“Is butter low FODMAP, and is it IBS-Friendly?” was written by Salisha Sial, B.A. (New York University graduate student in public health and nutritional sciences) and reviewed, edited and updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.
Not only is butter delicious – butter is also low FODMAP in reasonable quantities, and usually well tolerated by those following a low FODMAP diet to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, butter isn’t always IBS-friendly. Some people with IBS can’t tolerate butter for various reasons, even though it’s “allowed” on the low FODMAP diet.
Read on to learn more about how to navigate butter holistically on your IBS healing journey.
Disclaimer: As always, it is recommended to consult a primary care doctor/nutritionist when it comes to diet related advice that fits your needs.
Affiliate disclosure: This article contains affiliate links*. As an Amazon Associate, Whole-istic Living may earn a commission on qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you!
Table of Contents
What are FODMAPs? (Quick review)
“FODMAP” is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in our small intestine.
Types of FODMAPs include fructose, lactose, oligosaccharides, and fructans which are found in a variety of foods.
These carbohydrates are highly osmotic, meaning they pull water into the small intestine (or colon) and cause symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, gas and discomfort. (1)
FODMAPs are also highly fermentable in the small intestine, especially if you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
If you suffer from IBS or SIBO, you may notice your symptoms seem to flare up when you consume certain high FODMAP foods.
Learn more: Low-Down on the Low FODMAP Diet
What is lactose?
Lactose is a type of disaccharide (the “D” in FODMAP), naturally found in milk and other types of dairy products.
You might assume that butter has high amounts of lactose – but, worry not!
- During the production process, lactose and milk proteins (such as casein and whey) are mostly removed, leaving behind primarily fat, along with just small trails of lactose.
Is butter lactose free?
Unlike ghee (clarified butter), butter technically isn’t 100% lactose free, since it does contain small traces of lactose.
However, if you’re among the millions who suffer from lactose intolerance, a low FODMAP serving of butter most likely won’t cause any symptoms or flare-ups.
How much butter is low FODMAP?
According to the Monash University FODMAP App, ~0.67 of an ounce of butter, which equates to 1 tablespoon per meal, is considered low FODMAP (and very low lactose).
Still, the amount of butter you intake does matter, especially if you have a lactose intolerance.
Even if you don’t have an issue with lactose, too much butter isn’t always IBS-friendly for several reasons.
Butter and IBS – what you may or may not know
Is butter IBS-friendly?
Butter is generally well tolerated by most people with IBS – but it’s not for everyone.
The type and amount of butter you consume can also be a determinant when it comes to an IBS-friendly butter.
- For example, you also need to consider whether the butter is plain or has added ingredients such as garlic, onions, honey, and/or certain herbs which can flare up symptoms. When in doubt, plain butter is your safest bet. (2)
There may also be something else in butter (lactose and added FODMAPs aside) that doesn’t agree with you from a gut health standpoint.
Butter and casein: should I be worried about the casein in butter?
Butter contains very small amounts of casein, and is generally well tolerated by most people.
However, if you notice you don’t feel well after eating butter, it may be worth swapping butter for ghee, which is 100% casein-free.
Or some people find that goat or sheep butter is easier to tolerate than cow-based butters, since they contain different types of milk proteins that are easier to digest. (3)
Is butter high fat?
Yes. Lactose aside, butter is generally very high in fat, in relatively small quantities. (1 tablespoon of butter contains ~11 grams of fat.)
Consuming relatively large amounts of fat at one time can potentially result in IBS symptoms if your digestive secretions (bile, pancreatic enzymes, stomach acid) become overwhelmed and maxed out. This is especially common in cases of IBS, since digestion is usually compromised.
Moderation is key!
Is butter dairy free?
No! Butter is not dairy free as it is made from milk fat but the good news is that those with dairy related lactose problems are generally able to handle butter.
However, we’ve noticed that a certain percentage of people with a dairy sensitivity (versus just a lactose intolerance) can’t tolerate butter even in small quantities.
(When in doubt, consider keeping an IBS food diary, consulting an expert, and trust your gut – literally!)
Recommended reading: Lactose Intolerance vs. Dairy Sensitivity – How to Tell Them Apart
What’s the best butter for IBS?
Plain vs. flavored
From a FODMAP standpoint, when unsure, the best butter to try is any type that is plain (and can be salted or unsalted) – as long as you’re keeping it within 1 tablespoon or less, at one time.
The only ingredient(s) listed should be cream, with or without salt.
We find some of the best butters are grass-fed, since they contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids compared to their conventional counterparts. (4)
In addition, we generally recommend organic butter which is free of antibiotics and added hormones.
- This is more important and relevant if you’re consuming butter on a daily basis, versus once in a while.
7 best low FODMAP butter brands and products on the market
We recommend sticking to 100% butter that is organic and/or grass-fed, if feasible.
Based on this criteria, our favorite low FODMAP butter brands and products for IBS include:
- 356 Pasture-Raised Organic Butter*
- Grassland Sweet Cream Butter (Online only)
- Kerrygold Pure Irish Grass-fed Butter*
- Kirkland Signature 95% Grass-Fed Butter (Costco)
- Maple Hill Creamery Organic Grass-Fed Butter*
- Nellie’s Free-Range Grass-Fed Butter
- Organic Valley Cultured Pasture Butter*
Best low FODMAP butter alternative options
If you can’t tolerate butter due to the casein or other cow’s milk constituents, the good news is you’ve got options!
There are many great low FODMAP alternative butter options out there that you can enjoy in normal serving sizes.
Ghee is a great lactose-free, casein-free alternative to butter, if you’re sensitive to the small quantities of these constituents.
Not only is it tasty and low FODMAP; ghee is a great source of healthy fats, vitamin A, and antioxidants.
1 tablespoon of ghee is the max low FODMAP serving per meal, according to Monash University’s FODMAP App.
You can use ghee to roast and sauté your favorite vegetables, spread ghee on toasted low FODMAP bread, or use it in place of butter in recipes.
(Learn more about the best ghee for IBS here!)
Low FODMAP margarine
Margarine is a plant-based alternative to butter, made with a blend of plant oils such as coconut, canola, sunflower, soybean, palm oil, flax, and/or olive oil.
From a holistic health standpoint, margarine is better as a spread (such as on low FODMAP toast, bagels, pancakes or waffles) verses for cooking. This is because most plant oils oxidize at lower temperature compared to butter, essentially losing their health benefits.
We also recommend opting for margarine without any partially hydrogenated oils (this is a sneaky alternative word for tran-fat!).
Our favorite low FODMAP margarines on the market include the following:
- Miyoko’s Creamery oat milk margarine*
- Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread*
- Kite Hill plant-based butter alternative*
Butter is a popular ingredient in baking recipes such as cookies, breads, and muffins. Coconut oil can make a great low FODMAP alternative to butter in these types of recipes since it’s a spreadable saturated fat with similar attributes and a mild flavor in these types of recipes.
Coconut oil can also make a nice alternative to butter when it comes to cooking low FODMAP pancakes, waffles, or French toast.
If you’re looking for a dairy free low FODMAP way to saute veggies sans butter, look no further than olive oil! While this Mediterranean staple has a very smoke point, you can use it any time you’re cooking at temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Opt for extra virgin olive oil for the most nutrient-dense variation of olive oil.
Avocado oil can make a great dairy-free low fodmap alternative to butter, especially when it comes to roasting veggies at high temperatures (since avocado oil has a very high oxidation point).
While butter makes toast delicious, it’s not your only option! If you’re seeking a tasty dairy free alternative to butter for your toast, consider topping some toasted low fodmap bread, waffles or a low FODMAP bagel with up to 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter and some optional berries or banana slices.
Unlike butter, a serving of peanut butter also offers 8 grams of protein and 20% daily value of niacin, a type of B vitamin.
Recommended reading: Is Peanut Butter Low FODMAP? (Expert Guidance on Peanut Butter and IBS)
Low FODMAP nut and seed butters
Nut and seed butters are also splendid on toast!
1 tablespoon of almond butter or up to 2 tablespoons of pecan butter, walnut butter, or sunflower seed butter as a spread on your favorite low FODMAP toast can be a nice dairy free and low FODMAP butter alternative.
Recommended reading: Low FODMAP Nuts, Nut Butters & Peanut Butter (Oh My!)
Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)
Is butter low histamine?
Yes! Butter is considered a low-histamine food. Most people following a low-histamine diet to manage a histamine intolerance can generally tolerate butter. (5)
Is butter a CSID-friendly food?
However, some people with sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (whether genetic or acquired) may also have a lactose intolerance and/or dairy sensitivity.
While most people with this condition can tolerate butter, remember that one size never fits all due to bio-individuality. (When in doubt, listen to your body and consult a CSID-informed gut health dietitian nutritionist.)
- Best Low FODMAP Yogurts for IBS – Comprehensive Brand/Product List & Guide
- Low FODMAP Nuts, Nut Butters, and Peanuts – Oh My!
- Is Ghee Low FODMAP? What Else You Need to Know about Ghee and IBS
- Lactose Intolerance vs Dairy Sensitivity: How to Tell Them Apart
- What’s the Best Milk for IBS Sufferers?
- 15 Tasty & Healthy Low FODMAP Breakfast Recipes (Round-Up)
- 15 Simple & Delicious Dietitian-Approved Low FODMAP Lunch Ideas
- 19 Simple and Healthy Low FODMAP Dinner Ideas & Recipes (Round-Up)
Butter is low FODMAP in servings of 0.67 ounce (1 tablespoon) or less per serving, and is worth trying on your low FODMAP elimination diet, as tolerated.
Generally butter is well tolerated by many people with IBS.
However, we recommend moderate intake, since large amounts of fat can potentially trigger IBS related symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.
If you’re especially sensitive to the traces of lactose in butter, you may want to try ghee which is 100% lactose-free.
Low FODMAP dairy free alternatives to butter and ghee are also available, if you don’t tolerate dairy. We recommend trying out low FODMAP margarine, coconut oil, olive oil, cooking oil, peanut butter, nut butter, or seed butter.
Lastly, make sure you’re choosing a butter that doesn’t have anything FODMAPs added to it (like garlic or honey) which could potentially trigger IBS symptoms.
We hope this article shed some light on how butter may or may not fit into your IBS recovery plan. If you’re looking to learn more, download the free gut health nutrition guide: 5 Common Diet Mistakes to Avoid on Your Gut Healing Journey!