We talked about how the digestive system is supposed to work a couple of weeks ago but what if your gut isn’t working like it should? You’re drinking plenty of water, exercising, eating your fiber – you’re even chewing your liquids + eating your solids…but you’re still experiencing not-so-fun effects like bloating, abdominal cramping, gas, constipation + diarrhea. I want to help you fix that.
Today we’ll cover:
- What are FODMAPs?
- Foods sources of FODMAPs
- FODMAP tips
- FODMAP resources
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are small carbohydrates (sugars + fiber) that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and highly fermentable by the bacteria in our guts. When bacteria ferment these FODMAPs, they produce gas that can stretch out the intestine, worsening bloating and abdominal pain. FODMAPs can draw excessive water into the intestine and worsen symptoms of IBS.
“FODMAP” itself is an acronym for the fermentable carbohydrates that may need to be limited.
F = Fermentable
O = Oligosaccharides (fructans + GOS)
D = Disaccharides (lactose)
M = Monosaccharides (fructose)
A = and
P = Polyols (sugar alcohols like mannitol/sorbitol)
High FODMAP Foods
(Temporarily eliminate these.)
In the vegetables category, artichoke, asparagus, beets, mushrooms, onion, garlic, shallots, leeks + sweet potato all contain high levels of fermentable carbohydrates.
Fruits like apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, persimmons, plums, pomegranate + most dried fruits are high in FODMAPs too.
Grains such as wheat, barley, rye + spelt, as well as cashews, pistachios, almonds + most varieties of beans, are all high in oligosaccharide FODMAP.
[What about gluten?] From the grains listed above, you may be wondering if gluten is the problem. And the answer is gluten is (probably) not the issue. Of course, you’ll want to rule out Celiac with your physician but the low FODMAP diet it not a gluten free diet. It just so happens that many gluten-containing grains are also high in FODMAPs. This is the reason you’ll often see low FODMAP recipes calling for gluten-free products.
Most dairy products (cow’s milk, yogurt, ricotta, cottage cheese, etc.) contain the fermentable sugar, lactose. Some dairy alternatives, including coconut milk, rice milk + soy milk would also need to be limited on a low FODMAP diet.
Common high FODMAP condiments include ketchup, hummus + tzatziki. Examples of high FODMAP sweeteners are high fructose corn syrup, agave, honey + sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol.)
Some beverages would also need to be limited on a low FODMAP diet, including most fruit juices, coconut water + some herbal teas (chamomile, oolong, fennel.)
Low FODMAP Foods
(Focus on these during the elimination period.)
There’s plenty of options when it comes to low FODMAP vegetables: eggplant, green beans, bell pepper, boo toy, carrots ,collard greens, cucumber, lettuce, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, spinach, tomato, zucchini + seaweed would all qualify.
Fruits like bananas, blueberries, clementines, oranges, grapes, kiwi, lemon, lime, pineapple + strawberries are all low in FODMAPs.
A number of nutritious ancient grains are low in FODMAPS, including oats, millet, quinoa, rice + many gluten free/sourdough breads + pastas (check the ingredients!)
Getting enough plant-based protein can be a little challenging during the strict elimination period of the low FODMAP diet. (No beans!) Luckily, tempeh, tofu, lentils (when limited to 1/4 cup) + a number of nuts + seeds (brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts) are all considered low-FODMAP options.
If you’re looking for additional protein sources, high quality seafood, eggs, etc. could be included.
Dairy alternatives that easily replace lactose-containing dairy products include almond milk, hemp milk + nutritional yeast.
Low FODMAP condiments like miso, soy sauce + mustard all work. So do sweeteners like stevia + maple syrup and most herbs + spices.
Beverages like water (of course!), vegetable juice, cranberry juice + coffee/tea* are all considered low in FODMAPS.
*Caffeine may worsen symptoms so limit to 1-2 cups daily and pay attention to how you feel!
- Don’t self-diagnose! Be sure to check with your physician before starting a low FODMAP diet in order to rule out serious conditions like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease + certain cancers. These conditions can cause a lot of the same symptoms so it’s just better to be safe and check with a doctor first.
- Remember the elimination period is temporary! I say this for a couple of reasons: 1) it can feel pretty dang overwhelming to think of eliminating all of the high FODMAP foods at once – I know so many of my favorites would be cut! Keep in mind that the strict elimination period is only for a few weeks + can help you better tolerate many of these foods in the future. 2) High-FODMAP foods provide food for our gut bacteria – which is a very good thing! Eliminating high-FODMAP foods permanently would harm our probiotic friends, so do be sure to gradually reintroduce foods with the help of a dietitian once you’ve completed the elimination period.
- Should you be concerned about FODMAPs if you’re healthy? No! Eliminating FODMAPs is not effective for generally healthy people + can actually decrease the number of digestion/immunity-boosting bacteria in your gut.
- It’s all about the load. Eating too much at once can lead to an excessive FODMAP load. (Even low FODMAP foods can add up to too much if your portions are large enough.) Try to eat smaller meals every 3-4 hours to keep FODMAP load manageable for your body.
- Should you take probiotics? Evidence for taking probiotic supplements to treat IBS is mixed. (1, 2, 3) I usually don’t recommend adding new supplements during the elimination phase (just adds another unknown variable) but I do sometimes recommend a supplement further down the road. Check with a professional on this one!
- Consider additional potential causes. Along with large meals, excessive caffeine, alcohol, and high-fat foods can also worsen symptoms.
- Work with a dietitian. Following a low FODMAP diet can be complicated. A dietitian can ensure you’re meeting nutritional needs, reintroducing foods correctly after the elimination period + actually enjoying your meals throughout the process. If you’re interested, you can set up a consultation with me or learn about my customized meal plans here.
- Get the app. The low FODMAP diet was discovered by Australian researchers at Monash University + (thankfully) they developed an app that categorizes foods according to their FODMAP content + allows you to jot down your personal notes so that you can keep track of what works for you. It’s incredibly helpful – I use it all. the. time. You can find it here.
- Learn from the best. Kate Scarlata’s (RDN) website is one of my all-time favorite resources for FODMAP-related information, tip sheets + recipes.
- The FODMAP Central – This website has a great low fodmap diet beginner’s guide that gives a full list of foods you can and cannot eat when following the diet.
- Download my free guide. For a more complete guide to the FODMAP content of common foods, click on the image below!
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