After years of pain, gas and bloating, I found much relief after trying the low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet is designed to eliminate key IBS symptom triggers for a few weeks and slowly introduce them back into your diet to better understand what your body can handle and what you should continue to avoid.
So, what is the low FODMAP diet? For starters, a group of scientists at Monash University (in Australia) have identified that short-chain carbohydrates, may be poorly absorbed by the small intestine, which causes IBS symptoms. These carbohydrates were given the acronym FODMAPs and refer to Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. Not all carbohydrates are considered FODMAPs, so don’t worry about giving everything up just yet.
The FODMAPs in the diet are:
- Fructose is a carbohydrate found in many fruits, honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup. Fructose malabsorption is not completely digested due to the lack of an enzyme, but the absorption of fructose is dependent on another carbohydrate, which is glucose. Therefore, foods with a 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose are generally well tolerated on the low FODMAP diet. However, foods with excess fructose compared with glucose, such as apples, pears, and mangos, will likely trigger IBS symptoms.
- Lactose is the carbohydrate found in cow, sheep, and goat milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by partial or complete lack of the enzyme lactase which digests lactose. When lactose is not completely digested, it contributes to abdominal bloating, pain, gas and diarrhea, usually occurring 30 minutes to two hours following the consumption of milk products.Foods high in lactose include milk, ice cream, yogurt and cottage cheese.
- Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed because the intestine lacks an enzyme to break their fructose bond. For this reason, fructans can contribute to bloating, gas and abdominal pain. Wheat accounts for the majority of people’s fructan intake, however it also occurs in onion, garlic and many other vegetables.
- Galactans are carbohydrates are malabsorbed for the same reason as fructans, which is that the intestine does not have the enzyme needed to break them down. Consequently, galactans can contribute to gas, bloating and abdominal pain. Beans and lentils are the primary galactans.
Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and a added as artificial sweeteners to sugar-free gum, mints and cough drops. Sugar alcohols have varying effects on the bowel. It is wise to limit your artificial sweeteners that end in -ol, such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol. Splenda and aspartame are deemed safe on this diet, but many people experience bowel issues with these sweeteners, as well.
It should be noted that the low FODMAP diet is it not only what you eat, but in what quantities. Many people with IBS cannot digest large meals due to the cramping and diarrhea it causes. Personally I can always tell when I ate too much, even with all low FODMAP foods. My system just can’t take a large quantity of food, so I eat 200-300 calorie meals about 6 times a day. Even if I dine out, I usually save half and take it home.
For your convenience, here is a complete High FODMAP food list, which outlines what foods should be eliminated on the diet. After you read that (and get freaked-out), here’s some additional information that you’ll want to read:
- Getting Started on the Low FODMAP Diet
- Low FODMAP Foods to Enjoy
- Low FODMAP Diet Sample Meal Plan
- Adding Flavor without the FODMAPs
- Low FODMAP Brand Name Packaged Foods
- My Favorite Low FODMAP Products
- My Personal Collection of Low FODMAP Recipes
The way the diet was designed to work, is that you should do an elimination phase of 6-8 weeks and exclude all potentially harmful foods. After 6-8 weeks, you can slowly add one category back in at time to understand what is causing your IBS symptoms. Here’s detailed information on how to reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet.
Great Low FODMAP Diet Resources:
- Monash University FODMAP Diet iTunes App. Expensive for an app at $9.99, but worth it! It contains a lot of information that you cannot find on their site. Also since they developed the diet, it can be trusted.
- Book: IBS-Free at Last! by Patsy Catsos
- Book: Flavor without FODMAPs Cookbook by Patsy Catsos
- Book: The Complete Low FODMAP Diet by Sue Shepherd
- Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well with IBS by Kate Scarlata
- UPC Allergy Food Scanner. At $.99, it’s a great tag-along to the grocery store. Ensure you take the time to review all your settings (in every category) to check every food you should be avoiding. Don’t just assume you checked them all with the FODMAP setting.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, the low FODMAP diet is difficult to incorporate into everyday life and I have had a few meltdowns to show for it. Luckily, I was already gluten and lactose free at the point I started it, but it was still very difficult for me to eliminate garlic and onions, which I miss everyday. However, I do not miss the pain that they cause me, so I can rest easy… literally.
I feel very strongly that this diet shouldn’t limit your life, it should limit your pain and discomfort to allow you to take on more adventures.
I have found that garlic salt is okay for me, maybe you could give that a go to at least get some flavour in your meals 🙂 but I agree its very hard and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.. you just have to keep trying!
Same for me – I can have garlic salt on white bread with I cant believe its not butter and I don’t have any issues, but a small sliver of pumpkin pie and Im running for the restroom.
I too struggle with IBS. And it’s even more exhausting for me because I’m in recovery from an eating disorder. Eating food is something that is necessary in my recovery (obviously) but when I eat I feel such discomfort, gas, bloating, pain, etc. that it just makes not eating that much easier (just to avoid all the negatives that come from eating) but I know I can’t do that. I need to find something that works for me. How did you come across this diet? Is this something that helps you/works for you? Any help, suggestion, etc. would be wonderful!
I completely agree with your feelings… there have been many days when I ate so little to avoid the pain that food caused me. But that wasn’t very healthy, either. My dietician recommended the diet to me and it has really helped clarify what foods cause me grief. It has eased my pain and discomfort severely, so in my mind it definitely has worked. I still have issues, but it’s usually when I stray too far from what my body will accept.
When starting, its easy to be overwhelmed. I sure was! All the posts under the Low FODMAP Diet on my site should help you significantly, especially the Getting Started & Sample Meals. The diet is worth a shot to help with your symptoms. I know I was at the point where I would try anything! Let me know if you have any other questions, I am always here to help!
I was supposedly diagnosed with IBS this past week. I am just not sure if they are correct . I had 6 surgeries to my abdomen in the past 6 months . In the process they messed with my intensities 4 times, by pulling them in and out and removing sutures. My body since then has never been the same . I can’t pass gas, go to the restroom, I feel like my intensities want to burst ! I have bloating , cramping , and sharp pains . Does this sound like IBS?
Yikes, that sounds awful. I am not sure what the surgeries were for, but it sounds like there’s a lot of additional information that needs to be known to make a positive IBS diagnosis. While I have a lot of experience in IBS on a personal level, I am no expert in diagnosing others, so please consult your doctor(s) with your concerns. Good luck!
I’m really nervous to get started, and while I’m already a very healthy eater, I also learned the benefit of moderation and that “bad food” doesn’t exist. I’ve gone through treatment for bulimia, and so being able to eat anything was very important. Now my DR says I need to follow this!!! My discomfort is mainly in bloating and constipation, but I don’t often have pain or diarrhea. I’ve considered just living with it, but I hate the feeling of being bloated and constipated, and I dont want to harm my body more. SO I’m following this strictly for 6 weeks then slowly testing different foods. My question is..
Do you find that once you reintroduced certain foods back into your diet there was a lot you could eat that’s a high fodmap food, but others you need to eliminate? Or is moderation OK for most of the foods, or do you need complete elimination of the foods?
Hi Jennifer, Every person is different, but I found that not all high FODMAP foods impact me severely. I can easily have galactans in most quantities, but fructans still bother me in any quantity. The others are OK in low quantities. I usually eat FODMAP-free in the morning and for most lunches, that way my whole day isn’t ruined if I over-do it. Hope that helps!
Hi, do you know if yellow or orange watermelon is ok on the low-fodmap diet? Or even orange beets or purple/ orange cauliflower? I read that specific types of cabbage can be okay so I was wondering if that might be true for these as well.
Since watermelon and cauliflower are both on the high FODMAP list, I would avoid these. Orange beets have not been tested, but since beetroot is high in FODMAPs, I would hesitate on this item. On the elimination phase, I would probably avoid it.
I am finding some conflicting information on high FODMAP food lists. My dietician recommended eating fennel in place of garlic, but now I have found fennel on some high FODMAP lists as well on some low lists. And the lists are from medical sites, not personal blogs. Argh… Any ideas?
There is a lot of conflicting information online since FODMAP testing is ongoing. Lists quickly get outdated as new items are tested. The most up-to-date and accurate information is the Monash University FODMAP App. It lets you know what foods are high and low, and if you can’t find a food, it lets you know that it hasn’t been tested.
I have some kind of IBS and have tried working with low foodmap diets in the past and have found it will work for a short time, but the IBS is not cured. I know that many people will say that IBS can’t be cured, but I still believe that there are methods to resolve the underlying problems instead of changing your diet to prevent the symptoms. It takes time and lot of testing, but I will keep searching for solutions.
Hi Michelle! I feel the same as you, and I was surprised when my Dr. said that the FODMAP diet was the only way for relief. While it has really helped, I wanted to share with you what has really helped me in case you want to try it, too. I started taking Univera Aloe Vera and probiotic. Their Aloe Vera is the best in the world, and contains the highest amount of the “good part of the aloe leaf” in their aloe. I heard it heals your digestive system and helps regulate the system and keep your body regular…and after contacting several aloe companies and doing my research, I gave it a shot. I take 1oz before each meal and after just a week I was finding relief. I don’t follow the FODMAP diet exclusively because it’s really had for me to give up a few of my favorite foods and I’m a busy lady, but the Aloe has actually been healing and strengthening my intestines which makes it easier for my body to pass the higher FODMAP foods without getting really bloated. Universa has a 100% money back guarantee for 90 days if you try it a few months and don’t find relief. I started selling it for the discount because it has worked so well, let me know if you want to get some to try and see how it works for you, too! There isn’t a “cure” to IBS, but the Aloe can heal your intestines and make them stronger so that your symptoms are much much less, and some people have found the symptoms go away entirely.
Hi Michelle, I ran across your article pertaining to the Aloe Vera, I would like to know if you could send me the details. Thank you Bonnie
I know some people like Aloe products but I for one am allergic to it and can,t imagine what it might do to my insides. My face blew up, so I stay away from aloe in products and its in a lot.
I take enzymes with meals that I think will be bothering me. This really helps when I eat out.
What enzymes do you take?
Thank you. You answered so many of my questions. I’m going to try following your diet as best I can. I live in the country and it might be difficult finding any of the brands but I can be gluten, lactose and substitute sugar free and try that.