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Avoid IBS Horror with These Enchanting Strategies

Woe is the child who doesn't feel well enough to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night! Forty-five years later, I still remember having to miss the fun one Halloween when too much excitement and too many sweets earlier in the day left me home on the couch with a cool washcloth on my forehead, instead of out with my friends. For adults and children with IBS, we offer these strategies to pave the way for a great Halloween night. Sweets, of course, are the main hazard you will encounter at Halloween, and a bout of your IBS symptoms could be the horror that results from eating too much of them!

1. Choose only low-FODMAP foods earlier in the day. The effects of FODMAPs are cumulative, and usually delayed by a few hours. That means that FODMAPs of all kinds that you’ve consumed earlier in the day are still in your intestines when darkness rolls around. This is not a day to fill up on other high-FODMAP foods like apples, pizza, and hummus! Pack a low-FODMAP lunch for work or school so you'll be in full control of what you eat. That way you won't have to stay home because of a belly ache, or suddenly need to use the bathroom in a strange neighborhood.

2. It’s not ALL about the candy, right? If you are a parent, provide leadership by creating non-candy Halloween activities. Create some new family traditions, like a neighborhood Halloween costume parade or a party with crafts and games. Serve low-FODMAP snacks at your party, like a cheese and fruit tray, popcorn, onigiri, or chicken satay with peanut sauce. Maybe your family’s "thing" from now on can be fabulous costumes or amazing pumpkin decorating; relegate food to a minor role. Consider giving non-candy treats away at your door, such as single serve bags of popcorn or "100-calorie" packs of almonds or peanuts. 

3. Ok, who are we kidding, it’s definitely still about the candy. Strategy #1 will leave some room in your FODMAP "bucket" to enjoy some. Low-FODMAP candies will not include high-fructose corn syrup, milk chocolate, fruit juice concentrate, agave, honey, yakon syrup, molasses, sorbitol, maltitol, polydextrose, or lactose as ingredients. (Yes, lactose is sometimes added to candy as a sweetener!) If you'd like some ideas, here are some that we've pre-screened for you: Necco Wafers, Dum Dums, Nerds, Dove Promises Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate, Jolly Ranchers, Smarties, Mounds Dark Chocolate and Coconut, Peppermint or Wintergreen Lifesavers, Sno Caps, Spree Original or Chewy. These have not been lab-tested, but the ingredients look OK at the date of this writing.

4. Portions really matter. Keep them small. Don't eat too much candy at once, even if made with low-FODMAP ingredients. Although low-FODMAP sweeteners are relatively well tolerated, if you overdo it you are risking a bout of IBS symptoms. Enough said.

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Some of the best advice about Halloween candy really isn’t specifically about FODMAPs. Buy candy to give away at your door at the very last minute, and don’t over-buy. Stop by the bank for some quarters, fifty-cent pieces or silver dollars to give away in case you run out, to protect yourself from the temptation of eating the leftovers.

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