Many folks on the low FODMAP diet wonder if they can chew gum, pop a breath mint, or suck on a cough drop. The simple answer is yes! You can. However, you need to really pay attention to which products you choose as many contain high FODMAP ingredients.
One of my standing questions during initial consults for FODMAP education is: “Do you chew gum or regularly enjoy mints or cough drops?”. If the answer is yes, then it’s a good idea to check your favorite brands to ensure they fit the bill.
Personally, I have battled IBS for more than 20 years and, over that time, have come to identify many unforeseen triggers. Sadly, I discovered sugar-free gum was a BIG culprit in my late 20s. Boy was I disappointed when I learned of this. Sugar alcohols have been on my avoid list ever since, and I have read a LOT of labels to ensure they are not accidentally consumed. Hopefully, this article helps you discover your favorite low FODMAP gum, mint, or cough drop, while providing sound label reading advice for the products you currently enjoy.
Does chewing gum cause IBS symptoms?
After reviewing the literature, I could not find any evidence-based research stating that one should avoid or limit the consumption of chewing gum, mints, or cough drops while on the low FODMAP diet. However, some sensitive individuals may experience increased aerophagia (swallowing of air), which may lead to bloating, abdominal distention, and abdominal pain. These unpleasant side effects may also occur when consuming carbonated beverages and smoking.
Feel free to experiment with your favorite low FODMAP mint, gum, or cough drop — just be sure to test your personal tolerance when symptoms are well managed if you have concerns or have reacted negatively in the past.
The ingredients of gum
So what is gum actually made from? Originally, gum was made from tree sap, however this is rarely the case now as many gum manufacturers use synthetic rubbers. Gum is non-digestible, meaning it passes through the GI tract without being absorbed or fermented (even if you accidentally swallow it). Low FODMAP ingredients such as resins, softeners, and preservatives are often added to help bind, add texture, and increase shelf-life, however these are not FODMAPs. Sweeteners are often added and here lies the problem.
Sugar-free gums, mints, and cough drops
I think it is safe to say that all sugar-free gums, mints, and cough drops contain one or more of the followingn sugar alcohols: mannitol, lactitol, sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, erythritol, and xylitol.
Sugar alcohols are polyols or the “P” in FODMAP. They are poorly absorbed and can often result in bloating and diarrhea due to their osmotic effects.You may even notice that some sugar-free products come with the warning: “This product may have a laxative effect.”
These innocent little things have potential to wreak havoc in the digestive tract in those with IBS and even healthy individuals. Erythritol is less likely to trigger IBS compared to the others as it is better absorbed, however it is encouraged to avoid or test tolerance with a small serving when symptoms are under control.
What about gum sweetened with sugar?
The good news is that sugar is low FODMAP, meaning sugar-sweetened gums, mints, and cough drops are probably low FODMAP, unless other high FODMAP ingredients were added such as fructose. There are a whole slew of sugar-sweetened options available at grocery stores, both conventional and natural.
But let’s talk about sugar for a moment. While sugar is considered a low FODMAP ingredient, many of us know that it isn’t exactly a health food, nor is it good for our pearly whites. In recent years, there have been notable changes on food labels including more transparency with added sugar content. Here are the most recent recommendations on how much added sugar to include in your daily diet per the AHA (American Heart Association).
- Women should limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons, 25 grams of sugar, or 100 calories per day.
- Men should limit added sugar to 9 teaspoons, 36 grams, or 150 calories per day.
Tip: 4.2 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Low FODMAP Gums
- Bazooka Original Bubble Gum
- Bubblicious Grape Gum – Grape, Watermelon, and Strawberry
- Classic Glee Gum – Peppermint, Tangerine, Cinnamon, Spearmint, Bubblegum, and Mixed Berry.
- Dubble Bubble Original Bubble Gum
- Dubble Bubble Cry Baby Assorted Flavor Extra Sour Bubble Gum
- Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape Gum
- Hubba Bubba Max Bubble Gum Strawberry-Watermelon, Sour Blue Raspberry, Grape Berry, Cherry Lemonade and Outrageous Original. (watch out as the original may have sorbitol, however this product may be discontinued)
- Rainblo Gumballs Bubble Gum – all flavors
- Simply Gum – Cinnamon, Mint, Maple, and Coffee
- Wrigley – Doublemint, Juicy Fruit, Wintergreen, Big Red, and Winterfresh
Tip: avoid any gums labeled sugar-free
Low FODMAP Mints
Are you missing your after dinner mint? If so, check out these fresh options.
- 365 Everyday Peppermint Mints (only found at WholeFoods)
- Altoids – Peppermint and Classic Wintergreen
- Brach’s Star Brites Mints
- Lifesavers Mints- Pep O Mints and Wint O Green Mints
- Newman’s Own – Wintergreen Mints, Cinnamon Mints, and Ginger Mints
- Red Bird Peppermint Puffs
- Tic Tac Freshmints
Tip: Avoid any labeled sugar-free
Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint-based mints may actually have a beneficial effect on IBS symptoms as peppermint oils can relax the smooth muscle in the GI tract and improve bloating and abdominal pain symptoms. My favorite gut friendly mints are Tummy Drops, which were created by a gastroenterologist to help with upset tummies, nausea, bloating, and more. Check out all the different flavors and ginger-based drops if you are looking for some nausea relief. Use caution if you suffer from reflux as peppermint can worsen your upper GI symptoms.
Low FODMAP Cough Drops
Check out these safe options the next time you need to soothe a sore throat or cough.
- Halls Breezers Throat Drops – Creamy Strawberry Flavor and Cool Berry Throat Drops
- Halls Defense Dietary Supplement Drops – Assorted Citrus, Pink Grapefruit, and Watermelon
- Halls – Honey Lemon (the honey falls within a low FODMAP deserving size)
- Halls Relief Cough Drops – Cherry Flavor, Strawberry Flavor, Ice Peppermint Flavor, Extra Strong Menthol Flavor, and Tropical Fruit Flavor.
- Halls Soothe Cough Drops – Honey Vanilla, Honey, and Honey Ginger
- Luden’s Dual Relief – Wild Cherry Cough Drops
- Luden’s Melatonin Soothers – Honey Lavender Drops
- Luden’s Throat Drops – Wild Berry, Watermelon, and Green Apple Throat Drops
Tip: Avoid any labeled sugar-free
Avoid these common high FODMAP ingredients
Below is a compiled list of potential high FODMAP ingredients in gums, mints, and cough drops. Make sure you read the ingredient label carefully and cross-reference these ingredients with the Monash App.
- Agave (Note: there is a low FODMAP serving of this sweetener)
- Chicory Root
- Crystalized Fructose
- Erythritol (approach with caution)
- Fruit Juice and Vegetable Juice Concentrates
- High Fructose Corn syrup (HFCS)
- Honey (Note: there is a low FODMAP serving of this sweetener)
Common Low FODMAP ingredients
Here is a list of common ingredients found in gum, mints, and cough drops that are considered low FODMAP.
- Acesulfame K
- Artificial Flavors
- Beta carotene
- BHT (used to maintain freshness)
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Cane Sugar (Syrup)
- Carnauba wax
- Citric acid
- Confectioners glaze
- Corn Starch
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Eucalyptus oil
- FD&C Food Colors
- Fruit Flavors
- Glucose Syrup
- Gum Arabic
- Gum Base
- Lactic acid
- Malic acid
- Natural Flavors
- Natural Colors
- Peppermint Oil.
- Potassium Citrate
- Sodium Chloride
- Soy Lecithin
- Soy Lecithin
- Stearic Acid
- Tapioca Starch and Syrup
- Titanium Dioxide (for color)
- Vegetable Powders used for color
I hope this article helps you find a new low FODMAP mint, gum, or cough drop when the craving strikes!