Everything You Need to Know About Monk Fruit and IBS

What You Need to Know About Monk Fruit and IBS

While more research is needed on how monk fruit impacts people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), many are wondering if the two are compatible.  The short answer is technically yes, but unfortunately since not all commercially available monk fruit products are the same, that isn’t always the case!  In this article I’ll share everything you need to know about monk fruit and IBS, so you can read between the lines and make more informed choices for your gut’s sake.

Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only. This is not medical nutrition advice! Make sure to consult your doctor and registered dietitian if you’re navigating IBS.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contains affiliate links*. As an Amazon Associate, I will make a commission for qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

What is monk fruit?

Monk fruit (Luo Han Guo) is a natural, non-sugar (“non-nutritive”) sweetener which has become increasingly popular alongside stevia.  It comes from the extract of a dried fruit called Siraitia grosvenorii, which grows natively in China.

This natural sweetener is especially appealing for people who are following a ketogenic diet and/or managing their blood sugar, and/or trying to about 250 times sweeter than table sugar (1), without providing any calories.

Another thing that makes monk fruit more appealing compared to most other non-nutritive sweeteners is that it’s natural and it has been used in China for hundreds of years.  (Most other non-nutritive sweeteners are artificial, made in a lab, and lacking in long-term research on how they impact our health.)

But how do we know if monk fruit is safe for people with IBS, without any formal studies?

There are a few ways we can speculate…

IBS and FODMAPs

People with IBS generally do best with sweeteners that are lower in FODMAPs – aka fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols which are poorly broken down and not well absorbed in the intestines, leading to an influx of methane production and/or an influx of water into the intestines, causing horrible IBS symptoms. (2)

While a low FODMAP diet isn’t the solution to IBS, it certainly doesn’t hurt when a food (or sweetener, in this case) gets a low FODMAP stamp of approval!

Is monk fruit low FODMAP?

While monk fruit extract as a stand-alone ingredient is technically considered to be “untested” from a FODMAP standpoint, it is likely low in FODMAPs.

  • Anecdotally, foods that are sweetened with 100% monk fruit extract have passed the low FODMAP test according to my clients’ apps, so it makes sense that monk fruit would also be low FODMAP.
  • Also, 100% monk fruit extract is very well-tolerated by my clients with IBS, so this doesn’t surprise me!

Monk fruit and erythritol

This is where the lines can get a little more blurred.

You see, I’ve noticed (as a self-proclaimed ninja label-reader) that a LOT of monk fruit sweeteners and “monk fruit sweetened” products on the market are actually secretly cut with erythritol. (Nutrition labels can be deceiving!)

Erythritol is a type of non-nutritive sweetener (and a polyol, or sugar alcohol) which is technically untested, but presumably considered low FODMAP… because it doesn’t seem to ferment in the gut like other sugar alcohols. (3, 4)

Still, there’s no direct formal clinical research currently on erythritol and IBS, so my insights are based on first-hand clinical experience.

Recommended reading: Is Erythritol Low FODMAP? (The Low-Down on Erythritol and IBS)

Ingredient list screenshot - example of monk fruit sweetener cut with erythritol

Erythritol and IBS

In my functional nutrition clinic, I’ve observed anecdotally that even my clients without IBS who have tried erythritol-sweetened foods ended up experiencing some degree of upset stomach.

  • For this reason, I generally discourage my clients to avoid erythritol if they’re prone to IBS.

Related article:  Is Erythritol Low FODMAP? (The Low-Down on Erythritol and IBS)

Avoid monk fruit products laced with erythritol

Long story short:  beware of monk fruit sweeteners and monk fruit sweetened products that also contain erythritol!

  • Disclaimer: some people with IBS can probably tolerate erythritol just fine, since everyone is different. Listen to your body first and foremost; this is just general information.

But in the early stages of IBS, it can be difficult to determine whether you’re reacting to the stevia or the erythritol in a product that contains both.

To verify that a product is 100% monk fruit, make sure to read the fine print on the ingredient list of the nutrition label.

Make sure thee only ingredient listed is monk fruit extract (also often listed as “Luo Han Guo”).

Erythritol-free monk fruit products for IBS

While label reading is very useful, it’s also pretty tedious and time-consuming!

For this reason, I took it upon myself to make a list of erythritol-free, filler-free, IBS-friendly monk fruit extracts which you can check out below.

100% monk fruit extract products

Powders

When baking, you can use 1/8 cup of 100% monk fruit extract powder to replace 1 cup of granulated table sugar.

You can also sweeten coffee or tea with 1/8 teaspoon of 100% monk fruit extract powder (to replace 1 teaspoon of table sugar).

Liquid drops

Monk fruit drops are great for adding a touch of sweetness to your cup of coffee or tea, without the blood sugar rollercoaster! One drop goes a long way.

More resources

If you found this article helpful and you’d like to learn more about sweeteners and IBS, make sure to check out the following articles:

The bottom line

While research is lacking, monk fruit extract is most likely low FODMAP. It’s inherently safe for you to have in moderation, if you’re consuming 100% monk fruit extract.

Unfortunately,  not all monk fruit on the market is IBS-friendly.

Watch out for erythritol, a sugar alcohol which may or may not worsen your IBS symptoms (anecdotally).

If you’d like to find an IBS-friendly version of a monk fruit extract or product sweetened with monk fruit, make sure it doesn’t contain any erythritol or other hidden ingredients (like fillers) which could potentially be an issue.

Next steps

Want to stay in touch and learn more about my holistic perspectives on all things gut health, nutrition and herbal medicine? If so, fabulou! I invite you to download a copy of my free gut health nutrition guide:

Free Download - 5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut - by Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT

Sharing is caring

Thank you so much for reading this article! I hope you found what you were looking for. Please feel free to share this article with someone you know who has IBS and is looking to learn more!

XX – Jenna

2 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Monk Fruit and IBS”

  1. The NOW monk fruit sweetener has cane alcohol in it. I have to do low fodmaps, and it took me several days to realize that this was giving me horrible bloating.

    1. Hi Laura, thanks for sharing. I’m very sorry to hear you had a bad reaction to that product. 🙁

      To clarify, my understanding is that cane alcohol is actually low in FODMAPs. However, everyone has their own bio-individual response to foods and so it’s possible to have an adverse reaction to virtually any product on the market.

      As a friendly reminder, as noted in the disclaimer, the information in this article is generalized and thus not tailored to your individual needs. Given what you shared, it may be beneficial to consult with a gut health dietitian licensed in your region so you can receive more customized support and guidance beyond the scope of a blog article.

      Best of luck!

      Kind regards,
      Jenna

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