decision you make, there are pros and cons to adopting an eating plan that eliminates certain foods. This can be even more complex if you have IBS or any other health condition that can occur as a result of what you eat.

A well-balanced vegan diet includes:

Many foods in these categories can trigger IBS symptoms because they are difficult to digest. These foods often contain fermentable short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols.

There are many plant-based foods that are free of these elements and are easier on your digestive system, such as rice, firm tofu, ginger, and spinach. These are on the low FODMAP diet, which avoids foods that irritate the GI system.

Pros of a vegan diet

  • Veganism may align with your values and overall health goals.
  • Veganism may encourage you to be more mindful of your diet and prompt you to plan well-rounded meals.
  • Veganism promotes the consumption of plant-based foods, which contain a wide variety of nutritional benefits.
  • There is research on which plant-based foods irritate the GI system, so you can create a vegan diet without trigger foods.

Cons of a vegan diet

  • Many plant-based foods can worsen IBS symptoms, causing bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Vegan diets that avoid triggering foods could leave out essential vitamins and minerals, such as protein, iron, and calcium.
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Veganism for IBS may incorporate the low FODMAP diet. This acronym stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are the fermentable short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that may irritate your GI system.

The low FODMAP diet does not exclude meat and dairy products, but you can adapt it so that it aligns with the principles of veganism.

The low FODMAP diet measures foods by their ability to break down in the small intestine. Foods low in FODMAPs cause fewer GI reactions because your body breaks down food before it reaches the colon.

Food that remains intact by the time it is in the colon requires extra water and causes more gas. These factors can produce uncomfortable IBS symptoms that can last for hours or days after eating a triggering food.

Low FODMAP vegan foods

Here are some examples of vegan foods that are either high or low in FODMAPs.

High FODMAP foods (worse for those with IBS)Low FODMAP foods (better for those with IBS)
Fruits: apples, cherries, peaches, plums, watermelonFruits: bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, oranges, strawberries
Vegetables: asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, snow peasVegetables: carrots, eggplant, lettuce, ginger, peppers, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes
Plant-based proteins: almonds, baked beans, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, pistachiosPlant-based proteins: firm tofu, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, walnuts
Grains: rye, wheatGrains: corn, oats, quinoa, rice
Dairy replacements: almond, coconut, and rice milks

Low FODMAP nonvegan foods

Foods containing lactose are high in FODMAPs, but you would not eat these products when following a vegan diet.

Some animal-based foods, such as beef, chicken, pork, and eggs, are low in FODMAPs but are off limits on a vegan diet.

Effectiveness for IBS

A 2016 study found that up to 86 percent of participants with IBS had fewer GI symptoms when eating the low FODMAP diet.

However, the study emphasized that those following the diet needed to adhere to it closely and work with dietary professionals to get the best nutrition.

Keep in mind that everyone reacts to various foods differently, so your experience with certain food types may differ from that of others with IBS.

Keys to managing IBS start with:

  • what and when you eat
  • how much you exercise
  • how much water you drink

Here are some ways you can factor in these considerations in your daily life if you have IBS:

  • Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks as needed, according to a regular schedule.
  • Make meal plans that pack a nutritional punch, and adhere to your diet.
  • Watch your food portions and avoid huge meals and long gaps between mealtimes.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food carefully before swallowing.
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes per week if engaging in moderate activity.
  • Drink 6 to 12 cups of water per day.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Consume sugary or spicy foods in moderation, as they could potentially trigger your IBS.
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms and note if you suspect any foods or beverages triggered your IBS.

Consider working with a registered dietitian nutritionist or a doctor if you live with IBS and experience uncomfortable symptoms. Changes to your diet that include veganism or a low FODMAP diet may be healthy options for you.

A professional’s expertise can help you plan a well-rounded diet that takes into account your nutritional needs.

Adopting a low FODMAP diet may require a period of time where you eliminate certain foods and slowly add potentially triggering items back over time. A healthcare professional can make sure you do this safely.

Changing your diet may help reduce IBS symptoms. Veganism may appear to be a suitable diet for you, but it could worsen your IBS symptoms if you consume foods that stress your GI system.

The low FODMAP diet may reduce IBS symptoms by eliminating hard-to-digest foods from your meals. You can try the low FODMAP diet whether you are a vegan or not.

Talk to a medical or nutrition professional for the healthiest guidance on managing IBS through your diet.