Through my own IBS healing journey, trial and error and many ups and downs, the Low FODMAP Diet has become my favourite way of eating for managing IBS symptoms. Here’s everything you need to know about the Low FODMAP Diet.
I’m no stranger to the Low FODMAP Diet. In fact, it’s one of my favourite ways to manage IBS symptoms and has been a really big part of my gut and IBS healing journey. I’ve learned a ton through my own experiences, and if you’re reading this because you’re a fellow sufferer of IBS or digestive issues, then I’ve got you covered today on all things IBS and Low FODMAP!
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) affects more than 10% of the worlds population and is characterized by chronic gas, bloating, constipation or loose stool. It’s also a functional disorder which means there’s no abnormal pathology from test results.
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
The Low FODMAP Diet is a diet that was specially developed by Monash University researchers to provide relief from the symptoms associated with IBS. In fact, up to 75% of those suffering from IBS find relief from this eating this way.
But let me explain here, because you’re probably reading this thinking wait a second, what on earth is a “FODMAP”? FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermented Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols
And what are these weird things exactly? They’re simply different types of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t digested or absorbed properly in the gut and are particularly irritating and symptom-triggering for those with IBS. These sugars include:
- Fructose (found in honey and certain fruits)
- Lactose (milk and milk products)
- Sugar polyols (sorbitol and mannitol found in some fruits and vegetables)
- Fructans (wheat, garlic, onions)
- Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) (beans and legumes)
The osmotic effect of these sugars draws water into the bowels which can lead to loose stool or diarrhea for those with faster motility, and the excess production of gas can lead to a mix of constipation and diarrhea.
The premise of this diet is that by limiting these aggravating foods, symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation or loose stool are improved. It’s important to note that these carbohydrates are not inherently bad. In fact, many high FODMAP foods are very nutritious!
High FODMAP Foods
- Wheat, barley, rye
- Ripe bananas
- Most dried fruits
- Beans and legumes
- Butternut squash
- Milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.)
- Sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey and high fructose corn syrup
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Sweet corn
Low FODMAP Foods
Please note that this list is not comprehensive! For a full list of high and low FODMAP foods, I strongly suggest you download the Monash University Low FODMAP app.
- Leafy greens and lettuces
- Gluten-free grains such as rice and quinoa
- Unripe bananas (green tips)
- Lemons and limes
- Navel orange
- Nuts and seeds such as flax, hemp, chia; macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans and peanuts
- White potato
- Fresh meat (non-deli)
It’s All About Portion Size
The thing with FODMAPs is that researchers base a foods “high” or “low” FODMAP status off of specific serving sizes. So a 1/4 cup of butternut squash is considered low FODMAP, whereas 2/3 cup is high, and vice versa. FODMAPs also have an accumulative effect meaning that a combination of different amounts of FODMAPs can contribute to an overall high FODMAP load.
This is why it’s really important to listen to your body, work with a practitioner, and to find what works best for you, because some people may tolerate certain FODMAP foods differently than others.
Why the Low FODMAP Diet is Temporary
While it can be a critical factor in managing your symptoms and even encouraging healing, it’s unwise to rely on a Low FODMAP diet indefinitely as long-term avoidance of high FODMAP foods can potentially disrupt our microbiome (the collection of bacteria that exist in and on our body) since many high FODMAP foods are also excellent sources of prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that feed, nourish, and strengthen the colony of trillions of friendly probiotic bacteria in out gut.
Phases of the Low FODMAP Diet
Re-introducing high FODMAP foods after eating low FODMAP for some time can be a little daunting, especially if you’ve noticed relief, but it’s actually a big part of embarking on a Low FODMAP diet as there are phases involved:
- Elimination: eliminating high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks to determine if these sugars are contributing to your symptoms
- Re-Introduction: Each high FODMAP food group is carefully reintroduced one at a time (in smaller and larger portions) to determine which ones and it which amounts create symptoms.
- Maintenance/Customization: Once you have a good understanding of which foods work and don’t work for you, you can customize your dietary needs accordingly. That might mean you can still continue to eat avocado, but only half of it. Or you’re fine with a handful of almonds, but large portions you’re not. This could also mean you’ve discovered you’re totally fine with larger amounts of other high FODMAP foods.
Finding Your Unique Balance
Although the Low FODMAP Diet can be confusing or overwhelming, there’s always a bright side. Once you’ve found your culprits and in which amounts, it’s highly liberating and is not as restrictive as it is initially. The goal is to be able to re-introduce as many foods as possible that you previously loved, but be symptom-free instead!
Is the Low FODMAP Diet Right For You?
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS and you’ve tried all kinds of strategies to manage or overcome symptoms, then the Low FODMAP Diet may be an excellent fit for you.
Remember that there’s more to gut health and IBS than just FODMAPs alone. Stress levels, other non-FODMAP food sensitivities, bacterial infections such as SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune or other existing conditions can all impact digestive health.
It’s important to work with a qualified practitioner to rule out any other underlying imbalances with a qualified practitioner since other GI disorders can mimic symptoms found in IBS and to guide you through exploring this therapeutic diet.
If you decide to try the Low FODMAP Diet, I can’t recommend enough their app — it has been an indispensable tool for me on my gut healing and Low FODMAP journey as it lists each and every high and low FODMAP food, in what amounts, plus tons of other info on IBS and FODMAPS.