Bread — the humble hero of kitchens around the world. Whether it’s a baguette in France, a tortilla in Mexico, or a hearty whole-grain slice in the heart of the United States, bread is a global symbol of nourishment.
We top it with avocado, eggs, and bacon for breakfast, stack it high with layers of deli meats and veggies for lunch, and dip it into savory stews at dinner. Bread is versatile, comforting, and delicious.
But what happens when you have IBS or SIBO and are on the low FODMAP diet? Are you condemned to a breadless existence? Not quite. But you do have to be careful. Commonly used grains like wheat, rye, and barley are high in fructans (a FODMAP). And because these ingredients are so prevalent, choosing a safe bread can be a challenge.
In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of bread and the low FODMAP diet. But don’t worry, it is possible to enjoy this dietary cornerstone while still preserving your digestive peace.
Sometimes. Breads are made up of a combination of ingredients. So whether or not you can have a particular bread on the low FODMAP diet depends entirely on what’s in it.
It’s time for a little breaducation. Let’s break down some of the common ingredients in bread and look for the FODMAPs.
Even bread that doesn’t taste particularly sweet will likely contain some sweeteners. Most commercial breads are made with yeast — a fungus that eats the sugar in the dough and releases carbon dioxide and ethanol, causing the bread to rise. But it needs some sort of sweetener for the process to work.
So when you’re checking your bread labels for FODMAPs, watch out for high FODMAP sweeteners like:
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Some breads contain just a tiny amount of one of these sweeteners. So if the rest of the ingredients are low FODMAP, you may still be able to eat a serving without consequences. But if you see even small amounts of several FODMAPs in the ingredients, it’s probably a good idea to pick something else.
Often the most abundant ingredient in commercial bread is some type of flour. You can tell it’s the most abundant because it’s listed first. Remember, ingredients on food labels are listed according to quantity — the higher on the list, the more you’ll find of that particular ingredient.
High FODMAP flours you might find in bread include:
If you see one of these on the ingredient list, that particular bread is best avoided.
But there are other grains and flours that are lower in FODMAP. They also tend to be gluten-free:
Cornmeal, corn flour, and masa harina
Oat bran & flour
Potato flour or starch
Rice bran, flour or starch, brown & white
Tapioca flour or starch
Keep in mind that not all gluten-free breads are low FODMAP. Gluten-free products are made without wheat flour, which is high FODMAP. But there’s no guarantee there won’t be other high FODMAP ingredients. So it’s important to check.
If you want to do a really deep dive into the FODMAP content of bread ingredients, check out this Fodmap Everyday article on how to choose low FODMAP bread.
Sourdough bread can be a good option for people on the low FODMAP diet. That doesn’t mean that all sourdough is low FODMAP, or that portions don’t matter.
Yeast serves as a rising agent for most commercial breads, but not sourdough. Sourdough rises because of a “starter” instead of yeast.
A sourdough starter is made of wheat flour, so it’s not gluten-free. During the initial fermentation process as the starter is formed, it uses naturally occurring wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria to ferment. Once the starter mixture is ready, it’s used in sourdough bread in place of packaged yeast. But unlike bread made with packaged yeast, the fermentation process of sourdough breaks down some of the gluten and FODMAPs. So many people can tolerate it better than bread risen with yeast.
If you’re on the low FODMAP diet, you do have a number of commercial bread options. But it’s important to keep a couple things in mind. First, early on in the low FODMAP diet (the elimination phase), you have to be more careful about avoiding FODMAPs. Make sure and talk with your practitioner about how to navigate this phase.
Second, portions matter. A low FODMAP bread doesn’t stay low FODMAP if you eat too much of it. Low FODMAP doesn’t mean no FODMAP. So eating too much of a low FODMAP food can still cause problems.
Monash University, the creator of the low FODMAP diet, has some specific bread recommendations with serving sizes:
White bread or sprouted multigrain bread
One slice (35 grams), is considered low FODMAP.
White sourdough bread (white or whole wheat)
Two slices (109 grams) of sourdough made with wheat flour is considered low FODMAP.
Whole wheat sourdough bread
Two slices (97 grams) is considered low FODMAP.
100% spelt sourdough bread
Two slices (82 grams) is considered low FODMAP. Bread with less than 100% spelt is not considered low FODMAP.
Gluten-free white bread
2 slices (62 grams) is considered low FODMAP.
Gluten-free multigrain bread
One slice (32 grams) is considered low FODMAP.
If you’d like more specific brand recommendations, I recommend you download a low FODMAP app. You can find a list of my favorites (along with other IBS resources) in my free IBS Resource Guide.
Over the past decade as I’ve helped hundreds of people overcome IBS and SIBO, I’ve seen firsthand how transformative the low FODMAP diet can be. It’s a powerful tool that can play a key role in alleviating the discomfort and disruptions caused by digestive issues.
But let’s be real, it’s no walk in the park. The low FODMAP diet is complex. And if you’re trying to figure it out on your own, it can be frustrating and difficult to navigate.
That’s why I created the IBS Relief Blueprint, a comprehensive course that compiles the knowledge I’ve shared with my clients about the low FODMAP diet, and delivers it to you in an easy-to-digest, self-paced format. I designed this program to help you get the full benefit of the low FODMAP diet without the frustration.