Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a severe disorder that is incredibly common and impacts the large intestine. It is a chronic condition that one must manage. Lifestyle changes, including a change in diet and reduction of stress, are helpful management techniques.
What are FODMAPs?
The letters FODMAP stand for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Fermentable refers to the bacterial fermentation process that breaks down these carbohydrates in the intestine. Oligosaccharides include carbohydrates in foods like garlic, onions, and beans. Disaccharides refer to the double sugars present in dairy products like milk, ice cream, and some cheese. Monosaccharides include the simple sugar fructose. Fructose becomes high FODMAP when there is more fructose in food than glucose, such as in apples, pears, and honey. Polyols are sugar alcohols that are not sugar or alcohol.
FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are not digestible or are absorbed poorly by some people. When foods high in FODMAPs travel through the gastrointestinal tract of people with IBS, they pull extra fluid into the small intestine. Fermentation of FODMAPs in these foods result in gas fermented by bacteria in the colon (large intestine). When gas and fluid build up in the colon, it creates the symptoms of IBS, which include bloating and distension in the abdomen. Other symptoms include pain, nausea, flatulence and constipation or diarrhea, or potentially both. Those who suffer from IBS and eat a diet low in FODMAPs have found a good amount of relief from the symptoms.
Is Cabbage FODMAP?
It is probably a surprise, but cabbage is low FODMAP. You can eat cabbage if you suffer from IBS. You must understand your tolerance for cabbage because cabbage tends to make people gassy, even though it has a low FODMAP serving. You can eat cabbage in many ways, including cooked, raw, or fermented. When consuming cabbage, you want to make sure you are using low FODMAP recipe.
Green Cabbage (referred to as common cabbage by Monash)
As long as your serving size is 75 grams or below, it remains low FODMAP. It quickly jumps to moderate FODMAP when the serving size increases to 100 grams because it contains sorbitol.
Red Cabbage (referred to as purple cabbage)
While its color is redder when raw, it loses color quickly upon cooking and often turns a gray color. As long as the red cabbage is a serving size of 75 grams or less, it remains low FODMAP. When you jump to a serving size of 150 grams, it becomes moderate FODMAP because of its fructans.
This frilly-looking cabbage has a mild taste and is low FODMAP at 40 grams, but due to fructans becomes moderate FODMAP at 55 grams.
Napa Cabbage is low FODMAP at 75 grams and becomes moderate in FODMAPs at 500 grams due to fructans. As you can see, you can eat more Napa Cabbage and stay low FODMAP. Napa is a mildly flavored cabbage that is great in stir fry.
Fermented Cabbage and FODMAPs: Notes on Sauerkraut
Cut cabbage is fermented in lactic acid bacteria (brine) to create Sauerkraut, which is sour in taste and distinct in aroma. As per the Monash app, German white Sauerkraut is low FODMAP at around one tablespoon per serving. However, sauerkraut from red cabbage is often better tolerated at levels up to one half of a cup.
While those with ultra-sensitive gastric systems might avoid fermented cabbage in excess or entirely, those who do will enjoy some benefits including:
- High levels of beneficial digestive cultures that are a source of good gut bacteria and help maintain a healthy microbiome.
- Healthy amounts of prebiotic-rich soluble fiber to promote routine bowel movements.
- Good source of vitamin K & vitamin C that increase iron absorption and promote faster blood clotting.
Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD