The “best” Halloween candy for those with IBS

Halloween is almost here! In 2021, Americans spent around $3 billion on Halloween candy – and American children reportedly ate nearly three cups of sugar alone! IBS or not, that amount of sugar is enough to make anyone have digestive problems.

But for those with IBS, even a fraction of that much sugar could be too much for them to bear. With that in mind, the editors at IBS Life have come together to find out what candy our readers can and cannot have in this spookiest of seasons.

What can’t we have on Halloween?

IBS Life has detailed FODMAPs before, but to those new to the topic, they are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. These sugars will then attract water and ferment in the digestive system, creating symptoms of bloating, gas, and discomfort when the intestinal walls stretch and expand.

To treat these symptoms, doctors will suggest a low-FODMAP diet. This diet cuts down on foods with high levels of the sugar. According to Johns Hopkins University Medicine, some of the most commonly seen high-FODMAP ingredients include:

  • Dairy products like cow’s milk, ice cream, condensed and evaporated milk, and custard

  • Foods high in fructose, like processed snacks and sweets, and even fruits like apples or cherries

  • Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol

Readers may notice a surprising omission from this list: sugar! In moderation, it is a low-FODMAP alternative to sweeteners. However, most processed candy passed out during Halloween is often made with high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. So, before digging in, look for these on a candy’s ingredients list.

What can we have on Halloween?

First things first: moderation! If you are consuming sugar, 25-50 grams of sugar per serving is suggested to avoid digestive issues.

The first thing that comes to mind: dark chocolate! Some of the most popular candy bars in the U.S. are made of milk chocolate, which will have dairy and more than the recommended amount of sugar or sweeteners. Dark chocolate will often omit dairy and have a limited amount of sugar. Natural peanut butter (with no added sugars) and pure maple syrup are also low-FODMAP and thus IBS-friendly. IBS Life has some recipe ideas using these ingredients!

Additionally, here is a list of candy known to be low-FODMAP and IBS-friendly:

  • Jolly Ranchers

  • Junior Mints

  • Marshmallows (if made without HFCS or extra fiber)

  • Nerds

  • Swedish Fish

  • Sour Patch Kids

  • Smarties

  • Sweet Tarts

As we mentioned before, moderation is key. Candy packaging will often have nutritional facts and information on what ingredients are used and how much sweetener there is. Checking this information is always necessary before divvying up the Halloween haul.

An enjoyable Halloween without tummy aches and “accidents” – and of course, lots of tasty candy – is still within reach for those with IBS. With the right information, you can have a worry-free time and focus on maximizing the fun instead.