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All About the Low-FODMAP Diet for IBS

Updated on September 14, 2015

The Diet for Those With IBS

Those of you who know about the low-FODMAP diet for IBS already know how restrictive it can be. Especially at the beginning, when you see the small list of ingredients you can have, and a much longer list of ingredients you can’t have.

It was an utter nightmare for me because I had the responsibility (and still do) of cooking for my partner who has severe IBS and other digestive disorders. It is ten times harder when you don’t have the proper guidance there to help you. This is why we hired a certified dietitian to come to our house to help shed some light on the subject. Naturally, I would like to share this information with others.

In this article, you'll learn:

  • What is a low-FODMAP diet?
  • What you can eat on the diet
  • What you should avoid on the diet
  • What to expect while on it
  • Precautions: read the labels
  • About keeping a food diary

What is a Low-FODMAP Diet?

In simple English: there are certain foods safe to consume if you are prone to IBS and others proven to make symptoms a lot worse.

What are the culprits? Food and drink rich in simple carbohydrates. Also known as:

  • Fermentable foods
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • Polyols

= FODMAP.

Foods high in FODMAPs are more difficult for the body to digest and absorb. As a consequence, you can become bloated, uncomfortable, and downright miserable. In fact, High FODMAP foods don't just affect IBS sufferers, they are generally more difficult for human beings to digest. Fortunately, students at the Monash University in Melbourne knew this — there, the low-FODMAP diet was born.

I admit that I had no intention of doing the FODMAP diet initially, but I did so out of moral support for my partner. I don't have any major digestive problems similar to his, but I too have noticed huge improvements in my health by following this diet. I even discovered I had an allergy to dairy by cutting it out of my diet for two weeks!

Takeaway: If you do suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a low FODMAP diet could be a good place to start.

How the Low-FODMAP Diet Works

The low-FODMAP diet doesn't allow brussels sprouts.
The low-FODMAP diet doesn't allow brussels sprouts.

Since everybody is unique, it is impossible to pinpoint the root cause of IBS in everyone. One person may have a severe reaction to milk and another can handle milk but not wheat or eggs. The aim is to find out what is causing the problems for you as an individual. That is where the low-FODMAP diet comes in.

You basically strip your diet down to the absolute bare bones — foods that are low in simple carbohydrates to be more precise.

  • Simple carbohydrates means no wheat, gluten, or lactose to start.
  • You also have to cut out anything artificial and heavily processed
  • Even some fruits and vegetables should be avoided due to their gas-producing qualities (think brussels sprouts for obvious reasons — I don’t think I need to tell you why).

FODMAP Food Charts

There are many useful FODMAP food charts you can download from the internet, which clearly outline the foods and beverages you can consume and the ones you can't on the low-FODMAP diet. These charts are great to use as reference material — I pin them up all around the house and carry one in my handbag in case I need to buy some last minute ingredients whilst I am out.

I will list some of the more common food items that you can and can't have below.

Want FODMAP recipes?

I would also be happy to share with you some practical recipes and meal ideas if there is enough demand for them. Please comment below if this is the case and feel free to share yours as well!

What You Can Eat on the Low-FODMAP Diet

Tomatoes are suitable to eat while on the low-FODMAP diet.
Tomatoes are suitable to eat while on the low-FODMAP diet.
Vegetables
Fruits
Meats/Seafood
Dairy or Dairy-Related
Drinks
Carrots
Banana
Beef
Butter, margarine
Water
Tomatoes
Blueberries
Chicken
Eggs
Green tea
Okra
Canteloupe
Lamb
Hard cheeses
White tea
Turnip
Grapes
Prosciutto
Brie cheese
Peppermint tea
Celery
Grapefruit
Turkey
Parmesean cheese
Coffee
Bamboo shoots
Oranges
Cold cuts (bologna, etc.)
Almond milk
Espresso
Zucchini
Lemons
Canned tuna
Lactose-free milk
Fruit juices from the safe fruits
Green beans
Raspberries
Cod
Lactose-free yogurt
Soy milk
Ginger
Passionfruit
Salmon
Cottage cheese
Fruit teas (make sure there's no apple)
Bok choy
Rhubarb
Trout
Whipped cream
Malt drinks (i.e. Ovaltine)
Lettuce
Kiwi
Haddock
Oat milk
Herbal tea
Olives
Papaya
Crab
Sorbet
Protein supplement
Parsnip
Lime
Shrimp
Dark chocolate
 
Alfafa sprouts
Pineapple
Oysters
 
 
Spinach
Cranberry
Lobster
 
 
Note that the above is not an exhaustive list but some more common food items. For a full list, please consult with other resources. Source: http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/

What to Avoid on a Low-FODMAP Diet

Eggplant unfortunately is not low-FODMAP diet friendly.
Eggplant unfortunately is not low-FODMAP diet friendly.
Vegetables
Fruits
Dairy or Dairy-Related
Drinks
Cauliflower
Apple
Milk or white chocolate
Black tea
Brussels sprouts
Mango
Milk
Chai tea
Artichoke
Pear
Ice cream
Beer
Asparagus
Watermelon
Cream cheese
Lemonade
Onion
Apricot
Ricotta cheese
Apple juice
Cabbage
Cherry
Custard
Gin
Eggplant
Peach
Yogurt
Whiskey
Broccoli
Plum
 
Wine
Okra
Prune
 
Vodka
NOTE: Meats and seafoods are generally FODMAP diet-safe as they contain very little carbs. However, avoid dishes prepared with high-FODMAP ingredients such as breadcrumbs, gravies, or any marinade with a lot of sugar/high-fructose corn syrup. NOTE2:

What to Expect During the Diet

What should you expect while on the low-FODMAP diet? Here are some common effects and what you should anticipate your plan to look like, including a general timeframe:

  • Reduced bloating and better digestion. Over the next few days and weeks, your body will no longer have to battle with poor digestion and bloating on a daily basis. Instead, your body has the chance to repair itself.
  • Food cravings. We crave what we can't have, right? My partner found food cravings the hardest aspect of the diet – he craved everything he was not allowed to eat! Hopefully, your hard work will be rewarded by reduced discomfort in the long run. In that sense, it is truly worth trying.
  • Two weeks for results. According to our dietitian, it takes around two weeks to start noticing decent results from the diet. Bear in mind that it can take a while for old waste to be removed by the body completely. I can vouch for this because my boyfriend was crippled in pain to start initially, but his symptoms began to calm down after about a week or two.
  • A month-long trial to start before introducing "forbidden foods." Our dietitian suggested cutting out high FODMAP foods for at least a month or so to see if it works. Then, if so, start to introduce the possible culprits one by one back into your diet. If your body shows no sign of discomfort within the next fortnight, you can then introduce yet another forbidden food from the list. You will soon discover the triggers for your IBS because the effects should manifest themselves quite quickly. Once you discover the causes of your IBS, you should eliminate them completely from your diet.

Note: Read Food Labels Carefully

A note of warning: Make sure you read product labels carefully. Not all “free form” foods in supermarkets are FODMAP free.

  • You will need to get in the habit of checking food labels on everything, just to make sure there are no hidden nasties (especially chemicals and preservatives and things like high-fructose corn syrup)
  • In some ways, it is easier to cook with simple unadulterated ingredients. This way, you know exactly what your food is made of. No guessing involved! It also gives you the creative freedom to make your own tasty treats without all the chemicals and preservatives.

Keeping a Food Diary

Keeping a food journal can help you succeed while on the low-FODMAP diet.
Keeping a food journal can help you succeed while on the low-FODMAP diet.

Keeping a food diary is crucial to your success. As our dietitian once said, "how will you know what foods cause you digestive problems if you don’t record what you are eating along with your symptoms as soon as you experience them?"

  • Write down everything. If you don’t write it down, you risk forgetting your important observations. Write down everything you eat in a food diary, including the time you eat it and your experience/reaction to it immediately afterwards.
  • Make note of food details especially (how it's prepared). Sooner or later, you will notice symptom patterns forming. This isn't just the from foods you eat, but the way you cook them too. Some people, for instance, have difficulty digesting tough meat. For this, try slow cooking it or mincing it down to see if that helps before dismissing certain ingredients.
  • Bonus: a food diary is a good way of discovering food allergies and food intolerances too. If you suspect you have a food or drink allergy, it is a good idea to get allergy-tested by a health care professional so that you find out for sure. This can be done in the form of a blood or scratch test.

Disclaimer: Always Consult a Doctor First

Obviously I can’t diagnose or treat your IBS — that is what your doctor is for. If you are planning to embark on a new diet or radical lifestyle change, it is advisable to consult your doctor before doing so. After all, your symptoms might not be IBS at all.

The intention of this article is to provide you with information regarding the low FODMAP diet. I am simply sharing with you our own experiences. Make of it what you will. Good luck!

Book Recommendation

IBS: Free at Last! Change Your Carbs, Change Your Life with the FODMAP Elimination Diet, 2nd Edition
IBS: Free at Last! Change Your Carbs, Change Your Life with the FODMAP Elimination Diet, 2nd Edition

Our dietitian highly recommends this book to those wishing to educate themselves on the low-FODMAP diet.

If you are the type of person who has difficulty understanding food labels or you struggle with meal planning, this is for you. The book even provides readers with personalised shopping lists to make life a bit easier.

 

Comments

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    • geek_princess profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura 

      3 years ago from Haywards Heath

      Thanks Karen! I will correct the mistake now :) thank you for taking the time to comment.

    • profile image

      Karen! 

      3 years ago

      hi - just one thing; the F in FODMAP is fro Fermentable not Fermented; they are sugars that bacteria ferment in the gut which is what leads to IBS symptoms

      The Low FODMAP diet should be basic training for all gastroentrologists and family doctors; they could save their patients a lot of suffering

    • geek_princess profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura 

      5 years ago from Haywards Heath

      Hello ladies,

      I too never heard of the FODMAP diet until a few months ago - it is a really effective diet for some IBS sufferers.

      It was the end of the line for my boyfriend; he was suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting almost every day. He weighed a measly 40kg and he is nearly 6 ft tall!

      His symptoms haven't gone completely but at least he doesn't have to run to the toilet every few minutes like he used to.

      In the next few days I will publish some meal ideas if it would help? I have got so used to making low FODMAP cakes, gravies, casseroles etc. It seemed head melting to start with though!

      All the best

    • A r F profile image

      Allison 

      5 years ago

      I suddenly developed digestive problems a couple of years ago. I have never heard of this diet, but I eliminated similar foods on my own (anything containing dairy, soy, apple, banana). I might have to try this and see if I can find anything else setting off my symptoms. Thank you!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 

      5 years ago

      Interesting topic. I've never heard of this diet before. Voted up and useful! Kelley

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