Holistic Dietitian Advice for Navigating low fodmap sweeteners - Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT

Gut Health Dietitian Advice About Low FODMAP Sweeteners (2024)

Low FODMAP sweeteners are an increasingly popular way for many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) to be able to have their cake and eat it too – quite literally. 😉

While the low FODMAP diet isn’t a be-all-end-all solution (since gut health is complex, and one size never fits all), it can still often serve as a great nutritional “backbone” for many who are in the early stages of navigating IBS and/or SIBO.

Whether you’ve been prescribed a low FODMAP diet and/or you’re navigating SIBO, and/or you suspect you have a fructose intolerance, I hope this guide on low FODMAP sweeteners helps to give you some clarity on your journey to IBS relief!

Disclaimer: This is not medical nutrition advice. This is general information which is not customized to your unique individualized needs, so not all of it is going to apply to you. Make sure to consult with your doctor and a registered dietitian if you’re navigating IBS and/or SIBO.

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may make a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

What are sweeteners?

In the context of this article, “sweeteners” is referring to any variation of a sugar or sugar substitute that could be added to foods/beverages, to make them taste sweeter.  (Think honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup, Splenda, stevia, monk fruit, aspartame, xylitol, etc.)

Nutritive vs non-nutritive sweeteners

  • Nutritive: provides calories by getting metabolized as sugar; turns into blood glucose in the body.
  • Non-nutritive:  does not get broken down and absorbed as sugar; does not provide any significant calories.

What does “low FODMAP” mean?

FODMAP is an acronym which stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” (Feel free to try saying that 10x fast, if you’re feeling ambitious!)

About 3 out of every 4 IBS sufferers will likely respond well to a low FODMAP diet intervention from a symptom management standpoint, according to research at this time. (1)

In my functional nutrition practice, I’ve noticed that leaning on low FODMAP sweeteners (versus their high FODMAP counterparts) is helpful and relevant for people who have trouble digesting fructose and/or polyols, which are FODMAPs found in many types of sweeteners.

If a sweetener meets criteria for “low FODMAP”, that means it contains relatively low amounts of fructose and polyols.

  • Fructose and polyols are FODMAP constituents which are notorious for triggering IBS symptoms.

List of low FODMAP sweeteners

Below is a list of sweeteners that meet criteria for “low FODMAP” – but that doesn’t necessarily mean I endorse them all from a health standpoint.

Some of these nutritive sweeteners may be used when cooking/baking, while others might be found exclusively on ingredient labels of certain processed foods/drinks. You may also encounter some of these in coffee shops.  Refer to this list as needed.

Note:  Some sweeteners may meet criteria for low FODMAP only in small quantities, so I’ve made sure to specify the max threshold for those sweeteners to be low in fructose/polyols.

Low FODMAP nutritive sweeteners

Granulated

  • Table sugar (beet sugar, cane sugar, “white sugar,” Domino sugar, “sucrose”)
  • Brown sugar
  • Coconut sugar (less than 1 teaspoon)
  • Coconut palm sugar (less than 1 teaspoon)
  • Maple sugar* (less than 2 tablespoons)
  • Sugar In The Raw®*

Syrups

  • Brown rice syrup*
  • Cassava syrup
  • Coconut blossom nectar*
  • Corn syrup
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Glucose syrup
  • Honey (less than 1 teaspoon)
  • Invert syrup
  • Maple syrup (the real, stuff, not fake “pancake syrup”!) – less than 2 tablespoons
  • Palm sugar*
  • Tapioca syrup

Powders

Low FODMAP non-nutritive sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners are exponentially sweeter than regular sugar, so they only need to be consumed in very small quantities – even when they’re diluted with a powder (like dextrose or erythritol), or a liquid medium (like alcohol or glycerin).

These types of sweeteners are appealing for people who are trying to reduce their intake of calories/sugar, for one reason or another.  However, they aren’t necessarily healthy for the gut microbiome (ecosystem of microbes in the gut) or for health in general.

Granulated

  • Allulose* (untested but generally presumed to be low FODMAP)
  • Sucralose (Splenda®)

Syrups

Powders/packets

  • Allulose powder* (untested but generally presumed to be low FODMAP)
  • Aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®)
  • Acesulfame potassium (“Asulfame K” / Sunett®, Sweet One®)
  • Erythritol (the only sugar alcohol which is presumably low FODMAP, but still not usually well tolerated by people with IBS. Listen to your body!)
  • Monk fruit extract (Luo han guo) as a listed ingredient (erythritol-free; untested but generally presumed to be low FODMAP)
  • Monk fruit extract powder* (erythritol-free; untested but generally presumed to be low FODMAP)
  • Neotame (untested but speculated to be low FODMAP)
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®, Sweet Twin®, Sugar Twin®)
  • Stevia leaf extract as a listed ingredient (erythritol-free)
  • Stevia leaf extract powder* (erythritol-free)
  • Truvia® (contains erythritol)

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

Liquid drops

  • 100% Monk fruit extract drops (untested but generally presumed to be low FODMAP)
  • 100% Stevia leaf extract drops

More resources

To learn more about sweeteners and their impact on IBS/gut health, feel free to nerd out on the following articles:

Conclusions

So, if a sweetener is low in FODMAPs, does that mean it’s healthy? Not necessarily! But either way, it is less likely to trigger your symptoms compared to many high FODMAP alternatives.

However, in many cases, people with IBS who don’t have a fructose intolerance are actually able to tolerate certain types of high FODMAP sweeteners, especially if they’re natural and minimally processed.

If you’d like to learn how to choose the best sweetener for IBS based on what’s going on in your body, and you’d like to go beyond just symptom management, you can read more about my favorite sweeteners for IBS here.

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