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Do You Need Low FODMAP Tea for IBS?

Low FODMAP tea, as part of a low FODMAP diet, has gained a lot of popularity among healthcare providers. These drinks may help alleviate certain conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

The low FODMAP diets and elimination diets, meant to be temporary, have a lot of confusion around them, and so there is definitely confusion around beverages to drink too. 

If you have IBS, should you really drink low FODMAP tea?  Should you also avoid coffee? The answers may surprise you. 

In this post, learn if low FODMAP teas and other teas are truly helpful or hurtful for IBS. Also learn about the best teas for different kinds of IBS symptoms, including constipation, belly discomfort, and diarrhea. 

The difference between teas and infusions

Tea is technically from Camellia sinensis tea trees and so black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, and Puerh teas are true teas.  

In contrast, infusions are usually “herbal teas” such as chamomile tea, peppermint tea, or other herbal tea blends. 
Most people call infusions tea, so for ease of understanding, I will refer to both tea and infusions as tea. 

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Do you need a low FODMAP tea for IBS?

The short answer, based on research, is no. 

While teas can definitely contain FODMAP, there are many other beneficial compounds in these teas that are good for digestive health. 

The low FODMAP diet is meant to be a guide, not a be-all-end-all for how to eat when you have IBS. This means that using common sense should come into play too.  

If you know a tea makes you feel better, there is no reason to stop drinking it. 

It is important to also know that IBS symptoms can either be diarrhea,  constipation-predominant, or a mix of both.  So, obviously, certain teas can be good for constipation, but not be good for diarrhea and vice versa.

Which teas are high FODMAP?

According to Monash University, the following teas are high FODMAP:

  • Chai tea, strong
  • Chamomile tea
  • Fennel tea
  • Herbal tea, strong (fruit-based with chicory root)
  • Oolong tea

While these do contain FODMAP, there is a lot more to the story.

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Low FODMAP tea types

Moderate FODMAP teas are dandelion root and strong black tea, while the low FODMAP tea list is:

  • Weak Chai tea
  • Weak Dandelion tea
  • Green tea
  • Weak Herbal tea
  • Peppermint tea
  • White tea leaves/bag
  • Weak black tea

While these teas have the green light on low FODMAP diets, some of these teas listed here are often fraught with more digestive distress than other high FODMAP teas.  

For example, while peppermint can be soothing for intestinal muscles, it can exacerbate heartburn symptoms for some people.  Some also have caffeine, which can aggravate IBS.

And everyone is unique, so teas that are soothing for you may not be for someone else. 

Why high FODMAP teas can work on a low FODMAP diet

Teas and foods are more than a FODMAP number on a chart. 

They are complex beverages with antioxidants and functional compounds that have diverse effects on the body. 

Here are some high FODMAP teas that may work for people with IBS symptoms.

Of note, I recommend avoiding dairy milk and sugar add-ins to teas because these ingredients can make IBS worse for many people. 

Instead, try coconut milk or other nut milks. 

Fennel tea

Fennel is not on the low FODMAP list, but it has active compounds that may help improve digestive secretions and help intestinal muscle movements. 

By doing so, it may help ease digestive symptoms for many types of conditions [R].

Tea made with fennel seeds also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help heal the digestive tract. 

Research shows that fennel seeds may help reduce colic by expelling gas and alleviate IBS symptoms. Fennel also helps with easing intestinal spasms. 

Other research shows that a combination of fennel seed oil and turmeric reduced all IBS symptoms over a month [R].

A combination of fennel, anise, cassia, and elderberry reduced IBS-constipation predominant symptoms compared to placebo in yet another study [R].

As you can see, fennel tea is much more likely to help you than harm you if you have IBS, regardless of its FODMAP content. 

Still, if you know fennel doesn’t work for you by making you gassy and uncomfortable, listen to your body and avoid it. 

Caution: you shouldn’t use fennel tea if you are pregnant.

How to make fennel tea

Steep crushed fennel seeds in boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. If you want your fennel tea to be low FODMAP, simply leave the fennel seeds whole and steep them. 

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is high FODMAP, but it also is a calming tea that many people turn to if they have stress or an upset stomach. 

By helping to relax the intestinal muscles and improve the movement of these muscles, chamomile may be your new go-to for IBS [R].

For this and many other reasons, it seems counterintuitive to avoid chamomile tea when you have IBS. 

According to recent research, chamomile tea helps to ease the symptoms of IBS despite having a high FODMAP content [R].

A combination of myrrh, coffee charcoal, and chamomile flower extract also helped to reduce acute diarrhea symptoms due to acute inflammatory disorders. This includes ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS [R].

Among the list of teas to drink for constipation, Medical News Today lists chamomile tea too.

Chamomile is one of the most relaxing teas out there, so if you feel better drinking it, like most people do, I encourage you to keep it in your diet unless otherwise specified by your doctor. 

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How to make chamomile tea

You can find chamomile tea in tea bags or as loose leaf teas.  Steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and mix in some honey if desired. 

Chai tea

Chai teas are blends of spices with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. In some chai tea blends, the use of other spices like rooibos, pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel can enhance the flavor.

As you might imagine, the type of blend of chai tea used may have different effects on IBS.  

Cardamom has known digestive benefits like its ability to reduce nausea and also may reduce stomach ulcers.

While Chai teas may have gut health benefits, they are often heavily sweetened with processed sugars and added milk.  

For this reason, choosing tea bags of Chai is a better bet than getting Chai at coffee kiosks.  

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How to make Chai tea for IBS

Steep tea bags or spice blend for 5-10 minutes in boiling water.  Serve with honey or lemon if desired. 

Chicory root tea

Chicory root is thought to be one of the longest harvested vegetables for humans and has long been used as a coffee or tea substitute.  When roasted, it has a similar taste to coffee, too. 

The chicory root is rich in a prebiotic fiber called inulin, which also happens to be high FODMAP.   

For this reason, chicory root tea can have some legitimate side effects of gas and bloating for some people with IBS.  That said, research shows that for many other people, chicory root can be very beneficial for their IBS symptoms.  

For example, research shows that chicory root is helpful for IBS-constipation symptoms according to a recent review of research by Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine [R].

In this study, the researchers found that people getting chicory root had increased the number of stools, better stool consistency, and helped to soften the stools.  

Another study showed that chicory root also improved the satisfaction of bowel movements [R].

How to make chicory root tea

Add roasted chicory root to your coffee maker filter and brew with water as you would for coffee. 

Oolong tea

Oolong tea is fermented tea leaves of true tea.  Due to the fermentation process, the tea becomes higher in FODMAP than green tea or black teas. 

No research has been conducted to look specifically at the effects of Oolong tea on IBD symptoms. 

Due to Oolong tea’s caffeine content, it may stimulate bowel movements. So Oolong may be helpful for IBS-constipation, but also could make IBS-diarrhea worse.  

Many people also claim that Oolong can be used for IBS-diarrhea because it has astringent properties. The best way to know is to try small amounts of oolong tea and see how you feel. 

How to make Oolong tea

Steep an Oolong tea bag or loose Oolong tea leaves in hot water for 3-4 minutes.

Other teas to drink for IBS-constipation

IBS presents with either mostly constipation or diarrhea symptoms, so it is important to give you the best tea options for these very different symptoms.  Here are some good options for constipation-type IBS:

Soothing teas for constipation

  • Marshmallow root-helps soothe an irritated gut lining
  • Peppermint-reduces intestinal spasms and pain associated with IBS
  • Rooibos-reduces intestinal spasm and is rich in antioxidants that may help heal the gut
  • Tulsi tea-may reduce gas and bloating, a favorite tea in India because it is calming and nourishing
  • Anise seed tea-relaxes intestinal muscles and may improve mood in people suffering from IBS

Stimulating teas for constipation

  • Ginger tea-ginger for IBS can be super helpful because it helps the stomach to empty, stimulates intestinal muscle movements, and reduces inflammation. Ginger tea is great to have after a meal or at bedtime to support a healthy digestive tract. 
  • Triphala may increase bowel movement frequency and serves as a natural laxative without the side effects of many other kinds of laxatives [R].
  • Oolong-the antioxidant and caffeine content may help stimulate the bowels to move. Limit intake with caffeine sensitivity. 
  • Puerh tea-also rich in antioxidants, probiotics, and has a moderate amount of caffeine to encourage bowel frequency. Use caution if you are sensitive to caffeine. 
  • Green tea-low FODMAP and rich in antioxidants, but use caution if you are sensitive to caffeine.  This also means that matcha tea is low FODMAP too.  Just make sure to avoid mixing green tea or any tea with dairy milk and sugar if you have IBS symptoms. 
  • Turmeric tea-some research suggests that turmeric helps with IBS symptoms and bowel patterns [R]. 

Infographic of best teas for IBS and includes low FODMAP tea options of green tea, peppermint tea, and ginger. Teas for diarrhea include fennel, marshmallow, rose, tulsi, lemon, anise, chicory, chamomile, peppermint, and sleepytime teas.  Teas for diarrhea include chicory, fennel, chamomile, triphala, oolong, green tea, tulsi, rooibos, turmeric, ginger, puerh, and marshmallow by The Healthy RD

Teas to drink for IBS-diarrhea

The FODMAPS content isn’t available for all of these teas, but research shows that they can be calming to the gut, which is often helpful for diarrhea symptoms. 

Relaxing and healing teas for diarrhea

  • Marshmallow root-by helping to support the protective lining of the gut, many people report that marshmallow root is soothing to the gut. 
  • Rose tea-rose petal tea is used traditionally to help calm the mind and an upset stomach and is good for the body because it is also rich in antioxidants.  Rose water is a great add-in to recipes to make foods taste wonderful. 
  • Lavender tea-lavender has clinically-researched benefits to help dampen down stress in the body, so a lavender tea is a gentle way to calm the belly too. 
  • Tulsi tea-well-known for its ability to help dampen stress, tulsi tea is a great choice any time of the day to soothe the body and mind. 
  • Lemon tea-many people report that drinking a lemon-ginger tea combination is soothing for digestive discomfort, and recipes like this one can be used.
  • Anise tea helps to relax the muscles along the GI tract so, for this reason, anise tea may be beneficial for diarrhea symptoms too. 

Astringent or soothing teas for diarrhea

  • Peppermint-low FODMAP friendly, peppermint tea can be helpful for both IBS constipation and diarrhea symptoms [R]. 
  • Sleepytime teas-IBS-diarrhea symptoms are often rooted in stress, so sleepy teas can be really beneficial for calming the belly down. These teas can contain lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian root, tulsi, or magnolia bark as examples of calming herbs. 
  • Green tea-green tea is rich in antioxidants and has astringent properties.  This is why some people claim it helps with IBS symptoms.  Start with a slow amount and avoid if you are sensitive to caffeine.  
  • Oolong tea or black tea-similar to green tea, the antioxidants in oolong and black tea are thought to help some people with IBS symptoms and can be a good coffee substitute. Be sure to limit if you can’t have caffeine. 
  • Turmeric tea-low in FODMAP, turmeric tea is worth a try if you are suffering from IBS-diarrhea too. This is because turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory benefits.  However, the effect of turmeric is highly individualized. Try small amounts at first to see how you feel.

How about coffee?

Coffee is generally to be avoided if you have IBS diarrhea, but each person is different.  

For example, if you notice you are making a mad rush to the bathroom after drinking coffee or if it adds to your stress or poor sleep, you definitely should avoid or limit the amount of coffee you have.

That said, coffee can be helpful for people who struggle with IBS constipation. This is because coffee speeds up intestinal movements and it is also rich in antioxidants [R].

Typical IBS Symptoms

As mentioned previously, the primary symptoms of IBS are either diarrhea or constipation.  

However, there are people who alternate between diarrhea and constipation as well.  People living with IBS also often suffer with gas and bloating, belly discomfort or pain, and have underlying stress or depression. 

While an IBS diagnosis tells us about the symptoms people go through, naming it doesn’t get to the root cause of why people are getting this condition. 

How to best treat IBS

The first step to take if you think you have IBS is to talk with your doctor so that you can rule out any major digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. 

Then, I encourage people to ask their doctors to rule out small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as well because around half of the people struggling with IBS-diarrhea have SIBO-and most don’t know it. 

Standard treatments of IBS often only serve to mask the condition, such as laxatives, anti-diarrheal drugs, and antidepressant medicines. 

Using natural methods of treatment can include elimination diets, such as low FODMAP.  

However, in my experience, other diet approaches may be better because they provide foods that are more healing to the gut, such as an autoimmune protocol diet or Paleo-style diet. 

Functional medicine approach to IBS

Many people turn to alternative medicine or functional medicine because standard treatments don’t fix the problems that are causing IBS [R].

For SIBO, using natural antimicrobial treatments can be as effective as antibiotic treatments, but shouldn’t be done without addressing why SIBO happened in the first place, which can be chronic constipation, antibiotic use, or previous gut infections like diverticulitis.

This means that you can use the functional medicine 5R approach to healing, which is:

  • Remove food sensitivities/toxins
  • Restore with lacking nutrients
  • Repair with gut healing compounds
  • Re-inoculate with prebiotics and probiotics
  • Rebalance with stress-relieving techniques and calming habits

It is best to seek out a qualified functional medicine or functional nutrition provider to help guide you through these principles to create a tailored approach for you if you suffer from IBS.  

That said, you can see how many of the teas we discussed above can help with most of the steps of gut healing. 

The information on this site is provided as a research resource for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, diagnose, or provide treatment.  Make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner any time you make changes to your health routine. Consult your medical care provider before using any herbal medicine.

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