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The Low FODMAP Diet for IBS – An Essential Guide

Woman with IBS shopping for low FODMAP foodsDo you or a loved one suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? There is a good chance the answer to this question is “yes,” since IBS affects one in five Americans.

If you do suffer from IBS take heart! A new dietary approach was recently developed by an Australian research team. It is called the Low FODMAP diet.

FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols.” What a mouthful! But if you have IBS you might not want to be taking mouthfuls of them.

FODMAPs are types of carbs but this is not your typical low-carb diet. It’s also not your typical “don’t eat unhealthy things” diet. Many FODMAPS are actually healthy and nutritious foods. Some people happen to be more sensitive to them.

(Do you live in Alabama? Our clinic has open IBS clinical trials and we are looking for volunteers. Please click here if you’d like to learn more.)

How the Low FODMAP Diet Works

Carbohydrates can vary from long-chain carbohydrates to simple sugars. Resistant starch and fiber are both long-chain carbohydrates that are important for normal bowel function.

According to the Australian research group, certain short-chain carbs (the FODMAPs) present issues for those with IBS. They are not absorbed well by the small intestine and are then fermented quickly by bacteria in the gut. These bacteria produce gas which becomes a major contributor to your ibs symptoms.

Woman's IBS causing painful stomach cramps

The low FODMAP diet can help relief these painful IBS symptoms.

Following the low FODMAP diet does not cure your IBS, but it has been proven to lessen symptoms in many cases. A study published in the Gastroenterology journal found that three out of four people with IBS had their symptoms ease right away. They felt most relief after a full week on the plan.

The low FODMAP diet isn’t just limited to IBS patients and there are other diets that you can experiment with. In any case, the low FODMAP diet can help improve other gut symptoms. Over 50% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease saw improvement on the low FODMAP diet. And patients without a colon saw a decrease in frequent loose stool production.

What Does FODMAP Stand For?

FODMAPs is an acronym. Here is the breakdown behind the title of these short-chain carbohydrates.

  • Fructose: Fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave
  • Lactose: Dairy
  • Fructans: Wheat, onions, garlic
  • Galactans: Legumes, such as beans, lentils, soybeans
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols and fruits that have pits or seeds, such as apples, avocados, cherries, figs, peaches, or plums

An Elimination Diet for IBS Patients

The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet, or a “learning diet.” At the beginning, you may be advised to eliminate all FODMAPS. After that you start introducing FODMAPS one food at a time.

You might find that only one or two of the eliminated foods are actually responsible for your symptoms. Hopefully those aren’t your favorite ones!

Foods to avoid on the low FODMAP diet for IBS symptoms

Foods like onions are high in FODMAPs and could aggravate your IBS symptoms.

But even if you do find that a high-FODMAP food you love aggravates your symptoms, there are ways of handling it. For example, you might be able to enjoy a few slices of apple even if it’s a potential problem food for your IBS. Most people find they can still have their favorite high-FODMAP foods in moderation.

High FODMAP Foods

The following foods are ones high in FODMAPs. These are the some of the foods you’d be cutting out if you and your doctor decide a low FODMAP diet is right for you.

  • Anything made with wheat, barley, or rye
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Artificial sweeteners like in chewing gum
  • Beans
  • Cashews
  • Cauliflower
  • Dried fruits
  • Garlic and onions
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Ice cream
  • Mushrooms
  • Pistachios
  • Watermelon

Low FODMAP Foods

It’s important to stay healthy on the low FODMAP diet plan. Here is a list of great low FODMAP foods you can incorporate into your meal plans.

  • Almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk
  • Bananas
  • Bell peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes

You can also find a longer list of both high- and low-FODMAP foods here.

It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medical plan of action. If you think the low FODMAP diet is for you, ask your doctor. Remember it’s an elimination diet not a forever diet!

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