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Satisfying dishes to soothe IBS

March 19, 2024 | Valerie Elwell
Vibrant colors of  ginger green bean chicken stir-fry served on white plate with gray chopsticks.
This tasty Ginger and Green Bean Chicken Stir-fry serves up a colorful array of calming ingredients that combat IBS symptoms. All photos by Jessica VanRoo.

The foods you eat can be your best allies in the fight against irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a debilitating condition that affects 10% to 15% of Americans, according to the American Gastroenterology Association. Its uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms — including gas, bloating, cramping, constipation and diarrhea — can have a detrimental effect on a person's quality of life.

A common treatment approach for IBS is to avoid foods that trigger symptoms. "Common culprits are caffeine, alcohol, fatty and spicy foods, dairy, wheat and artificial sweeteners," says Katie Rankell, a registered dietitian and program director of the UCI Health Weight Management Program.

"Everyone is different so keeping a log of the food you eat and how you feel afterward is extremely helpful to identify your food triggers," she adds.

When eliminating certain trigger foods doesn’t provide enough relief from IBS symptoms, a doctor may recommend a dietary program low in certain sugars, starches and fiber not easily digested or absorbed by the intestinal tract that are known as FODMAP — an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols . The low FODMAP program originated in Australia and has been successful in fighting IBS.

Chef Jessica VanRoo, executive chef of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, part of UCI Health, created these simple, soothing recipes with an eye toward nurturing gut health and avoiding IBS food triggers. Enjoy!

Vanilla Raspberry Chia Pudding

Serves 4 (Total cost: $12.12/$1.21 each)
Calories: 235 per serving

Vanilla raspberry chia pudding served in mason jars with fresh raspberry and mint garnish.

Chia seeds, which are native to Guatemala and Mexico, were a dietary staple of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs. In fact, chia is the Mayan word for strength. Aztec warriors are said to have eaten them for energy and endurance.

Although tiny in size, these versatile seeds are mighty in the world of nutrition. They’re packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.

To relieve IBS symptoms, most physicians recommend increasing dietary fiber. With a whopping 13 grams of fiber per ounce, chia seeds fit the bill perfectly.

Chia seeds are also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests that a diet high in omega-3 compared with omega-6 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in the body and lower the risk of various chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and a number of inflammatory diseases.

Vanilla is a low FODMAP spice and research shows that its active ingredient, vanillin, has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may benefit brain health and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

Raspberries are packed with several powerful antioxidant compounds, including vitamin C, quercetin and ellagic acid that combat inflammation. They're also considered a low FODMAP food if you limit them to a daily serving of ⅓ cup.

Enjoy this satisfying, low-calorie pudding as a healthy breakfast, snack or light dessert!


  • 2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1½ cups milk of choice
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener, such as maple or date syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons chia seeds
  • More fresh raspberries for garnish, optional


  • In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except chia seeds.
  • Blend until consistency is smooth.
  • Divide pudding mix into four cups, mason jars or other containers.
  • Add 1½ tablespoons of chia seeds to each container and mix thoroughly to distribute the seeds evenly.
  • Refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes, then stir each container again.
  • Cover and return to refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Covered pudding may be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Spring Rolls With Crispy Tofu

Serves 8 (Total cost: $9.71/$1.21 per serving)
Calories: 170 per serving

Spring rolls with crispy tofu are displayed on a white plate with sauce in a blue bowl and lettuce leaves in the background.

Spring rolls may seem complicated. but it's really a matter of preparing all your ingredients and lining them up for easy assembly. All these ingredients are low FODMAP foods.

"Tofu is an excellent source of vegetarian protein, with 10 grams per half cup," says Rankell. Marinating before baking infuses the tofu with a rich, umami flavor.

Carrots add sweetness and are a great source of several essential vitamins and minerals, especially biotin, potassium and vitamin A (from beta carotene), which promotes good vision and enhances immune function.

Cucumbers are 95% water, giving your gut a hydrating boost. Their high fiber profile is also linked with lower blood sugar levels.

For some people, gluten can be an IBS trigger. Fortunately, rice noodles and rice papers are gluten-free.

Served as a delicious appetizer or a packable lunch, these spring rolls will leave you feeling satisfied and invigorated.



  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Dipping sauce

  • ⅓ cup creamy nut butter of choice (peanut, almond, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon date or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
  • Hot water to thin sauce if needed

Spring rolls

  • ½ cup bean sprouts, blanched
  • ⅓ cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 small, sweet bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small cucumber, julienned
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup fresh mint
  • 4 ounces rice noodles
  • 8 rice papers


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then coat lightly with nonstick spray.
  • Slice tofu into matchsticks about ¼-inch to ½-inch thick, toss with sesame oil, tamari and minced garlic.
  • Arrange seasoned tofu on baking sheet, place in oven, bake 20 to 30 minutes or until tofu turns golden brown and crispy.
  • Combine all sauce ingredients, mix thoroughly, adjusting seasoning to taste.
  • Cook rice noodles per package instructions, drain and let cool in a bowl.
  • Fill another bowl with about 3 inches of room-temperature water. Place rice papers nearby.
  • Line up vegetables, the bowl of noodles and rice papers.
  • Soak one rice paper in water for about 10 seconds — no longer. Lay softened rice paper on clean counter or cutting board.
  • Place a layer of noodles and vegetables on lower third of the rice paper.
  • Top with two or three tofu slices, leaving at least a ½-inch to 1-inch border around the sides. Don't overfill!
  • Fold rice paper tightly over the filling, tucking the sides in as if rolling a burrito.
  • Set on a serving platter and repeat with remaining vegetables, tofu slices and rice papers.
  • Serve finished spring rolls with dipping sauce.

Ginger and Green Bean Chicken Stir-fry

Serves 6 (Total cost: $6.43/$1.07 per serving)
Calories: 357 per serving (dip only)

Ginger green bean and chicken stir fry served with brown rice in a white bowl with gray chopsticks and a spoon on the side.

Ginger is well-known for its stomach-soothing properties. It was used in many ancient remedies, as well as many modern medicines, says Rankell.

"It's an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich root that helps cleanse toxins from the body, as well as improve blood flow and relieve gut pains associated with IBS."

Green beans, which also contain a plethora of calming elements, are a low FODMAP food if you keep the portions to 15 beans per meal. They are high in soluble fiber — great for gut health and lowering bad cholesterol. They are also a good source of plant protein, calcium for bone health and a host of other vitamins and minerals, including double the amount of iron found in a serving of spinach.

Bell peppers are nutrient powerhouses, full of vitamin C, vitamins A and K1, folate, potassium and many other antioxidants that support immune system health. They contain vitamin E, which is essential for healthy nerves and muscles, and that all-important fiber! The red peppers are the ripest, which makes them easier to digest and less likely to cause IBS symptoms.

The chicken absorbs all the sauce flavors while adding another 38 grams of protein in each 4-ounce serving. This quick and vibrant stir-fry will leave you feeling full yet energized.



  • 1 tablespoon organic canola or avocado oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut in half
  • Sesame seeds and chopped green onions for garnish
  • 1 cup grain of choice (quinoa, brown rice, barley)


  • ⅓ cup low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup no-salt added chicken stock or water
  • 1½ tablespoons date syrup or brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch


  • Cook grain of choice.
  • Combine sauce ingredients, mix well and set aside.
  • Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in large sauté pan over medium heat, add chicken and cook until browned. Remove and set aside.
  • Heat remaining oil in pan and sauté onion, garlic and ginger about 30 to 45 seconds, or until onions turn translucent and garlic becomes fragrant.
  • Add carrots, bell pepper and green beans, sauté 45 to 60 seconds.
  • Return chicken and accumulated juices to pan, continue cooking over medium heat until carrots and green beans have softened.
  • Add sauce, stir thoroughly and bring to a boil, allowing sauce to thicken, then remove pan from heat.
  • Serve stir-fry with ½ cup of grain per person, garnishing with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

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