How Can I Be a Vegan With IBS? 3 Must Know Tips

When you go vegan, all of a sudden, your staple go-to’s such as lean meats with your dinner, cheese with your lunchtime salad and eggs for brekkie get replaced with a whole new diversity of plant-based foods.   There is a natural tendency to fill up on more carb-rich foods such as pasta with tomato sauce for dinner, rice and beans for lunch and toast at brekkie.  Nuts which were once a snack are now a dominant and yummy feature – and don’t mention all those delicious avocado and maple syrup based vegan deserts!

If you are one of the 20% of the NZ or UK population living with IBS, then you may have become savvy to which foods trigger your symptoms and avoid them. 

How common is IBS where you live?  Check this global map to find out.

Your IBS symptoms can include: bloating –sometimes very severe distension, diarrhoea, constipation, mucus in your poop, gas and pain.

More than a small inconvenience

What people who don;t have IBS may not realise is that:

  • You may always need to be near a toilet,
  • You miss work or social events in fear of awkward moments
  • You can become anxious about which foods will turn traumatic.

Severe IBS impacts upon close relationships and ability to work;  People with IBS can be more sensitive to stress, with higher levels of anxiety (2), OCD and compulsive behaviours (including, shopping, hoarding, eating, thought patterns and gambling).

The following list of “Invisible Effects of IBS on Your Body” show just how important it is that you now discover which vegan foods can keep embarrassing moments at bay:

  • Unhelpful changes to the gut flora (dysbiois)
  • Leaky gut (large food particles can escape into the bloodstream)
  • Additional food intolerances – you develop a reaction to foods you have always eaten
  • Worsening pain
  • Changes to your immune response – this links into food intolerances that you feel in your whole body, not just your gut like achy joints, headaches and swollen glands
  • Alterations in neurotransmitter production (2), e.g. serotonin – your natural Prozac
  • Fatigue, dehydration, toxicity
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia.


Download the Monash University FODMAP guide.  It will cost you a well-spent few bucks.

This app is a traffic light system – green foods are least likely to cause your symptoms, so eat them often.  Orange foods should be kept to now and again.  Reds are likely to cause symptoms and you are best off avoiding them.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs stand for:   Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.

FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that are indigestible in the small intestine and travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by gut bacteria, causing your symptoms.   High FODMAP vegan foods to be avoided include:

  • Wheat, rye and gluten containing breads, pies, pastas and baking
  • Veggies such as artichoke, garlic, , mushroom, cauliflower, leek and onion
  • Fruits including apples, pears and stone-fruits
  • Legumes including beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Nuts such as cashews and pistachios. More than a palmful of most other nuts.

The dedicated scientists at Monash University are constantly testing foods for their FODMAP content, and upward of 70% of patients with IBS are relieved by following a low FODMAP diet (3).  Thanks to the app, you don’t have to memorize what a oligosaccharide is, or where to find it!  If you cannot splash out on the app, then there are plenty of FODMAP food lists available online.

This video explains FODMAPs:


Cutting the dairy and meat can mean that you fill up on breads, pastas and pain inducing nuts and instead.  For vegans with IBS this can be a nightmare as bloating, distension, fatigue and stress all catch up.

Here are some vegan friendly food sources – find more on the Monash App:

Fruits   Blueberries, bananas, orange, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, rhubarb, lemon, lime.

Veg:  Broccoli, cucumber, salad, green beans, sweet potato, capsicum, sweet potato, zucchini.

Protein:  Tempeh, quinoa, polenta, tofu.

Carbs: Spelt bread, rice, corn and oat cakes, gluten-free oats, sourdough bread, organic gluten-free breads, muesli if wheat free and no dried fruit

Legumes: Very well soaked and cooked beans, chickpeas and lentils.. Canned lentils also have less FODMAPs.  Start with ½ tablespoon and build slowly from there, monitoring your own tolerance

Fats and oils: Olive, coconut.

Flavours: Salt, pepper, chilli, ginger.

Sweeteners: Coconut sugar, golden syrup.

Dairy alternatives:  Coconut yogurt (check the ingredients), almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, soy protein (from soy protein not beans),

Drinks: Tea, coffee, purified water, some alcohols


If you have been eating low FODMAP but are not noticing enough improvements, then you may be intolerant to a one or more low FODMAP foods.    Everyone is different so you need to be your own health detective here.  Use this guide to the gold standard Elimination Diet to help you through.  Once your gut lining has restored, you may be able to add these foods back in – this could take months or years.


Eating probiotic foods can help to restore the gut lining, increase nutritional uptake and reduce immune responses to food.  Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, kefir and probiotic non-dairy yogurts.

I do not recommend a probiotic for everyone as people with IBS, and most other illnesses may already have a gut flora imbalance.  If you are constipated then throwing another mound of bacteria on top of the fermenting food can make things worse!  If you are going to try a probiotic supplement, then I recommend you get a capsule that you can open.  Initially take 1/4 to 1/2 a capsule every other day for 4 weeks to see how you react.  Everybody has a unique flora, and changing the way you eat naturally changes your gut flora.  The probiotic foods may be enough.

Last but not least, because of the link between IBS, stress and anxiety, it’s a good idea to keep going with your relaxation techniques.  Whether it’s talking to a therapist, getting more sleep, regular massage (1 to 4 a month is the dose), chilling with your girls,  standing on the grass, relaxing yoga or deep breathing – anything that calms your nervous system is sure to help.


If you have any questions about this or any other topics, post them to The Sistahood FB Wall.

  1. Canavan C, West J, Card T. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol. 2014;6:71–80.
  2. Cristina Stasi, et al. Neuroendocrine markers and psychological features in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Int J Colorectal Dis (2013) 28:1203–1208
  3. Wathsala S Nanayakkara et al.  Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date.  Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2016; 9: 131–142.

About Claire Bhavani

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