What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
Last Updated: 12th January 2023 · Written by Kate Young
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
The low FODMAP diet is a particular kind of diet that eliminates what are referred to as ’High FODMAP’ foods. It is known to be especially effective at helping sufferers of IBS control their symptoms.
The term ‘FODMAP’ is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. These are a specific group of carbohydrates that tend to be poorly absorbed by the body. FODMAPs can produce diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, wind and abdominal pain in those with gastrointestinal symptoms.
Fodmap Foods to Avoid
The major FODMAPs are; fructose, fructans, GOS, lactose and polyols. Below are a few examples of foods containing these FODMAPs.
Fructose – Honey, low-calorie yoghurt, various fruits, high fructose corn syrup, agave and figs.
Fructans – Wheat, rye, onions, watermelon, dried fruit, nectarine and garlic
GOS – Legumes, cabbage, cashews and pistachios
Lactose – Many dairy items, some bread and baked goods, salad dressings, deli meats and margarine.
Polyols – Found in a lot of marketed ‘health foods’, such as protein bars, to minimise the sugar content. Also found in cauliflower, apples, apricots, mushrooms and several sugar alcohol additives.
Low FODMAP foods
Now, it’s important to note that this diet isn’t all black and white. For starters, the low FODMAP diet is just that, Low in FODMAPs. It’s okay to consume foods with small amounts of these. So long as you avoid those high FODMAP foods, you’re good to go.
Hence, foods that are low in FODMAPs, such as polyols and fructose, but still contain them can be consumed. Here’s a short list of Low FODMAP foods;
Banana, blueberry, grapes, honeydew, melon, lemon, raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb and lime
Broccoli, carrots, celery, ginger, green beans, lettuce, olives, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, spinach, swede, sweet potato, tomato and turnip
100% spelt bread, rice, oats, polenta and quinoa
Hard cheeses, brie and camembert, gelati and sorbet
Artificial sweeteners (not ending in ‘-ol’), molasses and treacle. Also sugar, golden syrup and maple syrup in small quantities.
Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive and there are likely many other foods which the Low FODMAP diet permits, this is just a good starting point.
Tailoring Your FODMAP Diet
The low FODMAP diet isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s most useful when fine-tuned to the individual. This is because not all FODMAPs will be a trigger for you, and once you’ve tailored the diet to your specific triggers, it becomes quite easy to follow.
Also, you should never completely eliminate FODMAP foods for an extended time.
See, FODMAPs are prebiotics, and they encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut. They are essential for long term gut health. Studies have shown a strict low FODMAP diet can harm gut bacteria.
You can effectively tailor your FODMAP diet through the use of food intolerance testing. A food intolerance test can highlight which High FODMAP foods are likely to be the primary cause of your symptoms. After this, you can exclude them altogether, or use an elimination diet, and slowly reintegrate them back into your diet after 4-8 weeks of elimination.
Intolerance testing is an excellent way of keeping non-offending high FODMAP foods in your diet while ensuring your gut health stays optimal.
Alternatively, you could completely eliminate all FODMAPs for a short period and bring them back into your diet again after a while. Although, this may take longer to complete, as some foods reintroduced may cause digestive symptoms again when reintroduced. It’s far more efficient to narrow down the list of potential offenders.