Fodmap Diet

Heal Your Digestion with a Low FODMAP Diet

Have you been suffering from diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and other indigestion symptoms?

If so, you might not just have mild digestive issues, but a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common condition, but one that is often undiagnosed because symptoms are similar to many other digestive symptoms.

If you visit your doctor and are diagnosed with IBS, changing your diet will be one of the first recommendations they have for you.

This often means trying a low FODMAP diet, which is going to eliminate foods known for triggering IBS and other digestive system problems.

Keep reading if you want to learn about healing your digestion and managing IBS and other related conditions with a low FODMAP diet.

Digestion

1. What are FODMAPs?

The most common question about this diet, aside from what you can eat, is what exactly are FODMAPs?

These are essentially short-chain carbohydrates that have certain types of fibers or lactose that are very difficult to digest.

If you have IBS, you probably have a hard time digesting most or all of these foods.

The term FODMAP is short for fermentable oligo, di, mono-saccharides, and polyols. Of course you can see why it has been shortened to FODMAP.

When you are not able to digest these foods (the ones on the high FODMAP list), they tend to stick in your stomach longer, where the gut bacteria uses them for fuel and it leads to cramping, diarrhea, gas, and other digestive symptoms.

Types of FODMAPs

There are five main types of FODMAPs, which is what the “high” section of the food list is made up of.

It is not as simple as saying no fruit or no nuts, because there are some low and high foods from each major food category.

Lactose – The first category is lactose, which you are probably familiar with.

This is a type of carbohydrate that you would find in milk and other dairy products.

Some types of cheese and cottage cheese don’t typically have a lot of lactose, so you might still be able to consume those foods.

Fructose – Fructose, a type of simple sugar, is also found in many of the high FODMAP foods.

Fructose when in high quantities in many fruits and some vegetables can cause a lot of pain with your digestive system, especially if you have IBS.

Polyols – While you want to reduce some of the sugar-laden foods you eat, you don’t want to have sugar alcohols.

Many of them are considered polyols, which are also found in many high FODMAP foods.

These include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol. If you have ever had something “sugar free” and it made you sick, it probably contained a sugar alcohol.

Fructans – This FODMAP is not as well known, but it is found in many of the foods you probably eat every day.

Fructans is in most foods with gluten, including wheat, rye, and barley. You will need to avoid most of these foods when sticking to a low FODMAP diet.

Galactans – Lastly, there is galactans.

These are often found in legumes, which is why many of them are not allowed in the low FODMAP diet.

With this important information, it makes it clear why you need to cut certain foods out and try to heal your digestion and reduce uncomfortable and often painful IBS symptoms.

2. Why Do You Need to Follow a Low FODMAP Diet?

Why can’t you just avoid the foods that trigger your IBS, and go with that?

Because it is very hard to figure out what foods are bothering you and which aren’t.

Every body is different, so one person can’t have any of the FODMAPs, while other people can handle some in smaller quantities more than others.

That is the magic of the elimination diet.

With the low FODMAP diet, you are not just sticking to a diet for the rest of your life, but first figuring out what foods are causing the most problems so that you can figure out a long-term solution.

You Can Ease Your Symptoms

When you first switch to the low FODMAP diet, you will notice a reduction in your side effects and symptoms.

It might not happen overnight, as there can be some form of sugar or carb withdrawal.

However, by the second or third week, you will start experiencing less pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

This is the first reason to try the low FODMAP diet.

By having an ease in your symptoms, it is a sign that what you were eating before was the main culprit for how you were feeling.

If you don’t feel any better, then you ruled out one issue and your doctor can find the actual cause of your discomfort.

It Lets You Find Your Trigger Foods

Since there is a re-introduction phase following the initial phase of removing high FODMAP foods, you are able to pinpoint exactly what your trigger foods are.

It is very difficult to do this without an elimination diet like this.

When you start eating other foods again, you do it slowly and one at a time, so that you can track what foods give you symptoms, and which ones your body seems fine with.

Heal Other Digestive Issues

While most people who do the low FODMAP diet have IBS, this can help many other people as well.

These types of foods can affect more than just IBS sufferers, but anyone with digestive issues.

It can help you figure out if you are lactose intolerant, sensitive to wheat, or gluten intolerant. It also helps you figure out if sugar is causing certain types of pain or illness.

3. What are the Low and High FODMAP Foods?

Naturally, your next question is going to be what CAN you eat?

While there are a lot of foods on the high FODMAP foods list that you can’t eat, there are still even more on the food list of what you can eat.

This is the good news. The hardest part is probably meal planning and remembering what foods to eat or avoid during the first stage of the low FODMAP diet.

Fodmap Foods

High FODMAP Foods – What to Avoid

Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list, but a summary of the types of foods that can be found on the high FODMAP foods list. These are the ones you want to avoid or at least reduce.

Garlic and onionSome vegetables – sugar snap peas, cauliflower, mushroomsWheat and gluten productsLegumes like peas and beansSugar alcoholsSimple sugar (fructose)Dairy with lactose, including milk and ice creamSome fruit – apples, plums, peachesHoney

Low FODMAP Foods – What to Enjoy

Now the fun part – knowing what you can eat! You will be pleased to know this is a long list of foods of what you are allowed to eat, so you won’t feel like you are missing out on too much with the low FODMAP diet.

Fruits and Vegetables – The first category of foods you can eat is fruit and vegetables. As you know, many fruits and some vegetables are on the high FODMAP foods list, so you just have to know the right types of produce.

Some vegetable options include:

CucumbersBell peppersCarrotsZucchiniPotatoesPumpkinLettuce and greensSpinachSquash

For fruits, you can have cantaloupe, most berries, lemons, limes, pineapple, rhubarb, oranges, honeydew melon, grapes, and bananas.

Meat and Seafood – You can also eat most meat, poultry, and seafood, though it is better to look for high-quality, organic options.

Get your fish and seafood wild-caught and never farmed, and look for grass-fed meat and pasture-raised chickens.

Dairy, Sauces, and Condiments – Most dairy is not allowed, but you can have dairy with a low amount of lactose.

This includes cottage cheese and raw, hard cheese like swiss, Colby, and parmesan. For milk, instead of cow’s milk, switch to coconut milk.

For condiments, you can have maple syrup (but no honey), mayonnaise, avocado or coconut oil, grass-fed butter, homemade salad dressing with no dairy, mustard, and most of the herbs and spices you enjoy. Just skip your garlic and onion.

Bread, Grains, Nuts and Seeds – If you want to have bread, pasta, and oats, you can still consume it, but look for options that are gluten-free.

You can find some in the store or just bake your own. Quinoa is one of the best grains to go for which is also low FODMAP diet approved.

Some nuts are not allowed, but you can still have pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts.

4. How Does the Low FODMAP Diet Work?

The low FODMAP diet is not like any typical diet where it is meant as a permanent lifestyle.

It is closer to an elimination diet where it is split up into different phases. It is likely that some of the foods on the high FODMAP list will trigger you and you will avoid them permanently, but not all.

The Elimination Diet Protocol

The diet protocol calls for eliminating all high FODMAP foods for 2-3 weeks minimum.

You should record how you feel, whether you start feeling better and have fewer symptoms, or don’t notice any changes. Also note if you caved and had any high FODMAP foods.

The next stage is when you start to re-introduce some of the other foods.

To work properly, you should re-introduce only one type of food at a time, such as a few types of fruit first, then a glass of milk, then wheat or dairy products.

During the elimination phase, record all your symptoms to see if any of these foods negatively affect you.

If they cause pain, discomfort, gas or bloating, you know those are the foods to be most concerned about.

The lifestyle change comes in the third phase, where you know which foods to avoid, and which ones you are able to eat without any problems.

5. Additional Tips to Keep in Mind

Before you start on the low FODMAP diet, here are some things to keep in mind:

Don’t ignore current food aversions – If you know that a food on the low FODMAP list gives you gas or stomach cramps, do not eat it.

This is not a free-for-all; it is meant to help you feel better, so there might be even more foods that you want to avoid.

Focus more on nutrition, less on calories – Weight loss is not the goal of the FODMAP diet, so it shouldn’t be your focus during the elimination phase.

Just eat until you are full and focus on well-balanced meals with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

Stop if you feel sick – If you start feeling worse while on the low FODMAP diet, stop immediately and tell your doctor. There might be something else going on.