IBS Awareness Month: Catering for the sensitive gut

By Sandrine Olmi, Corporate Nutritionist

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness month, a campaign created to raise awareness of the disorder and encourage people to seek diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms.

The number of people suffering from gut issues and food intolerances is growing in the UK and it is important for the hospitality industry to cater for these people. As part of the nutrition consultancy work we do, we help foodservice and catering companies to make IBS friendly adjustments to their menus.

What exactly is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is the medical term given to a collection of unexplained symptoms relating to a disturbance of the colon or large intestine. According to the IBS network (1), it affects around a third of the population at some point in their lives and about one in ten people suffer symptoms severe enough to seek medical help.

The exact cause of IBS is unclear but food sensitivities may play a key role. In fact, many people have more severe symptoms when they eat certain foods. Dining out, or eating at a workplace restaurant can be a huge worry for IBS sufferers, unless caterers are well informed about the nutritional triggers and can provide alternatives on the menu.

Foods affecting IBS sufferers

Research shows that some carbohydrates can cause irritation to the bowels and contribute to IBS symptoms. The carbohydrates are called Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols – otherwise known as FODMAPs (Stanford University Medical Centre 2014) and it can be useful for foodservice companies to be aware of these, and perhaps even share a list with their customer facing staff.

High FODMAP Foods which may affect IBS sufferers

  • Grains containing gluten
  • Some vegetables: avocado, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions and garlic
  • Pulses: lentils, beans and chickpeas
  • Dairy products including milk, ice cream, commercial yogurt, fresh cheese (mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese)
  • Nuts: pistachios and cashews
  • Sugars: Honey and artificial sweeteners
  • Some fruits: apples, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, mangoes and plums as well as dried fruit and fruit juices.

Some people may have issues with fried and spicy foods as well as foods served in rich sauces.

Low FODMAP foods suitable for IBS sufferers

  • All meat, poultry and fish, oven-baked or lightly grilled
  • Vegetables: alfalfa/bean sprouts, aubergine, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, courgettes, cucumbers, green beans, kale, lettuce, parsnips, pumpkin, potatoes, radishes, seaweed (nori), spinach, squash, tomatoes, turnips
  • Fruits: bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tangerine
  • Grains / Cereals: Gluten-free breads and cereal products, oats, buckwheat, rice, polenta, quinoa,
  • Dairy substitutes: Lactose-free milk, oat milk, rice milk, hard cheeses, lactose-free yogurt, sorbet, olive oil
  • Sweeteners: maple syrup and molasses

The FODMAP diet is very restrictive and should not be followed for more than 4 – 6 weeks without professional guidance. If you know someone who suffers from IBS, consulting a Nutritional Therapist is recommended to identify a suitable diet which will provide all necessary nutrients.

Although catering for all dietary needs requires a lot of planning and preparation, this trend is here to stay. Catering companies have a real opportunity to get ahead of competitors by using this knowledge within their strategy. It could be by using the information to help design their menus, or simply making the information readily available to their customers.

Customers will come back if they can find tasty dishes which are not going to aggravate their condition. For some people, eating out with their family is near impossible. Just like tastes can change over the years, so do dietary requirements.

If you are keen to update your menu and would like some guidance, contact us for more information about our nutrition consultancy service to the catering industry.


Sandrine Olmi, Associate and Registered Nutritional Therapist

Sandrine works with the food and hospitality sectors to help their employees and clients feel great through practical dietary adjustments. In her private practice, she has a special interest in family nutrition and women’s nutrition throughout the life stages. Her passion is to help families reconnect with real food to achieve optimum health. Originally from France, Sandrine enjoys sharing her love for healthy food, helping people reconnect with seasonality and food provenance.

Sandrine is a graduate of the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London . She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), which is the regulatory body for Nutritional Therapists and she is on the register of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

(1) The IBS Network (2016), What is IBS, available at: http://www.theibsnetwork.org/what-is-ibs/ accessed on 15th March 2016

(2) Stanford University Medical Centre (2014) The Low FODMAP diet. [Leaflet]. Available at: http://fodmapliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Stanford-University-Low-FODMAP-Diet-Handout.pdf Accessed on 15th March 2016


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