A Note From the Editors
The Spruce Eats does not endorse this diet; rather, we are providing some information that can contribute to your decision. Please talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet.
What Are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. This term was coined in the early 2000s by the creators of this diet, Dr. Peter Gibson and Dr. Sue Shepherd.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates, a type of sugar, which the small intestine can have difficulty digesting. Examples of these sugars include fructans, galacto-oligosaccarides, lactose, fructose, sorbitol and mannitol. These sugars increase the amount of gas and fluid in the bowel. This, in turn, may lead to symptoms such as nausea, cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
Foods containing FODMAPs include fruits, vegetables, natural and artificial sweeteners, dairy and non-dairy milks, wheat-containing starches and legumes.
Conditions Improved by the Low FODMAP Diet
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common intestinal disorder treated with a low FODMAP diet. The diet may also improve symptoms caused by Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), chronic diarrhea and gluten sensitivity. Typically, patients are advised to follow this diet if symptoms persist after less restrictive options are exhausted, such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
Phases of the Low FODMAP Diet
The low FODMAP diet is considered an elimination diet. Keep in mind, this diet is only beneficial to a small subset of individuals and is not meant for the long term. It's a tool used to help discover which foods are causing the individual discomfort and sickness.
- The first stage of this diet lasts from six to eight weeks. During this step of the process, the individual eliminates all high FODMAP foods from their diet.
- The next step is reintroduction. The individual re-introduces the foods they eliminated in the first stage, one by one. They track their symptoms as they reintroduce these foods in order to pinpoint likely offenders. This should be a gradual, well-documented process.
- The final step is liberalization. At this point, the doctor or dietitian analyzes the results from the re-introduction phase. They use this data to create the least-restrictive long-term diet plan possible.
It is important to seek counsel from a health care professional while undertaking this diet, as it may be harmful to over-restrict certain foods. Many FODMAP-containing foods are good sources of vital nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant-based protein. Restricting these foods long-term may lead to deficiencies and health complications.
Benefits and Risks of the Low FODMAP Diet
- Significant reduction of IBS and IBD-related symptoms
- Alleviation of anxiety and depression
- Increased productivity
- Improved quality of sleep
- The American Gastroenterological Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognize this diet may be beneficial if followed properly by suitable candidates
- Micronutrient deficiencies
- Insufficient fiber intake
- Insufficient protein intake, if vegetarian or vegan
- Imbalance of gut microflora
- Disordered eating behaviors
- Challenging to comply with strict diet standards
What Not to Eat on the Low FODMAP Diet
The following foods should be eliminated during the first stage of a Low FODMAP diet.
- Honeydew melon
- Beans (dried or canned)
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Sugar snap or snow peas
- Summer squash
Dairy and Non-Dairy Alternatives
- Cow’s milk
- Fresh cheeses
- Ice cream
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk
- Corn syrup
- Hydrogenated starch
- Flour tortillas
- Wheat based cereals, crackers, cookies and other baked goods
- Wheat-based beers
What to Eat on the Low FODMAP Diet
With such long lists of eliminated foods it's easy to wonder, what can you eat? More than you would think. In fact, eating nutrition-dense foods becomes especially important. Here's what to eat on the low FODMAP diet.
- Honeydew melon
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Bean sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Potatoes (all types)
- Winter squash
- Swiss Chard
- Water chestnuts
Dairy and Non-Dairy Alternatives
- Lactaid milk
- Aged cheeses
- Almond milk
- Rice milk
- Cashew milk
- Maple syrup
- Table sugar
- Cornmeal (grits, polenta, cornbread)
- Gluten free pastas, breads and cereals
The low FODMAP diet can help individuals suffering from IBS or other intestinal disorders to alleviate symptoms of nausea, bloating, gas, cramping, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea. Generally, less restrictive strategies are utilized prior to resorting to this regimen. It is advised to seek guidance from a doctor or dietitian to determine if this diet may be appropriate for you.
FODMAPs are sugars primarily found in fruits, vegetables, dairy, natural and artificial sweeteners as well as certain starches. Low FODMAP foods include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, certain fruits and vegetables, low-lactose dairy products and some nut-based milks.
After several weeks of an elimination diet, foods can slowly be reintroduced to help identify the specific foods contributing to symptoms. It is important to only avoid the trigger foods and eat as liberally as possible as to prevent potential nutrient deficiencies.
The low FODMAP diet can be quite challenging to comply with when eating with friends and family. The list of foods to avoid is lengthy and includes many widely-used ingredients, such as onions, garlic, wheat and dairy products. It is impractical unless you are preparing all of your own meals.
Bearing everything in mind, the low FODMAP diet can be a useful tool to improve the quality of life of those suffering from IBS, SIBO, IBD or other related conditions.
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“Eat this, not that” FODMAPs food list(+printable pdf chart). Diet vs Disease.