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IBS and Fermented foods - are they worth the hype?

Looking for something extra to support your gut health this winter? Could fermented foods be it?


Fermented foods have been consumed by various cultures around the world for centuries and recently they have been given a lot of attention in relation to gut health and IBS. So what are fermented foods and are they worth the hype?

So what are fermented foods?

Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi, convert carbohydrates into alcohol or organic acids. This process not only preserves the food but also enhances its flavour, texture, and nutritional value.

Fermented foods include foods and drinks such as:

  • Yoghurt (fermented milk)
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage and other vegetables)
  • Kimchi (Korean fermented spicy vegetables)
  • Tempeh (fermented soy)
  • Kombucha (fermented tea)

How can fermented foods help me?

Research on the health benefits of fermented foods is still in its early days, however, it is thought that fermented foods may help with digestion, increased nutrient absorption, immunity, reduced inflammation and mental health. The catch? Fermented foods do need to be eaten regularly AND as part of a balanced, healthy diet for these benefits. It is also important to note that the benefits of fermented foods will vary from person to person.

Can you eat fermented foods with IBS?

Yes absolutely! In some cases, fermented foods can be easier for someone with IBS to digest as FODMAP’s are broken down by the bacteria during the fermentation process. However on the flip side, the opposite has been found with some foods. Monash university found that green cabbage sauerkraut is actually higher in FODMAPs than green cabbage when it is not fermented. In this case, FODMAPs are actually produced as a by-product of the fermentation process. 

In short, including fermented foods in your diet as someone who has IBS can be highly beneficial for overall health and gut health, however as always with IBS, it is all about serving size and finding your sweet spot.

How do I start eating fermented foods?

Our biggest recommendation is to start small! Start with 1 Tbsp of sauerkraut or kimchi each day and build from there. If you are sensitive to onion and garlic, find a kimchi without them in it or make you own! Fermented foods can be higher in fibre, so we recommend adding them in slowly to let your gut adjust to the extra fibre and potential gas (mostly kombucha). 

Kelsey will be posting on our social media channels about her journey learning how to make fermented food and adding them into her diet as someone with IBS and food sensitivities. So if you are interested in following along, jump over to our instagram or tik-tok channel to check this out! 

Published: 27th June 2023

Author: Kelsey Paterson Monash FODMAP trained Dietitian

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