Why Raw Vegetables May Be Aggravating Your IBS

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If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may find that eating raw vegetables aggravates your symptoms.

This article will explain why raw vegetables my cause IBS symptoms and how to figure out which vegetables do and don't bother you. It will also suggest some alternative ways to prepare vegetables so that they are less likely to cause symptoms.

Woman cutting vegetables
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Why Vegetables Might Irritate IBS

To date, there is no clinical evidence that raw vegetables do or do not worsen IBS symptoms. Still, many people with IBS complain about bloating, gas, constipation, and even diarrhea after eating raw veggies.

There are a few reasons why this may be true. For one thing, uncooked vegetables require more work on the part of the digestive system. This is because it has to break down both the food components and the fiber content of the produce. When you cook vegetables, the heat starts this process, so cooked vegetables put fewer demands on the digestive system.

It is also possible that when you are eating salads or raw vegetables, you are simply eating a larger volume of food. This may increase the gas and osmotic "load," according to the FODMAP diet theory. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are all types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and often trigger IBS symptoms.

It may be that raw vegetables aren't the problem, but rather the vegetables you are choosing. Vegetables like mushrooms, celery, cauliflower, onions, and snow peas are on the high-FODMAP food list and may trigger IBS symptoms.

Figuring Out Which Vegetables Irritate Your Bowels

Everybody is different, and IBS is different in every person. There is no reason to cut out any raw vegetables unless they are causing you problems.

If you're not sure which vegetables are making you uncomfortable, you might want to try eliminating certain vegetables and see if it helps. It may take some time to narrow it down, but by experimenting with various vegetables, you should arrive at some answers. By paying attention to how your body reacts to certain vegetables, you can begin to figure out which ones to avoid. You may find it helpful to use the FODMAPs food list as a starting guide.

If IBS symptoms persist despite efforts to manage your diet, see a gastroenterologist. Your symptoms may be caused by any number of other conditions, such as celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis.

Alternatives

If you would like to reap the benefits of raw vegetables but are concerned about their effects on your body, you might want to consider juicing. Though you'll lose most of the veggies' fiber content, juicing may provide a more comfortable way to access the other nutritional benefits of raw vegetables.

Cooking your vegetables helps too. Both cooking and juicing begin to break down the food. This makes it easier for your digestive system to finish the process.

Summary

Some people with IBS find that eating raw vegetables triggers symptoms. Experimenting with eliminating certain vegetables from your diet may help you figure out which ones are responsible. Cooking or juicing vegetables can help break them down, making it easier on your digestive system.

Raw or not, vegetables are great for your digestive and overall health. If symptoms persist despite making changes to your diet, you may want to talk to a gastroenterologist to help get to the bottom of it.

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2 Sources
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  1. Dugum M, Barco K, Garg S. Managing irritable bowel syndrome: The low-FODMAP diet. Cleve Clin J Med. 2016;83(9):655-62. doi:10.3949/ccjm.83a.14159

  2. Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. IBS Diet: The Foods You Can Eat.