A low FODMAP diet can serve as the foundation of a successful IBS diet. Here we explain how a low FODMAP approach works, what foods fit within its purview, and some quick tips and meals to get on track!
Scientific studies have shown that some short-chain carbohydrates are not well-digested in the small intestine and can induce abdominal symptoms that look a lot like IBS. Scientists hypothesized that eliminating these carbs from your diet may alleviate IBS symptoms. FODMAPS include six types of short-chain carbs, with each letter representing a different carbohydrate form.
The best part of the low FODMAP approach to an IBS diet is that it can include all food groups. There are fruits, vegetables, grains, and other diverse food types that fall within the low FODMAP philosophy.
The different types of FODMAP containing carbohydrates include:
Lactose: It is found in cow, sheep and goat’s milk. Additional foods high in lactose include yogurt, ice cream, milk and soft cheese. Researchers first discovered the linkage between lactose and GI issues in 1959. However, it took another six years before the linkage to malnutrition was fully understood.
Fructose: Is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit and honey. Fructose could also be added into foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup. A novel test in 1983 demonstrated the link between fructose mal-absorption and diarrhea. Subsequent studies showed the added effectiveness of adding a further sorbitol restriction to fructose (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3).
Polyols: It is found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, and may be added to sugar free gums, mints and some medicines. Polys appear on nutrition labels as sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, mannitol, isomalt, erythritol and lactitol. The Turku studies first established the linkage between polyols and IBS.
Galactans: Beans and lentils.
For a long time, patients have recognized that certain foods can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms (including flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and discomfort). Recognized food “culprits” have included milk and other dairy products, legumes and pulses, cruciferous vegetables, some fruits, and grains (especially wheat and rye). Many of these foods are known as “gas‐producing foods” and were recommended to be avoided in situations of excessive flatulence and bloating. However, such foods were in lists without any linking of common components. Consequently, dietary advice pertaining to such foods was haphazard and without structure. Over the last five decades, however, advances in science and technology have meant that the food components that are present in such foods that may be responsible for these effects can be recognized.
Like many digestive issues, everything starts in the intestines. Because high-FODMAP foods are difficult to digest, the bacteria in both your small and large intestine begin to ferment them. While this is completely normal, the fermentation process can cause gas. FODMAPs may also draw water into your digestive system, which can lead to bloating.
The FODMAP approach for an IBS diet has gained traction in both academia and with practitioners. Although its roots date back to the 1960s, researchers had not isolated the the impact of high FODMAP foods in blind studies until the early 2000s. A top-down approach using physiological markers helped researchers identify the full range of 'FODMAP' foods. This foundation helped identify its efficacy as a treatment option for Crohn's disese in addition to IBS. The Low FODMAP Diet has caught on for multiple reasons:
Following a low FODMAP diet can be tricky at times. The diet entails eliminating high FODMAP foods and then eventually working to add them back in one at a time to identify IBS triggers. The first 2-4 weeks are known as the elimination phase. The following 4-8 weeks are used to add previously eliminated foods back into the broader GI or IBS Diet.
Examples of low FODMAP foods:
Low FODMAP Fruit - Blueberries, strawberries, oranges, grapes,
Low FODMAP Vegetables - Broccoli heads, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, alfalfa, bean sprouts, green beans, bok choy, capsicum (bell pepper), chives, fresh herbs, choy sum, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, the green parts of leeks and spring onions
Low FODMAP Grains/Starch - Rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes
Protein: Eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, tempeh
Dairy: Small portions of hard cheese, lactose free dairy products
Fat: Olive oil, ghee
Examples of high FODMAP foods:
Fruit: Apple, peaches, pears
Vegetables: Asparagus, cauliflower, onions, snow peas
Protein: Fried protein, processed deli meats
Dairy: Soft cheese, yogurt, milk
Sample Low FODMAP meal:
1 scrambled egg
1 slice gluten-free bread
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup blueberries OR strawberries
1/2 cup lactose-free milk Coffee or tea
The low FODMAP diet consists of three phases: elimination, reintroduction and personalization.
Elimination phase - All high FODMAP foods should be eliminated. The length of this phase is generally 2 weeks but could be longer if you experience more severe gastrointestinal discomfort.
Reintroduction: This phase usually occurs around week 3 and can last 4-6 weeks. One food at a time is added back in to your diet and repeat for a few days. If you can go without gastrointestinal symptoms the food is allowed back in your diet. Then would move on the other next food and continue to the process.
Personalization: Once you generate a list of which foods are acceptable and which ones trigger IBS symptoms, a meal plan should be formulated. This meal plan should be followed to control IBS symptoms.
Additionally, don't forget that the goal is not to eliminate FODMAPS entirely. Many healthy, nutritious foods contain FODMAPS. Sometimes, eliminating higher FODMAP foods leads to deficiencies in fiber, protein, and vitamins A, C, and D. For this reason, we highly recommend working with a Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist if you decide to implement a low FODMAP diet for IBS.
The low FODMAP diet can feel overwhelming or impossible when you're first starting out. It's recommended to work closely with a registered dietitian to correctly eliminate trigger foods. If you’re not sure you want to commit to following the low FODMAP diet 100%, you can start by adding in a few FODMAP friendly recipes into your routine.
Breakfast: Banana Oats
Makes 1 serving
Lunch/Dinner: Salmon with Roasted Vegetables
Makes 2 servings
Banana and almond butter
Non dairy yogurt with ½ cup berries
2 Hard boiled eggs
6 rice crackers with 2 oz tuna
17 grapes and 2 Tbsp almonds
Other Delicious Recipes on our Blog
Low FODMAP Maple Soy Salmon
Low FODMAP Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce
Low FODMAP Sweet Pecan Mustard Chicken or Pork
Low FODMAP Shrimp and Zoodles
Low FODMAP Lemon Pepper Chicken
Low FODMAP Sesame Salmon
Low FODMAP Mozzarella Chicken
Low FODMAP Chicken Sausage Bowl
Low FODMAP Tomato Cucumber Salad
Low FODMAP Cucumber Salad
Low FODMAP Pasta Salad
Low FODMAP Banana Pancakes
Low FODMAP Smoothie
Low FODMAP Oatmeal
Low FODMAP Egg Muffins
Low FODMAP French Toast
Low FODMAP Salmon Burgers
We have worked with hundreds of clients to implement a low FODMAP diet to relieve IBS. We know how hard it can be to live with the condition. We hope you will allow us to help you tackle your GI issue head-on.
Our dietitians and nutritionists build custom plans tailored to help you find relief from your GI issues. Our expertise includes:
Let's get started with a low FODMAP routine!