How to Gain Weight with IBS

How to Gain Weight with IBS

woman weighing herself
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Although the struggle to lose weight is a more common problem, for some people it can be just as challenging to try to get their weight up to a healthy level. This effort can become even more difficult if you are also dealing with IBS.

IBS is not a health problem that results in weight loss. However, you may have found that your IBS symptoms cause you to skip meals or to severely restrict the foods that you are eating, all in an attempt keep your digestive system quiet.

Attempts at remedying the situation can be frustrating. Many foods that are high in calories often tend to be IBS triggers.

In the following slides, we will discuss some recommendations for eating in a way that helps you to gain weight, without compromising your IBS or your overall health.

Note: Weight loss is not a symptom of IBS. It is essential that you bring any unexplained weight loss to the attention of your physician. Being underweight and/or malnourished can be a sign of a more serious digestive illness, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

1. Eat an Extra Meal a Day

woman in nightgown looking in refrigerator
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The traditional "three squares" may not be a good fit for you. Large meals can strengthen intestinal movement, contributing to abdominal pain and cramping. Instead, it might be better to plan your day around four small- to medium-sized meals. This will allow you to take in some extra calories without putting you at risk for an IBS attack.

2. Don't Skip Meals

Empty plate and place setting
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In an effort to cope with or to try to prevent IBS symptoms, you may find yourself skipping meals. Sometimes this is because of the misguided thought, "If there is nothing in there, nothing can come out." However, stool is constantly being produced by the large intestine. Thus, this strategy is no guarantee that symptoms won't occur.

The other problem with the "skipping meals" strategy is that it can contribute to unhealthy weight loss, and perhaps other health problems, as you are not putting enough nourishment and nutrients into your body.

The ultimate goal in IBS management is to have a digestive tract that works smoothly and regularly. You can help this process along by eating your meals regularly and consistently. In the following slides, you will find suggestions for foods that are IBS-friendly and nutrient- and calorie-dense.

3. Eat More Seeds, Nuts and Nut Butters

close-up of peanut butter
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Seeds and nuts pack a lot of nutrients into small packages. As a general rule they contain healthy fats, and are typically a good source of protein, fiber, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals.

Nuts and seeds make for convenient, portable snack foods. Nut butters can be spread on fruit, added to smoothies, or simply enjoyed licked off of a spoon.

Here are some low-FODMAP (e.g. IBS-friendly) options:


  • Almonds (limit 10)
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Hazelnuts (limit 10)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecan
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts


4. Learn to Love Avocados

cut avocado with heart shape
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Avocados have so much to offer someone who is looking to gain weight. They are a good source of fiber, those healthy monounsaturated fats, and other important vitamins and minerals. A serving size of 1/8 of a whole is considered to be low in FODMAPs, but due to their higher calorie count, you might want to experiment with how much avocado you can tolerate without setting off your symptoms.

You can enjoy avocado sliced raw, blend them into dips, or add them to smoothies.

5. Eat More Fruit

smiley face made with kiwi and banana
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Fresh fruit is a wonderful option for a person who is trying to gain weight. Filled with natural sweetness, but coupled with fiber, fruit allows you to take in the calories from the fruit sugar without too much of a glucose load on your blood sugar levels.

However, you may have found in the past that eating fruit increased your symptoms of gas, bloating and/or diarrhea. You can benefit from the work of the FODMAP researchers from Monash University, and choose fruits that have been found to be low-FODMAP:

  • Banana
  • Blueberry
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Olives
  • Orange
  • Papaya (paw paw)
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberry
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberry
  • Tangelo

Dried fruit is another option if tolerated. The problem is that many dried fruits have been found to be high in FODMAPs, which could set off your symptoms. There are two exceptions - you can eat 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries or 10 dried banana chips without worrying about excess FODMAP load.

6. Consume More Healthy Oils

bowl of olive oil
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Make coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) your best friends. Both are nutrient-rich, higher calorie foods, that have been associated with a variety of health benefits.

Coconut oil is a better choice than EVOO for cooking due to its higher smoke point. Coconut oil can also be added to smoothies or licked right off of a spoon. Some people add coconut oil to their morning coffee!

EVOO can be drizzled on vegetables or added to a homemade salad dressing.

7. Snack on Trail Mix

trail mix
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Trail mix can be a healthy, nutrient dense, high-calorie, super-portable snack. Make a big batch each week so that you can always have some at hand. Fill your trail mix with the low-FODMAP nuts and seeds we discussed in a previous slide, as well as those 10 banana chips and/or tablespoon of dried cranberries that are your low-FODMAP dried fruit options. For an extra treat, you could throw in some dark chocolate chips - approximately 1/2 cup qualifies as low in FODMAPs.

8. Try Drinking Green Smoothies

green smoothie
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Smoothies are a way to pack in some calories in a way that might be easier on your digestive system. Green smoothies are those that contain gut-friendly green leafy vegetables, such as kale, chard or spinach.

You can pack your blender with all sorts of other nutrient-dense food. As discussed previously, you can add in nut butters, coconut oil, chia seeds and fresh or frozen fruit. Make your green smoothie and then sip it slowly throughout your morning. You may find that this slow infusion of nutrients is less likely to cause your IBS to act up.

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