Resistant Starch and IBS
You may have come across the term “resistant starch” and have a general idea that it is a good thing to include it in your diet; but, if you have IBS, you may wonder whether it may be a good thing to include in your diet.
Let’s dig deeper into what resistant starch is, its health benefits, which foods are rich in resistant starch, and the implications for people with IBS.
What is resistant starch?
Resistant starch literally “resists” digestion by our small intestine. Hence, its name.
There are several reasons why this may happen – it may not be accessible to our digestive enzymes because it is “protected” by a thick plant cell wall (as in some grains and legumes) or because the starch does not have enough exposed area (as in green bananas), or it is harder to break down (as in starchy foods such as rice or potatoes that are cooked and cooled).
Regardless of the reason why this starch travels undigested to our large intestine (the colon) where it is used by our gut bacteria.
You may be wondering: isn’t this how FODMAPs work? Will eating resistant starch trigger bloat, distention, or cramps in people with IBS? Both FODMAPs and resistant starch reach the large intestine undigested and get fermented by the bacteria.
However, whereas FODMAPs are rapidly fermented and result in a fast increase in intestinal gas – leading to those unwanted symptoms – the fermentation of resistant starch is slow.
As the gas is released slowly, it doesn’t result in the same degree of distention and discomfort.
Although some studies have shown that high intakes of resistant starches can cause some discomfort in sensitive people, you are unlikely to reach such high amounts if you eat a variety of healthy foods.
Each person will have a different level of tolerability. If you have a very sensitive gut you can start with small portion sizes. Your tolerability should increase as your symptoms improve and your gut bacteria are strengthened.
The health benefits of resistant starch
Resistant starches are considered a prebiotic because they are food for our gut bacteria and confer many benefits. But they also have benefits that go beyond their property as a prebiotic.
They may contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes by decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and by lowering the rise in blood sugar after eating.
In addition, as they are incompletely digested, they provide only half the calories of other carbohydrates. They have also been shown to improve satiety. As a result, they can be important foods for maintaining a healthy weight.
Foods high in resistant starch
Resistant starch is found both in high and low-FODMAP foods. High-FODMAP foods that are high in resistant starch are whole wheat pasta, rye bread, and many types of beans. These are temporarily excluded during the low-FODMAP diet.
There are many low-FODMAP food choices that are high in resistant starch and may help people following this diet keep their good gut bacteria happy and prevent the decrease in the diversity of gut bacteria that happens during the strict elimination phase.
Some low-FODMAP foods rich in resistant starch are:
- Canned chickpeas, lentils, cannellini, and red kidney beans
- Cooked buckwheat groats
- Cooked millet
- Cooked and cooled rice (white or brown)
- Cooked and cooled potatoes
- Corn tortillas
- Uncooked oats
- Under-ripe bananas
You can check the appropriate portion sizes in the Monash FODMAP App. If these foods are new to you, start adding one portion at a time and increase your intake gradually to minimize potential gut symptoms.
Among these, uncooked oats are the richest source of resistant starch. Try my delicious Easy Overnight Oats as a start.
Once you have reintroduced high-FODMAP foods and discovered your triggers, you may expand the variety and quantity of resistant starches you can eat without experiencing gut symptoms.