IBS Low Starch Diet

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

ibs-low-starch-dietThe Low Starch Diet is a prescribed treatment option for IBS.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a bowel disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract resulting in recurring abdominal pain and discomfort, alterations in bowel function, diarrhea, constipation (or a combination of both), usually over long periods (months or years).

IBS may affect as many as 20% of people in the UK at some time in their lives, and reportedly 10%-20% in the USA have been diagnosed with IBS.

Females represent over 70% of IBS sufferers. Recent findings suggest that the colons of IBS sufferers react to stimuli that do not affect normal colons, and their reactions are far more severe – irregular or increased GI muscle contractions producing lower abdominal pain and cramping (often severe), extreme diarrhea and/or constipation, gas, and bloating.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not the same as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which refers to two chronic diseases causing intestinal inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, although IBS and IBD have some common features.

Carol Sinclair’s IBS Low Starch Diet

There are a number of dietary approaches to the management of IBS; Carol Sinclair’s IBS Low Starch Diet differs from most in two respects:

  • She herself is an IBS sufferer who has successfully overcome IBS pain through her own efforts to identify foods that contribute to the problem
  • The main focus of the diet is the elimination or reduction of starch

Carol Sinclair’s book The IBS Low Starch Diet details her years of struggle with IBS without any answers until she heard a doctor talking about the theory that among other chronic conditions, IBS was caused by food intolerance. It was stated that eliminating wheat flour from the diet could eliminate the symptoms!

She promptly gave up wheat in her diet with immediate relief from her symptoms, and for about a year remained totally free from pain and bloating. When the symptoms returned, she set out on the task of identifying problem foods, spending many years researching and refining her diet as a virtual ‘walking laboratory’.

Her eventual discovery that starch was the cause of her IBS symptoms has resulted in her book ‘The IBS Starch-Free Diet’, the complete guide to a starch-free lifestyle. There is a chapter on each of these topics:

  • Her years of advice from doctors to no avail
  • Explanation of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Behavior of normal digestion
  • What starch is
  • Effects of eating starch and the reasons for those effects
  • Foods containing starch
  • Recognition of starch in food
  • Managing the Sinclair Diet System (IBS Starch-free Diet)
  • What can be eaten
  • Nutritional safety of the diet
  • Side-effects of a starch-free diet
  • Eating-out guide
  • Shopping suggestions
  • Over 200 recipes for:
    • soups, starters and fish;
    • main courses of chicken, rabbit, turkey, pork, beef, lamb;
    • everyday meals and salads;
    • desserts, baking, sauces, candy, relishes, drinks, snacks.

A sample menu, starch-free of course:

  • Starter: Scallops
  • Main Course: Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Salad
  • Dessert: Pavlova
Click here to purchase this diet for a discounted price.

Validity of starch effects in the diet

Significantly, two recent developments have given impetus to the starch-free, or a low-starch, diet.

  1. There now appears to be a connection between IBS and the arthritic condition known as Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) – diagnosed in 1 in 200 adults – with the discovery that IBS and AS are often the same autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are chronic degenerative and/or inflammatory conditions resulting from abnormal immune reactions to compounds absorbed from the environment. One of the defence mechanisms of the body is to mount an immune response by launching antibodies against foreign substances in order to protect itself from potential harm.

    It does this by recognizing what is ‘self’ in order to respond to ‘foreign’. In autoimmune diseases there is a failure to recognise some part of self, with the result that antibodies attack the body’s own cells. This destruction may be restricted to a single organ, a localized region or the whole body. The consequences may vary from minimal to catastrophic, depending on the extent to which the body is affected. In the case of AS, it has been found that a particular bacterium normally resident in the digestive tract is the cause of AS in persons uniquely susceptible to the disease.

    Proliferation of the bacteria cause the immune system to manufacture antibodies, which help destroy the ‘invading’ substance, but appear to also attack body cells. So the bacteria are not the cause of damage to tissue, rather the body’s own defenses become the problem. A diet low in starch reduces the primary food source of this bacterium, lowering the population of the species in the digestive system, with marked beneficial results. The low-starch diet has been extensively and successfully employed in treating AS sufferers at the AS Clinic at London’s Middlesex Hospital.

  2. An Australian immunologist has discovered a link between starch foods that trigger, in people who have a particular gene (the HLAB27 gene), a range of symptoms such as gut pain, back ache, foot pains, eye pains, acid reflux, stiff back, stiff neck, sciatica, achilles tendinitis and frozen shoulder.

It is possible that a simple blood test can diagnose your symptoms, and that a low-starch or starch-free diet may improve your health.

What about starch foods in other IBS diets?

The apparent paradox – soluble fiber is most important dietary aid for preventing Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms initially as well as for managing the symptoms of IBS. Soluble fiber prevents and heals diarrhea and constipation, unlike anything else.

Since it dissolves in water and soaks up excess liquid in the large intestine it stops diarrhea, or cures constipation by softening faeces for a smooth transition through the colon. Trouble is, soluble fiber is NOT typically found in foods usually considered to contain fiber, such as bran or raw leafy green vegetables; this is insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber is found in starchy foods, though soluble fiber, but is different than starch because it can’t be digested by the human body. Soluble fiber passes through the human body without releasing calories.

Insoluble fiber as well as fats stimulates the human digestive system and this of course isn’t good for IBS sufferers! But you can, and must, eat insoluble fiber foods, though always within the IBS dietary guidelines: never eat insoluble fiber on its own or on an empty stomach, but always with a larger quantity of soluble fiber, ensuring you cook, peel, chop, seed, dice, and/or puree all fruit and vegetables to remove the toughest insoluble fiber and break down the remainder before you eat it.

So what about the starch in insoluble (therefore digested) fiber foods?

Fiber Foods for an IBS Diet

At the top of the list are common foods that many can eat everyday and ones that most people have success with, but if you adopt the starch-free diet, check out how to remove starchy insoluble-fiber foods from your menu. Note that the recommended daily soluble fiber consumption for a ‘normal’ person is 5-10 grams.

Serving Soluble Insoluble
Rice (brown) 0.5 cup cooked 0.1g 1.6g
Rice (white) 0.5 cup cooked 0.0g 0.2g
Rice cereal 1.0 cup cooked 0.0g 0.2g
White Pastas 0.5 cup cooked 0.4g 0.5g
Pasta, whole wheat 0.5 cup cooked 0.5g 1.8g
Oatmeal 1.0 cup cooked 1.8g 2.0g
Barley 0.5 cup cooked 0.9g 3.3g
White Bread 1 medium slice 0.4g 0.3g
Flour tortillas 6″ 0.2g 1.1g
Soybeans 0.5 cup cooked 2.3g 2.8g
Corn meal 1.0 cup cooked 0.0g 0.4g
Carrots 0.5 cup cooked 1.1g 1.5g
Sweet potatoes 0.5 cup cooked 1.4g 2.4g
White Potatoes 0.5 cup mashed 0.9g 0.7g
Rutabagas (Swedes)
Beets 0.5 cup cooked 0.7g 0.8g
Squash (butternut) 0.5 cup mashed 0.7g 1.0g
Pumpkins 0.5 cup mashed 0.5g 3.1g
Mushrooms 0.5 cup cooked 0.2g 1.6g
Bananas 7″ long 0.7g 2.1g
Applesauce 0.5 cup cooked 0.4g 0.5g
Mangoes (medium) 1.5g 2.2g
Avocados 0.5 cup cooked 0.4g 0.5g

  • Sinclair, C. S. (2004). The Ibs Low-Starch Diet: Why Starchy Food May Be Hazardous To Your Health.
  • King, T. S., Elia, M., & Hunter, J. O. (1998). Abnormal colonic fermentation in irritable bowel syndrome. The Lancet, 352(9135), 1187-1189. abstract
  • Dobson, B. C. (2008). The small intestine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A batch process model. Medical hypotheses, 71(5), 781-787. abstract
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: September 11, 2015. Disclaimer


  1. Ruth

    I posted a comment a couple of weeks ago about
    Monica Reinagel’s Inflammation-Free Diet Plan. I am still incorporating what I learned in that (i.e. wild salmon is highly anti-inflammatory but farmed salmon is highly inflammatory) but I am also now including what I learned in another fantastic book – The Body Talks, Judy Cole.

    Cole explains in a really clear way how food is digested and used throughout the body. It strongly recommends eliminating food intolerances and following a low starch diet as the only way to heal your body (not just IBS and arthritis but also high blood sugar, headaches, psoriaris and other illnesses).

    This book advocates a similar diet to Sinclair’s but it explains all the nutritional science behind it – in a very easy way so we can all understand. From this I have been able to understand various foods (protein, fat, carb and starch) so that I can combine them correctly and healthily.

  2. Prakash

    i am diagnosed for Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and suffer from Chronic pain for last 10 years. Recently i learnt that starch free diet can help reduce the pain. Can someone pls advise a starch free diet list?

  3. Ruth

    Hi, if you read Carol Sinclair’s book there are some things in it that are not nutritionally correct (understandable since she is not a nutritionist). I suffer from IBS and Ankylosing Spondylitis and my nutritionist recently referred me to a book called ‘The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan’ by Monica Reinagel who is a nutritionist. It basically takes a far more detailed look at the idea of food causing inflammation and was a real eye-opener for me. You can read my summary on my blog http://www.bonappetitreview.blogspot.com. I’ve only been trying it for 3 days so it’s too early to know if it’s working yet!

  4. Casey

    quinoa etc has starch in it doesnt it? i get cold sores as well so thats my problem. but i found you can keep the weight on if you eat regularly (and im exercising regularly too) i eat a lot of fish, meat ( i think its hard to live without meat ) , and if you are lactose intolerant too like me. dried fruit is great for those quick fixes. and keeping up your protein. i am trying hemp protein powder is my next buy and have tried cooking with coconut cream. and i eat a lot of the vegetables raw as they are starch-free when they are not cooked. ones that are safe starch free are asparagus and spinach silverbeet etc. i guess as being on this a while is theres things to play with like play with Texture like i made this thing that was similar to a keish but just using veges etc and to play with tastes like having sweet healthy things etc. and using herbs too:)

  5. julie graham

    I,m Julie aged 50 and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at aged 25years. I flare every 3-4 years getting more frequent, currently on balsalaside and colofoam since january, getting slowly better. Various side effects from medication. In between flares I have what I call I.B.S (morning urgency, bloating sometimes get the 8 months pregnant look, general malaise and still bone tired not releived by sleep)but my Consultant says this is just my colitis.I think Doctors, although well meaning, are not really interested in a cure but only in releiving your symtoms. I got to this site because in desperation searched Colitis and Starch on the net. I put this search in because about 12 years ago I,d been ill for over a year (still working full time, 2 kids and husband, loo 4-6 times daily, never feeling quite right, bone tired, joint pains, etc,tolerable but very wearing)clutching at straws and once again wondering whether it was something I was eating but never being able to conclude what it was, I had a kinetic food test done. I was completely sceptical as it was a little bit like magic and I found it all hard to beleive, but the results were that I was reacting to a list of foods as long as my arm. Without boring you with the whole list, the main culprits were the starches listed as white flour, wheat, maize, oats, cous cous, rice,(I realize that some of these are one and the same but thats how they were listed) but I was ok to eat potato but not too much as ‘I could develop an intolerance’. I got home and looked at the list and although sceptical was desperate enough to give it a try . As I thought it was impossible to cut out all the starches, i decided to cut down to only one small portion a day no more than 1 slice bread am only,I seem to be worse with starch in the evenings, and have potatoes with another meal if I wanted).I found it difficult as sticking to any diet is and cooking for a family as well but lo and behold I was better in a month.By better I mean all bowel symptoms gone,joint pains gone, In fact I felt like a different person. I was waking up in the morning(without several alarms) feeling refreshed, and had energy for the first time in years and I no longer felt that everything was an effort (dusting could seem like a massive task)and that I was dragging myself through every day, the only way I can describe it is that I had been in a fog and that suddenly it was lifted and the sun had come out. Strange I know but it felt great. People at work told me how good my skin looked and that I was glowing.

    However, my own doubts and scepticicm about this miracle took over and I began to look on my ‘recovery’ as just co-incidence, how could just removing some foods from your diet make such a difference?, and everytime I told someone especially in the medical profession of my ‘cure’ I was sure they looked at me as if I was mad and thought I was a crank so gradually I slipped back into old ways and settled back into accepting that the cycle of illness was just something that I would have to live with. Until recently when I have been sick of my life again and put that search into the computer and discovered that there are people out there that know that reducing starch does work.

    So the moral of my story (a true one)is that if it works for you, put aside all the reasons that other people are giving you about why it shouldn’t work, don’t try to work out the science behind it, its too confusing for us mere mortals, and concentrate on the fact that it makes you feel well. Ignore the fact that some people sneer, they are not the ones on the loo 10 times a day, I,m sure their view might change if it was.

    Anyway, today, after reading about Carol Sinclairs book I am begining my starch limited diet again and hope that I am going to be well again. I look forward to waking up one morning in a couple of weeks feeling raring to go and looking forward to the rest of my life.

  6. Marja

    Hi everybody,

    First I’d like to remind that our bodies are all unique in their functioning, so not any precisely the same diet works for everybody. Secondly, for those who are saying there’s nothing left to eat if you can’t eat starch and dairy products I would say that there’s still lot of possibilities to eat good food. I have done that for 2 years now and know it’s possible. for breakfast I blend (with water or wheat grass juice) green veggies like spinach, kale, celery etc + sprouts and avocado. For lunch I eat salad made from buckwheat or quinoa with tofu and all sorts of veggies. For dine something like mildly steamed broccoli+tofu+garlic and soya sauce. As a snack I eat almonds, walnuts etc. I also take protein supplement and Omega 3. Of course with this kind of diet I have to say NO to many things this modern world offers to us to comfort us, but rather than thinking what I cannot eat I concentrate all the healthy food I CAN eat and how good it makes me feel!
    The reason I started to follow this kind of diet was that I simply felt so ill and fatigue all the time that I had to do something on my own and not trust the doctors who keep saying there is nothing wrong with me!!!

  7. Deborah

    I have thought about this diet because I have Ankylosing Spondylitis but I am not eating meat(may have lamb once a month), dairy, allergic to eggs, beef, and chicken and on a gluten free diet right now. I drink boost or ensure and make protein drinks. I wonder what I would have left to eat if I got rid of the starch in my diet. that would only leave fruit and veggies for me because I am sure my protein drinks have starch as do meal replacement drinks.

  8. Casey

    I have been on a no starch diet for 3 years now. Before that i had so many symptoms from A-Z and am thankful I don’t have to put up with the pain anymore. the trouble is i am lactose intolerant as well so this virtually leaves me nothing to eat and have lost a lot of weight as it’s hard to have this type of diet with our modern lifestyle. Is there something you can use i.e. to digest starch>?>

  9. Natasha

    I have severe IBS constipation and find that eating mainly solble fiber foods helps only my cramps sometimes nd that’s it! I don’t know what to try next I’ve been trying everything. Pilss, fiber, probiotics, stool softeners, magnesium, exercise. Nothing will help ! I’m so scared and in so much pain.

  10. Linda Lee

    I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and Spondylitic arthritis a couple of years ago. I was also diagnosed with severe destructive Ulcerative colitis, but I know believe that I have only spondylitis and microscopic Crohn’s. I am telling you all that this is the only help I have had in ten years. This diet does not just help, it cures. I was going to the bathroom 15-20 times day and getting worse and worse. My daughter found this diet book on Amazon and I am telling you it is a miracle. First let me say that if you have these conditions and go on the Celiac diet it WILL KILL you. It nearly killed me. My gastroenterologist told me to try it and all the starchy pastas and breads gave me the worst flare I have had to date. I nearly bled to death. The colors of my eyes even faded. If the Celiac diet helps you then you need a new diagnosis, because you cannot have this and consume starch! STARCH IS A KILLER! This diet gave me back my life. I had reconciled myself to dying and did not think I could go on much longer. This diet reduced my trips to bathroom to one normal one a day. My heartburn and bile stopped, my joint swelling is minimal compared to what it was. It used to take me 30-60 minutes to get out of bed in the morning, I did not even realize I wasn’t having any trouble getting out of bed until I was in the kitchen one morning and it was 30 minutes earlier than when I usually enter the kitchen!! I cried for an hour. I work in my garden now, instead of just watching my husband do it. I plant flowers and walk in the mall. I can go on trips and not have to chart my day by the number of bathrooms I have access to (and that took me a long time to get over! I was still so paranoid that it was months before the anxiety left me!) and I enjoy all my food. You will be surprised at how little you miss the starches once you are away from them, they truly have very little flavor of their own, they are simply the carriers of flavor that comes from thickened sauces and meat juices. I still miss potatoes and once in a blue moon I have a boiled one and it , so far, doesn’t seem to bother me. I am careful though to make sure the moon is blue and not blue again for many weeks! So give this a try and good luck. Stick to your guns and do your research on the computer , look up starch-free recipes and use them. There are thousands out there. Grab hold of your life and take it back from this horrible condition. I was becoming only a walking disease, not anymore! I am becoming me again. I may get a little stooped, but it will be in my old age. I may have a flare or two in the years to come, but it will not define or confine me. This woman and Dr. Ebringer handed me my life for a few dollars to cover the cost of publishing. What a gift! What a heavenly gift!

  11. Frances

    I stumbled upon this after noticing that following a low-carb diet removes my minor IBS symptoms completely. I would not say I suffer severely with IBS but had got fed up with gas, and with needing the toilet about 5 times in the morning before I could leave the house. Always needing to use about several wads of toilet paper! Sorry TMI. However as soon as I put myself on a low-carb diet the symptoms cleared up completely. No gas, nice straight-forward once only BM. I went back to eating carbs after not losing weight after three weeks low carb and immediately the symptoms have returned. Therefore I am staying low carb regardless of weight. It just suits my system better.

  12. Derek

    I eat whatever the hell I want and my IBS still comes and goes. It sometimes goes away for 3 months then suddenly for a couple weeks comes back then gone again. I say just eat what you like.

  13. john

    The cure for everyone on here–> just take anti-diarrhea medicine before meals. I have awful IBS/diarrhea and the anti-Ds allow me to function normally. Problem solved. Only trouble is your body builds up immunity to them so you’ll have to cycle the pills on and off.