Do you regularly experience gas, bloating, and either constipation or diarrhea? You could be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects one out of ten people in the U.S. each year. While there is currently no known cure for IBS, there are ways that you can reduce your symptoms, sometimes drastically. One such way is adopting a low-FODMAP diet. What in the world is that and how can it help, you ask? That’s exactly what we’ll be discussing today. Let’s dive in.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed by the body, resulting in abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel movements. What symptoms do FODMAPs trigger in those with IBS?
FODMAPs are notorious for aggravating gut-related symptoms in people with IBS. Why? These particular types of carbohydrates share three characteristics: they may be poorly absorbed in the intestine, draw extra water into the intestine, and are rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gut. Depending on the quantity consumed and an individual’s tolerance, FODMAPs can lead to gut-related symptoms including:
- Stomach bloating
- Gas and flatulence
- Abdominal pain
What is a Low-FODMAP Diet?
A team of researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia developed the Low FODMAP Diet™ which is the first diet plan proven to improve IBS symptoms.
The Low-FODMAP Diet follows a three-step plan:
1. Elimination: Strictly avoid all foods that are high in FODMAPS for up to six weeks. Monash University developed a food guide app, which is very useful in this step.
2. Reintroduction: Slowly reintroduce one food at a time to determine your personal triggers.
3. Personalization: Develop a clear plan of what foods you can and cannot tolerate.
The ultimate goal behind a low-FODMAP diet is to determine which foods in a category are problematic for you and only limit or avoid those foods—not all of them. FODMAPs aren’t inherently bad. Many high-FODMAP foods are very healthy and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. The key is finding which particular foods you’re reacting to.
Reintroduction is a very important part of the process because over-restriction can cause issues, too. Cutting out too many fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins and dairy foods from your diet can lead to an increased risk of deficiencies in nutrients, minerals, protein, and vitamins and an increased risk of developing food sensitivities. It’s best to work with a healthcare professional who can guide you through the reintroduction process by developing an eating plan that meets your nutritional needs.
Which foods are high in FODMAPs?
In the first step of a low-FODMAP diet, you’ll be avoiding any foods that are high in FODMAPs including:
Lactose: Cow’s milk, yogurt, pudding, custard, ice cream, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and mascarpone.
- Fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes and watermelon
- Sweeteners, such as honey and agave nectar
- Products with high fructose corn syrup
- Vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, garlic, and onions
- Grains, such as wheat and rye
- Added fiber, such as inulin
- Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Soy products
- Fruits, such as apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums, and watermelon
- Vegetables, such as cauliflower, mushrooms, and snow peas
- Sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and isomalt found in sugar-free gum and mints, cough medicines, and throat lozenges.
This is not a complete list. For a more comprehensive list, click here.
Does a low-FODMAP diet work?
While avoiding FODMAPs doesn’t help everyone, the research is very encouraging. One review reported that up to 86 percent of patients with IBS who followed a low-FODMAP diet reported an improvement in their gastrointestinal symptoms.
Many people with IBS who apply a low-FODMAP diet say that it helps them:
- Have fewer digestive symptoms, like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation
- Manage their IBS symptoms without taking medication
- Improve their quality of life
You might already know that high-FODMAP foods are affecting your health in some way. Or it’s something you’ll realize when we do an initial assessment. Either way, when we collaborate on a Mineral-Nutritional Balancing Program one of the goals is to strengthen gut health. You might need to limit high-FODMAP foods at the beginning. Often, as your gut health increases so does your ability to eat a variety of foods without overreacting.