Ghee and IBS - Is Ghee Low FODMAP and What Else to Consider

Is Ghee Low FODMAP? What Else You Need to Know about Ghee and IBS

If you’re on a low FODMAP elimination diet and wondering, “Is ghee low FODMAP?”, luckily the answer is yes!  

However, this doesn’t always guarantee that ghee is well tolerated among folks with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  (Especially if you’re prone to diarrhea.)

While many folks with gut issues can tolerate ghee, since it’s lactose free, there’s more to the story.

(The low FODMAP diet is meant to serve only as a general introductory framework or “backbone” to help you gain clarity on what you can and can’t eat.  It doesn’t take into account your bio-individuality or possible food sensitivities, so it isn’t customized or 100% IBS-proof.)

As an integrative and holistic gut health dietitian, functional nutritionist and former IBS sufferer, in this article I’ll share some perspectives and insights on ghee, IBS, and the low FODMAP diet from a holistic gut health nutrition perspective

Disclaimer: This article was written for general education purposes, not to be taken as medical/dietary advice! Consult a registered dietitian and/or holistic and functional nutritionist to receive custom advice tailored to your individual needs.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contains affiliate links (which I’ve marked with a * symbol).  As an Amazon Associate, I may make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

What is ghee?

Ghee is a type of pure fat which is essentially clarified butter – aka butter that has been purified, to remove any and all traces of sugar and protein such as lactose (milk sugar) and cow’s milk proteins (like casein).

Not surprisingly, ghee looks and tastes a lot like butter.  It’s often used in place of butter and oil – especially in India and parts of the Middle East and Asia.  

Ghee is appealing not just because of its taste, but because it has some promising health benefits.

Health benefits of ghee

According to a 2023 study by Cureus, ghee has antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties – and can be taken or applied both internally and externally. (1)

In Ayurveda (a field of holistic lifestyle medicine which has been practiced in India for thousands of years), ghee is used as a “base for preparing various formulations due to its ability to penetrate deep tissue and be easily absorbed”. (1)

From a digestive health standpoint, ghee (unlike butter) is not just low FODMAP – it’s also 100% free of lactose and casein – so it’s a great candidate for people with a severe intolerance to lactose and/or casein.

Ghee is also naturally a sucrose-free / low sucrose food, so generally safe and well tolerated by individuals with a sucrose intolerance caused by congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID) or acquired sucrose intolerance.

Still – ghee contains mostly saturated fat, so it’s not something to consume in unlimited quantities.

  • For reference, a few teaspoons of ghee per day is what my former primary care doctor used to recommend for me, when I was living in Boston! She is an integrative, holistic and Ayurvedic medical doctor (MD).

Culinary perks

Ghee has a higher smoke point (450 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to butter (which can be heated only up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit without smoking, burning, or oxidizing), so it’s a great fat for cooking at high temperatures without compromising the quality of your food.

For this reason, from a culinary standpoint, ghee is great for sauteing, roasting, pan-frying, or using in place of butter in pretty much any dish.

How to make ghee

While ghee is available commercially, the process of making ghee is simple and very cost-effective compared to buying it.

In a nutshell, you just need to simmer butter on low heat for a period of time, and skim off the stuff that floats to the top!

(Check out a full step-by-step tutorial on how to make ghee here.)

Where to buy it

Ghee is available for purchase in the natural or ethnic aisle of most mainstream conventional supermarkets.  

It’s also available in Indian markets as well as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and natural food stores – and of course online.

Since ghee is shelf stable, you’ll usually find it in the aisles (versus in the refrigerator) at the supermarket.

What are the best ghee brands?

The best ghee is any kind made with organic and/or grass-fed dairy, since it means the cows are healthier and properly nourished.  

Note that ghee made from grass-fed dairy is higher in omega-3’s and relatively lower in saturated fat compared to other ghee.

Here are my personal favorite brands of grass-fed and/or organic ghee, with product links:

Ghee and IBS-D: What could be going on?

While ghee is 100% lactose free and low FODMAP, don’t write off the possibility that you’re still reacting to it! 

If you notice you’re feeling sick after you eat stuff made with ghee, there are a few different things that could be going on at the cellular level.  

Dairy sensitivity

In my private nutrition practice, a certain percentage of my clients turn out to have a dairy sensitivity which means even though ghee is lactose free, it still comes from cow’s milk – and your immune system is perceiving it as a threat.

(Learn more about the key differences between a lactose intolerance versus dairy sensitivity here!)

Dairy allergy 

More and more people are developing allergies to dairy nowadays.  Since ghee doesn’t contain any milk proteins, some people with a dairy allergy can tolerate small amounts of ghee – but many can’t, without reacting.

A dairy sensitivity isn’t the same thing as an allergy – although there’s usually some degree of overlap when it comes to the surface-level symptoms. 

(Feel free to read more about food allergies versus intolerances versus sensitivities here.)

Fat intolerance 

Lastly, from a macronutrient standpoint, remember that ghee is pure fat.  

If your stools are looking loose, light-colored and greasy (resembling a Type 6 or 7 on the Bristol Stool Chart at baseline), fat is likely a culprit of your diarrhea for one reason or another.

If you do have a fat intolerance, this means you need some kind of assistance in order to break down fats properly.  The type of assistance you need will depend on your root cause(s).

  • For example, if you don’t have a gallbladder, you may benefit from taking ox bile.
  • Or if you’ve got something called “bile acid diarrhea”, you’ll need bile acid binders in order to properly break down fats from food (like in ghee).
  • If you’ve got low stomach acid, herbal bitters will likely become your new ally.
  • Or maybe your pancreas isn’t working very efficiently (lipase is elevated)…so pancreatic digestive enzymes are going to be your new ally!

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is butter low FODMAP?

Yes, butter is low FODMAP in reasonable quantities.

Learn more:  Butter is Low FODMAP – But is it IBS-Friendly? (What Else to Consider)

Is ghee FODMAP friendly?

Yes!  According to the Monash FODMAP App, up to 1 tablespoon (0.67 ounces) of ghee per meal has been tested and cleared as low FODMAP.

Screenshot of low FODMAP ghee details in Monash FODMAP App - from Jenna's phone

Is ghee dairy free?

No.  While ghee is 100% lactose free and casein free, it comes from dairy (usually cow’s milk).

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, you may not be able to tolerate ghee from a digestive or immune standpoint. 

Is ghee casein free?

Yes! Ghee is free of dairy proteins like casein, so folks with a casein allergy/sensitivity can usually eat ghee without any trouble. 

Is ghee good for IBS?

While ghee is generally well tolerated by most people with IBS, it depends on your bio-individuality whether or not ghee is IBS-friendly for you!  

Feel free to refer to the above information for general guidance, and always consult with your healthcare team as needed.

What’s the best dairy free ghee substitute?

Coconut oil is the best alternative for most baked goods that call for ghee.

However, if you’re going for the buttery taste (such as on toast), you may want to try Miyoko’s plant milk butter.*

(It’s technically untested, but most likely low in FODMAPs – since it’s got only small quantities of cashew and oat milk and generally very well tolerated by most people with IBS).

Related articles

Recap and final thoughts 

Ghee is low FODMAP, sucrose-free, lactose-free and casein-free – but it’s not dairy-free or low fat. 

It’s generally well tolerated by most people with IBS and sucrose intolerance, even if you’re lactose-intolerant – but make sure you’re listening to your body! Gut health is complex and multi-dimensional.

Depending on your bio-individuality, you may or may not be able to tolerate ghee during the early phases of your gut-healing journey because FODMAPs are not the only factor to consider from a food standpoint.

If you can eat ghee, the best types are organic and grass-fed.

If not, make sure you’re working with a registered dietitian and/or holistic and functional nutritionist who is qualified to help you crack your code.

Next steps

If you’re in the early phases of your gut-healing journey and you’d like to continue learning from me, I invite you to sign up to receive a copy of my complimentary gut health nutrition guide: 

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

 

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