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If you are unsure of your IBS food triggers, you might be wondering about whether you can eat tomatoes with IBS. This post explains how tomatoes might trigger your digestive symptoms, and how best to eat them. 

Tomatoes and IBS

Tomatoes aren’t normally the first suspect in your IBS triggers list (see dairy, gluten, fatty or spicy foods). But, they are high in fructose, and can trigger histamine reactions in some people. 

There is a difference in the way we digest the cooked or raw fruit. This is where I find some of my clients trip up. Cooked tomatoes are fine for them, so they merrily eat raw tomatoes. But these can digest differently, which then makes identifying triggers very confusing! 

 

Benefits of eating tomatoes

Before I mention how tomatoes might cause IBS, let’s look at why you should try eating them.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant that supports eye health and cell turnover. They are a great source of vitamin C. As well as being in many delicious meals and a basis for so many cusines around the world. 

Did you know? Lycopene is actually higher when tomatoes are cooked. Unlike other nutrients like vitamin C which reduce when veg is cooked, your pasta sauce might actually be higher in this important antioxidant than raw tomatoes. 

A diet rich in tomatoes might help keep your heart healthy due to the beta-carotene and lycopene levels. 

    But how do they affect digestion? 
    Five cherry tomatoes on the vine against a wooden background. One tomato is sliced open in to quarters in front of the vine.

    How do tomatoes affect your digestion?

    There are three main ways tomatoes can affect IBS.

    Firstly, tomatoes are high in fructose. This is one of the high FODMAP foods. (To understand more about the low FODMAP diet see my beginners guide to the low FODMAP diet)

    If you don’t absorb fructose well, tomatoes could draw more water into the small intestine causing bloating or loose stools. Or undigested fructose can travel to the large intestine and is fermented by gut bacteria which creates excessive gas. 

    Secondly, tomatoes also contain histamine (a natural amino acid) which can trigger gut symptoms like pain, diarrhoea or bloating if you’re sensitive, when eaten in high amounts. (You can read more about Histamine and IBS in this blog post)

    And finally tomatoes give some people heartburn or trigger reflux due to the acid in the fruit. This tends to be better when tomatoes are cooked, and worse with large amounts of the raw fruit. Read more at Foods for Reflux)

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    How to eat tomatoes when you have IBS

    The levels of fructose change depending on the fruit, and they way it’s prepared.  According to the Monash University FODMAP guidelines:

    • 100g tinned tomatoes is low FODMAP. So a tin of tomatoes between a family of 4 will probably be ok in terms of fructose content per meal, provided you don’t add other high fructose foods like pepper, apples or honey. 
    • Raw cherry tomatoes are classed as moderate FODMAP when you eat just four (45g). Stick to three cherry tomatoes per meal to stay low FODMAP.
    • Tomato paste is low FODMAP at 2 tbsp per meal – so it’s fine to add to a sauce or on a pizza. 

    It’s really important that you test your own tolerance to foods, instead of just sticking to these guidelines. You might be fine with tomatoes, even though they can be high FODMAP! 

    Getting your five a day

    If tomatoes aren’t a problem for you then eat them freely. They are a great fruit to include in your diet. You need to eat lots of diversity in fibres, which can come from fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses.

    Remember, a portion of fruit and veg (for your 5 a day) is 80g. So three cherry tomatoes is about a half of one portion of your 5 a day. 

    You may find they are ok at small doses, but larger amounts can trigger your IBS.  In which case, just have a few now and again to keep up the diversity in your diet. 

     

    If you want help figuring out your IBS triggers, start your Gut Reset with me over 3 months to find a diet that works for you. Just set up a free call to discuss what you need some help with. Email info@goodnessme-nutrition.com

    Close up of a pile of cherry tomatoes with the words 'Are cherry tomatoes ok for IBS' written across the front.

    Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

    I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

    I can help you to:

    • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
    • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
    • develop better digestion and more energy

    Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme

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