Kids can’t resist candies. Just the sight or the thought of candies motivates them and brings them out of the funk. It seems like they will do anything for these treats! For a kid with IBS, this could be a time of uncomfortable trial and error, since most many candies are not low FODMAP. As a parent, it's critical to protect our kids from a painful flare-up.
Why Do We Kids (and Adults!) Love Candies?
When we eat candy, its sugar content goes down our stomach and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The sugar in the blood reaches the brain pretty quickly. While the human brain is just 2% of the body weight, it consumes 50% of your energy.
Once the sugar reaches the brain, it triggers the release of dopamine, a hormone that is linked to reward, motivation, pleasure, and learning. Dopamine has a key role in a human’s emotional responses. It influences how we view rewards and how we take action to get it.
This is why you suddenly feel elated and energetic after eating candies. And we tend to crave that feeling that is why many of us always want candies.
Low FODMAP Ingredients in Candies
It takes some work to find a low FODMAP candy, but it is totally worth it. Reading labels can help determine what is safe and what isn't. Keep an eye out for the low FODMAP ingredients commonly found in candies, like:
Corn syrup: It is a common sweetener that is found in many products around the globe. Due to its structure, which is mainly glucose, it is considered low FODMAP and safe for people with gut problems.
Cane syrup: It is obtained from sugar cane and is slightly less refined that can cane sugar. Left in liquid form, it is also classified as low FODMAP because it is made up only of sucrose. There is a very minimal nutritional difference between cane sugar and cane syrup, which means cane syrup is suitable for a low FODMAP diet considering a person’s tolerance.
Cane Sugar: Also obtained from sugar cane, can sugar is a low FODMAP food. It is a form of white sugar with a safe serving size of 1 tablespoon.
Sucrose: It is a common disaccharide found in plants, from which table sugars are obtained. Therefore, sucrose is unlikely to cause gut symptoms.
Dextrose: When we talk about dextrose, people usually think of that liquid hanging by their bedside at the hospital. Dextrose is a simple sugar obtained from corn. It is chemically similar to glucose or blood sugar. The simple structure of this sugar allows faster absorption; that’s why it is dissolved in solutions given intravenously.
Soy Lecithin: This food additive is found in candies, bread, margarine, ice creams, dairy products, and many other products. Soy lecithin is added to hold emulsions together, giving food a more desirable texture. Studies suggest that soy lecithin consumption may help in cholesterol reduction.
Glucose syrup: This type of sugar made completely of glucose, which means it is also a low FODMAP additive. Glucose syrup is produced by hydrolyzing glucose molecules from strands of glucose contained in starchy foods like corn.
Coloring: Colors make candies look more fun. Some artificial coloring is derived from natural sources, while others of a very small amount of petroleum. Both are approved by the FDA as safe for consumption.
Artificial flavors: These are chemical mixtures that mimic the flavor of “natural” foods. These mixtures allow people to enjoy the flavors that are not native in their area. For example, kids from the colder regions of Canada can enjoy the taste of pineapples all year round because there are pineapple-flavored candies. Artificial flavorings undergo strict tests before they are approved for consumption.
Gelatin: It is a translucent and flavorless ingredient from the collagen of animal body parts. Probably one of the most popular food additives, gelatin is “gummy” when moist and brittle when dry. It is classified as low FODMAP and generally safe.
High FODMAP Candy Ingredients
Gut symptoms can prevent your kid from reaching his/her full potential. These can make them less confident, less productive, less energetic, and less “present” in the situation. And while it’s satisfying to watch those your kid eat happily, it's equally important to avoid the high FODMAP candy ingredients like:
Fructose: Also called “fruit sugar”, it is a simple sugar found in numerous food products. Some individuals have very fructose absorption, causing them to suffer digestive discomfort and flatulence.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): It is a sweetener derived from corn syrup that has been linked to obesity and metabolic disorders. The unnatural amounts of fructose in high fructose corn syrup make it ultimately unacceptable for a low FODMAP diet. If it has HFCS, it is definitely not a low FODMAP candy.
Lactose: It is the sugar found in milk and usually added as part of the milk and not as a separate additive. Individuals with lactose intolerance may suffer flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms.
Honey: Sadly, honey is high in fructose so it should be avoided if you’re serious about preventing gastrointestinal issues. You may still use it for skincare though!
Agave: Agave syrup is commercially produced from a plant that grows in the hot and arid regions of the Americas. Just like honey and high fructose syrup, it is high in fructose and therefore not suitable for low FODMAP diets.
Sorbitol: It is a sugar alcohol that takes time to be absorbed by the human body. Studies show that sorbitol can trigger abdominal discomfort.
Xylitol: It is probably the most research sugar alcohol that has a sweetness equal to regular sugar but with fewer calories. However, it can also cause digestive symptoms when consumed in certain amounts.
Concentrated fruit juices: A “concentrate” is the fluid extracted from the juice. It is usually dehydrated and then packaged for more convenient shipping and handling. These have higher levels of fructose, which means they should be completely avoided if you are prone to gut problems.
Isomalt: It’s easy to be swayed by “sugar-free candies”, it is important to understand this type of ingredient. Isomalt is a sugar alcohol that has the physical properties of regular sugar. It doesn’t affect blood sugar levels or triggers the release of insulin. However, it is also noted to cause gastric distress.
Erythritol: This sugar alcohol is obtained from fermented glucose in cornstarch. Low calorie with an excellent taste, it is widely used in the commercial industry. However, individuals with IBS or any other gut condition should avoid erythritol because it interferes with fructose absorption.
Can People with IBS Still Eat Candies?
It’s difficult to check each and every piece of candy in your trick-or-treat bucket. To help make this task a little easier, here is a list of low FODMAP candies that should be easier on the tummy in moderation:
- Haribo gold bears
- Sweet Tarts
- Sour patch kids
- Junior mint
- Jolly ranchers
- Swedish fish
- Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups
- Lifesaver gummies
- Bottle caps
There are many other low FODMAP candy brands out there. Get to know them as well so you can expand your options. Remember that candy variety is important, particularly with children.
What Happens If You Eat High FODMAP Candies
Take note of the candies you eat to know which ones trigger your gut symptoms. High FODMAP-induced symptoms are usually self-limiting. These will go away as your body absorbs the chemicals or runs a series of processes to restore balance in the gut. Vomiting or bowel movement is the body’s way to get the undesirable chemical out of your system. Increase your water intake in case of loose bowel movement to avoid dehydration.
If symptoms persist, call your doctor or proceed immediately to the emergency room.
Are You Free to Eat All Low FODMAP Candies?
You might think that the low FODMAP guidelines can take away the fun in eating candies. But a holiday without gut symptoms is still much better than avoiding a few candies, right?
Also, the high FODMAP ingredients mentioned above are usually in minimal amounts per candy. Some people might tolerate a few candies while others might experience gastrointestinal symptoms even just with one. Again, each person has a different level of tolerance.
Are Low FODMAP Candies Totally Safe?
Even if the candy has low FODMAP, it doesn’t mean that you’re completely free to munch it every hour of the day. Aside from avoiding gastrointestinal distress, candy consumption must be controlled to avoid sugar spikes and tooth decay. Explain the importance of controlling sugar intake to kids and set a good example! Show them that candies are not substitutes for fresh fruits and a hearty meal.
Being consistent about eliminating the high FODMAP candies will surely improve your kid’s life.
For the easiest way to help your kids follow a low FODMAP diet, check out The Gut Program!