Prebiotics for IBS-C

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, can be a difficult digestive condition to deal with. The uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating that are triggered with certain foods can make meal and snack time difficult.  The low FODMAP diet can help those with IBS relieve symptoms by avoiding certain foods that are common triggers. However, those with a certain kind of IBS, known as IBS-C, may also benefit from the addition of prebiotics to the diet. Let’s learn about what IBS-C is and how prebiotics may help those with this digestive condition.

What is IBS-C?

IBS-C is a certain kind of irritable bowel syndrome where more than 25-percent of stools produced are hard or lumpy and less than 25-percent are loose and watery. The “C” stands for constipation. This contrasts with those with the other major form of IBS known as IBS-D, or IBS with primarily diarrhea.

Symptoms of IBS-C include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Primarily constipation, but sometimes alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Feeling like you haven’t finished a bowel movement
  • Whitish mucous in the stool

Typical first line treatment of IBS-C is to make changes in the diet such as eating more fiber, avoiding gluten, and/or following the low FODMAP diet.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are certain foods or dietary compounds that help feed probiotics, or “good” bacteria. The prebiotics help the probiotics flourish in the gut, in turn helping to restore balance in the gut and relieve digestive symptoms.

Examples of prebiotics include:

  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha
  • Vegetables such as leeks, garlic, chicory, onion, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, yams, dandelion leaves, and sweet potatoes
  • Fruits like apples and bananas
  • Whole wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseeds

Prebiotics for IBS-C

Research shows that prebiotics can help reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory compounds in intestinal tissue. A 2017 study reports that prebiotics can help reduce digestive discomfort in those with functional bowel disorders like IBS-C, and can also increase the number of faecal Bifidobacteria in the gut. This increase in probiotics in the gut can help improve several symptoms, including stool consistency, flatulence, and bloating.

What prebiotics are low FODMAP?

Prebiotics can be a helpful addition to restoring gut balance and reducing symptoms in those with IBS-C. However, consuming prebiotics that are high FODMAP foods may counteract such benefits. The following prebiotics are high in FODMAPs and should be avoided by those with IBS-C:

  • Jerusalem artichokes (contain fructose and fructans)
  • Asparagus (1/2 spear is considered low FODMAP, but 1 spear contains moderate levels of fructose, while 5 spears or more contains high levels of fructose and fructans)
  • Leeks
  • Garlic and onion
  • Apples
  • Whole wheat
  • Barley (the only type of barley that is low FODMAP friendly is pearl barley grains, sprouted in a ½ cup serving)

Prebiotics that are ok to consume on the low FODMAP diet include:

  • Chicory leaves (1/2 cup is considered low FODMAP)
  • Yams (1 cup diced is considered low FODMAP)
  • Bananas (1 medium unripe banana is low FODMAP-friendly; 1/3 ripe banana)
  • Oats (1/2 cup uncooked is considered low FODMAP)
  • Cocoa (2 heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder is considered low FODMAP)
  • Flaxseeds (1 tablespoon is considered low FODMAP)

If you feel like you don’ t eat enough of the low FODMAP prebiotics daily, then you may need a prebiotic supplement. Some great prebiotic products include the prebiotic and probiotic supplement or the prebiotic protein snack bar by Casa de Sante.

Take home message

If you have IBS-C, it can be hard to manage symptoms. Although dietary changes like following the low FODMAP diet can be helpful, it may not always resolve your symptoms. Therefore, adding a prebiotic can help the good bacteria in your gut flourish and in turn help restore balance in your gut. By achieving a more balanced gut, you can reduce symptoms of your IBS-C and improve quality of life.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of

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