Has your doctor has told you to try the low FODMAP diet for your IBS symptoms? But you’re confused about what to actually eat? Take a look at my guide to the low FODMAP diet.

What is the low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is a specially created diet for people with IBS. It removes fermentable carbohydrates from the diet in order to reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, excessive gas, pain, or diarrhoea.

FODMAP is an acronym standing for:

  • fermentable,
  • Oligosaccharides,
  • Disaccharides,
  • Monosaccharides,
  • And
  • Polyols.

You don’t need to remember these names for now. The important thing to understand is that they can’t be easily digested in your gut.

FODMAPs are types of short-chain carbohydrates found in foods which draw water into the small bowel. Then as they reach the large intestine they are fermented by our gut bacteria.

FODMAPs can cause problems for some people by osmotically drawing water into the bowel. This can can create loose stools, bloating and cramps.

The other disruption to your digestion can be through the fermentation process which can create excess gas.

This might all sound really bad, but foods high in FODMAPs are healthy, common foods.

What are high FODMAP foods?

High FODMAP foods include things like apples, mushrooms, nectarines, wheat, milk, onions, avocado, or artificial sweeteners.

Avoiding all these might sound like a nightmare, but it’s only in the short term.

The low FODMAP diet is a proper process for using the low FODMAP diet as an intervention to help you identify what kind of foods might be triggering your IBS symptoms. 

How to follow the low FODMAP diet

The low FODMAP diet works in 3 phases:

  1. Low FODMAP phase (removing all high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks)
  2. Reintroduction – Careful reintroduction of the higher FODMAP foods whilst you carefully monitor all your symptoms. This phase can take a long time as there is a specific way to do this.
  3. Your new diet – a longer term version of the low FODMAP eating as many of the higher FODMAP foods again. You can exclude any foods that triggered symptoms during the reintroduction phase.

It’s important to use this as a tool to help you find your triggers, rather than a diet to follow in the long term. 

Who is the low FODMAP diet for?

The low FODMAP diet is for people with IBS. If you haven’t yet had your digestive symptoms looked at by a doctor, then you shouldn’t start on the low FODMAP diet.

This is because there are lots of digestive conditions that can present the same as IBS, such as coeliac disease, IBD or colon cancer. Whilst the low FODMAP diet is well tested for people with IBS, it could potentially mask the symptoms, and delay diagnosis of other medical conditions.

What are the benefits of the low FODMAP diet?

This diet has been well researched and tested on thousands of people with IBS across the world.

Most people who try removing high FODMAP foods feel better. In fact, 50% to 86% of patients feel better on it, most of the data suggests 3 out of 4 people get some benefit. That does still leave 25% of people who don’t feel better – and it might be because your IBS isn’t caused by diet. 

How to use a guide to the low FODMAP diet

This isn’t a very easy diet to follow at first, but you will soon learn which foods are high and low in FODMAPs.

  1. First, familiarise yourself with the foods you can eat lots of because they are low in FODMAPs (e.g.  foods like rocket, green beans, collard greens, olives, parsnip, papaya, rhubarb). You can also eat protein foods such as meat, fish, and eggs as these don’t contain any FODMAPs.
  2. Next, identify which foods are allowable in moderate amounts (e.g. 1/4 avocado is ok, but 1/2 an avocado is high FODMAP)
  3. Make a plan for 2-3 versions of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  4. Check for FODMAP stacking – this is where you have more than one portion of a moderate FODMAP, which when added to another portion of another moderate FODMAP food makes a high FODMAP meal.

For example if you’re having a apple and avocado in the same meal:

  • 2 tablespoons of apple is moderately high in sorbitol
  • 1/4 of an avocado is moderately high in sorbitol (sorbitol is part of the Polyols in FODMAP)

On their own these foods could be fine, but if eaten together they could add to your symptoms by tipping the amount of sorbitol into ‘high’ in one meal.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning low FODMAP meals you can download my 7 day low FODMAP meal plan for inspiration for tasty low FODMAP meals.

If you make a mistake and eat higher FODMAP foods during the low FODMAP phase it isn’t the end of the world, just switch back to a lower FODMAP plan and keep going.

Get support with the low FODMAP diet

Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet during the restriction and reintroduction phase.

I know that this can be feel a bit daunting, and can be technically very challenging whilst avoiding so many vegetables, fruits and most dairy. It’s important to eat enough protein, iron, calcium etc to keep up your energy.

Working with a registered nutrition professional is the best way to do this so you can be sure your diet will cover the basics whilst you’re on a low FODMAP diet.

Pro tip – You can also download the Monash University app for the complete list of foods high and low in FODMAPs. It covers most foods and it’s really handy to take out and about with you.

Make a plan for assessing your low FODMAP phase

If you’re going to embark on this restrictive diet you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. How will you know it’s working?

I suggest tracking your food intake and symptoms whilst in the restrictive phase, and the reintroduction phase.

Your 7 day low FODMAP meal plan

A tasty 7 day meal plan with over 25 healthy meals for easing IBS flares

Track your IBS symptoms through the FODMAP diet

It’s important to monitor how you feel whilst undertaking the low FODMAP diet. Think about more than just your digestion, e.g.

  • Bloating – when do you bloat, how does it feel?
  • Bowel movements – are there more or less, how well formed are they
  • Excess gas – is there a change in amount or odour?
  • Sleep – is it better or worse, are you waking in the night?
  • Headaches
  • Skin – are there any changes in skin conditions (e.g. eczema or psoriasis)?
  • Mood – how do you feel?
  • Appetite and nausea

These are important factors to notice when you undertake any elimination diet. You can download my symptom tracker for free to help you organise your data. 

If your IBS doesn’t get better on the low FODMAP diet then you don’t need to carry on to the reintroduction phase. This means the digestion of FODMAPs probably aren’t causing your issues.

Don’t worry though, there are other things you can try which I’ve written about in this post on what to do when the low FODMAP diet doesn’t work.

Common issues with the low FODMAP diet

Frequently I see new clients who report they’ve tried the FODMAP diet but it didn’t work.

This could be because FODMAPs aren’t their issue, but it often comes down to how effectively the diet has been followed.

It’s quite a hard thing to do, so if you’re going to do it, make sure you are getting the most information you can from the process, so you can get back to eating a wider variety of foods again.

Are you worried about starting the FODMAP diet? I can guide you through the low FODMAP diet and help you reduce bloating and IBS.

Contact me for an appointment on info@goodnessme-nutrition.com


Your 7 day low FODMAP meal plan

A tasty 7 day meal plan with over 25 healthy meals for easing IBS flares

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop better digestion and more energy

Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme

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