How To Start A Low FODMAP Diet For Improved Digestion & Gut Health

Avatar By Elise Phillips Margulis | 20 January 2020 1003 views
Low FODMAP foods

Try A Low FODMAP Diet To Ease Digestive Issues

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Does your belly hurt after meals or snacks? If your digestive tract is making you miserable, you could be able to alleviate your discomfort by avoiding certain foods and consuming others.

Food sensitivity symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Bloating or gas
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

If you can’t enjoy eating without experiencing one or more of these issues, it’s time to reassess your diet and figure out what’s making you feel awful. With the right diet, you may be able to put all of your discomfort behind you.

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It might seem a little complicated and a bit time-consuming initially… but if you have food sensitivities and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the FODMAP Diet may bring you much-needed relief. That means it’s worth a try and some effort!

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. They are all short-chain carbs that some people can’t absorb in their body.

If you are one of those people, these specific types of carbohydrates may cause digestive problems and discomfort. By limiting your intake of those foods, you could alleviate your symptoms!

Foods That Contain FODMAP Items

Alright, let’s break down exactly where these FODMAP carbs are hiding out.

1) Fermentable Oligosaccharides

Fermentable oligosaccharides (that’s a tongue twister!) include beans, lentils, and chickpeas—which means hummus, too.

2) Disaccharides

Disaccharides are sugars with molecules that have two monosaccharide residues. The three disaccharides are sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

Sucrose is prevalent in cookies, dark chocolate, puddings, fruit juice drinks, sweet sauces, milkshakes, cakes, pancakes, and commercial cereals. If you’re like me, giving up sucrose would be difficult… and maybe even a bit tragic.

Lactose is famously in cow’s milk… which means you’ll also find it in ice cream, butter, yogurt, cream, and cheese.

Also, lactose is found in many products made with dairy like pancake mixes, candy, cookies, commercial cereals, baked goods, breads, instant soups, salad dressings, drink mixes, and margarine. Deli meat has some lactose, too.

Maltose is found in peaches, pears, many breakfast cereals, wheat, several ancient grains, cornmeal, and barley.

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3) Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are simple sugars and the most basic unit of carbohydrates. Monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and galactose.

Glucose is in fruits, pasta, whole-grain bread, legumes, and some vegetables.

Fructose is found in fruits, honey, some vegetables, and soft drinks.

Galactose is in dried figs, dairy products, and legumes.

4) Polyols

Polyols are low-calorie sugar substitutes such as lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, xylitol, and mannitol. Polyols are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and used in many other countries.

Since these are sugar substitutes, you may find them in foods labeled as “diet,” “low-sugar” or “low-calorie.”

How The FODMAP Diet Works

If you have a food sensitivity and you eat one of the offenders listed above… the food makes its way through your digestive tract. As it does, it produces an excess of liquid and gas in the small and large intestines. This results in digestive discomfort.

High FODMAP foods have short-chain carbs that are broken down into sugar when you digest them. The FODMAP diet’s strategy is to decrease sugar intake in all five food groups: protein, fruits, vegetables, grain, and dairy.

Although following a low FODMAP diet isn’t a guaranteed cure, many people report that it works for them. Plus, many doctors recommend it as a great way to alleviate digestive discomfort.

It can take a couple of weeks or even a couple of months to resolve your food issues… and you might need to experiment with which foods you should eliminate from your diet.

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Once you figure out the diet that is right for you, however… you might feel WAY better than you ever did before!

No more emergency bathroom trips… no more avoiding eating in public just to prevent embarrassing GI problems… and no more uncomfortable bloating, gas, and more.

How To Get Started On A Low FODMAP Diet

The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet. This means that you stop eating foods that may be difficult for you to digest. You can also add them back into your diet one at a time to determine which ones you can handle.

This experiment should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional… since it’s a complete upheaval and change of your food consumption.

To get you started on trying a low FODMAP diet, here are a few simple tips:

1) Keep A Food Diary

Many experts suggest maintaining a food diary to help you keep track of what you’re consuming and how it affects you.

Every day, write down everything you eat—breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, that little nibble you sneak at your desk… EVERYTHING. If you leave anything out, you could be missing important information that could help you identify your food sensitivities.

If you notice any symptoms following your meals, record those. This can help you identify which foods cause a reaction in your body.

If you feel just fine after eating certain foods, write that down too. That way, you’ll know which foods are on your “okay” list.

2) Download The Monash University App

Monash University, the creator of the FODMAP diet, is located in Australia. Their app enables you to keep all the information you need right in your phone… so it can always be as close as your pocket or purse. 

The app tells you which foods are okay to eat, has a diet guide book, serves as a support network, and offers many recipes so you’ll be armed with everything you need, wherever you are.

According to researchers at Monash, one out of seven people suffer from IBS. This condition is characterized by bloating, distension (noticeable growth of abdomen), gas, and the sudden need to move your bowels.

3) Know All Of The Code Words For Sugar

This is a key step because sugar lurks in so many foods. You need to learn to detect sugar on nutrition labels, even when it isn’t labeled simply as “sugar.”

Watch out for labels with the phrases “low-sugar,” “sugar-free,” or “no added sugar.”

“Low sugar” is defined as under 0.5 grams per serving.

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“Reduced sugar” is 25% less sugar per serving than the regular product. If the regular product has a tremendous amount of sugar, however, 25% less won’t be very low.

“No added sugar” means a food could be filled with natural sugar. 

Be aware of natural sugar in fruits, whole grains, dairy, rice, and starchy vegetables such as peas, sweet potatoes, corn, and beans. 

We know that sweets are chock full of sugar. Remember that items purchased at the grocery store like pasta sauce, yogurt, salad dressing, and more are likely to be sweetened.

4) Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods Or Take A Good Probiotic Supplement

Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve or restore gut flora. They are live, “good” bacteria.

Kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, tempeh, miso, natto, buttermilk, gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese all are probiotic-rich foods. 

Another option is to take a probiotic supplement. You can also combine probiotic foods with a probiotic supplement.

In the end, it’s all about good gut health.

FODMAP Approved Foods & FODMAP Foods To Avoid

OK, brace yourself. Here are the foods you should and shouldn’t eat if you want to try the low FODMAP diet.

Remember that you can introduce these foods back into your diet slowly and one at time. So, you may not be depriving yourself of all of these foods forever!

In terms of eating a low FODMAP diet to ease digestive issues like IBS… low FODMAP is “good” (so eat more of these)… and high FODMAP is “bad” (so you should avoid those).

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Low FODMAP Fruits

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blueberries 
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Plantains
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries

High FODMAP Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Watermelon
  • Canned/dried fruit

Low FODMAP Vegetables

  • Arugula
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli 
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnut
  • Zucchini
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High FODMAP Vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Peas
  • Shallots
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar snap peas

Low FODMAP Grains

  • Amaranth
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Oats
  • Gluten-free products
  • Quinoa 

High FODMAP Grains

  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Faro
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Wheat
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Low FODMAP Dairy & Dairy Alternatives

  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Rice milk
  • Butter
  • Hard or aged cheeses (cheddar, parmesan, or brie)

High FODMAP Dairy & Dairy Alternatives

  • Cow’s milk
  • Buttermilk
  • Cream
  • Custard
  • Ice cream
  • Margarine
  • Soft cheeses (ricotta or cottage cheese)
  • Soy milk
  • Yogurt

Low FODMAP Nuts, Seeds & Legumes

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
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High FODMAP Nuts, Seeds & Legumes

  • Baked beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Butter beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Soybeans
  • Split peas

Customize Your Diet To Your Fit Your Lifestyle

Once you’ve experimented with which foods don’t upset your stomach… and what you need to stay away from… you can figure out how to plan your meals and snacks to make it simple to stick to your personalized FODMAP diet.

So What CAN You Eat On A Low-FODMAP Diet?

Apples, honey, stone fruit, agave, garlic, onions, wheat products, cashews… as you can see in this list of high FODMAP foods to avoid… it’s practically endless.

So that’s why many doctors recommend taking a high-quality probiotic, in addition to avoiding as many high FODMAP foods as possible.

According to Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, “You need to be mindful to continuously replenish and repopulate your system with [probiotics], whether it’s through food sources, supplements, or both.”

And that’s especially true if you slip up and eat a high FODMAP food from time to time.

Think about it this way:

The main reason people with sensitive digestive systems experience so many problems with high FODMAP foods… is because they don’t have the necessary probiotic bacteria in their guts to break these foods down.

So if you don’t have the “good guys” in your gut… you might eat an apple, and experience uncomfortable bloating for hours… or diarrhea for days. (Ick… no thanks!)

Fortunately, you can easily speed up the healing process, and avoid any unwanted “side effects” of eating high FODMAP foods with the right probiotic supplement… Doctors recommend looking for one that’s got:

  • Multiple strains of lactobacillus (such as L. Fermentum and L. Rhamnosus)…
  • A high potency (at least 10 billion CFU)…
  • And this is more of a personal preference, but I like looking for probiotics that are shelf-stable, like this one:

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