You probably have heard a thing or two about the FODMAP diet either online or from someone you know. This particular diet is simply a diet low in certain sugars that will eventually cause intestinal distress. This diet is commonly found being used by people who suffer from IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. It has also helped people who suffer from SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This diet can help you figure out which foods cause issues and what foods can help reduce other symptoms.
This diet, though, is very restrictive, so it’s temporary. You should make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any new diet, especially the FODMAP diet, as it eliminates a lot of foods. It’s not one that anyone should follow for too long. It should be a short process to help determine what foods are troublesome for you.
What is FODMAP?
Simply put, FODMAP means fermented oligosaccharides, disaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and also polyols.
The FODMAP acronym stands for:
- Fermentable: This means they are broken down in the large bowel by bacteria.
- Oligosaccharides: Oligo, which means few, and saccharide, which means sugar. These molecules are derived from sugars that are joined together like a chain.
- Disaccharides: Di, which means two, means this consists of a double sugar molecule.
- Monosaccharides: Mono is “single” meaning this is a single sugar molecule.
- Polyols: Simply put, sugar alcohols.
FODMAPs are simply short-chain carbs, or sugars, that are absorbed poorly in the small intestines. Some people experience some digestive discomfort, and symptoms can include:
- Flatulence and gas
- Stomach bloating
How the FODMAP Diet Works
The FODMAP diet consists of 3 different elimination stages. They include:
- You stop eating foods that are high in FODMAP.
- You then slowly begin to reintroduce these foods to see which ones have caused you trouble.
- Once you have identified the troublesome foods, you can better limit or avoid them while enjoying everything else.
Keep in mind to only follow the elimination part of the diet for 2 to 6 weeks. This will reduce your symptoms, and for those suffering from SIBO, you’ll notice a decrease in any abnormal levels of bacteria found in the intestines. Then, after a few days, you can begin adding in a FODMAP food. Only add in one at a time every few days to see if any symptoms appear. If you notice symptoms after adding in food, avoid this one long term.
What Can Be Eaten on the FODMAP Diet?
How foods affect people can vary from one person to the next. To help ease SIBO and IBS, it becomes important to avoid FODMAP foods that upset the stomach, and can include:
- Dairy-based cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Lentils and beans
- Wheat-based things such as crackers, cereal, and bread
- Certain vegetables such as garlic, asparagus, onion, and artichokes
- Fruits including pears, peaches, cherries, and apples
You should focus more on foods including:
- Almond milk
- Grains including quinoa, oats, and rice
- Meat and eggs
- Cheeses including brie, cheddar, feta, and camembert
- Vegetables including tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, and potatoes
- Fruits including strawberries, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, and grapes
Who Should Consider This Diet?
For those who suffer from SIBO and IBS, this diet might just be the solution to help with intestinal distress. There has been researching done showing it has helped as much as 86% of people.
Because this diet is extremely challenging, you should consider working with a dietitian or a doctor especially in the beginning stages. They can help supervise your overall progress and make sure you are following it correctly. Following the diet is crucial to being successful.
Avoid following this diet if you are underweight. This diet isn’t necessarily designed for weight loss, but many people do lose weight while on it due to its restrictive nature and it eliminates a lot of foods. For people who are at low weights, to begin with, they will only lose more weight and become dangerously unhealthy.
Other people who might benefit from the FODMAP diet might include:
- Those who suffer from fibromyalgia triggered by specific foods
- IMD, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease, microscopic and ulcerative colitis
- Those who suffer from frequent migraines affected by certain foods or meals
- Those who suffer from certain auto-immune conditions such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
Will You Lose Weight with the Fodmap Diet?
Many people think this is another diet they can try to help them lose weight. However, this diet is not designed to help with weight loss. If you don’t switch out wheat for gluten-free foods or those that are processed foods, you won’t lose weight. If you stick with high FODMAP foods such as potato chips or those that pack a lot of calories, you will only gain weight. However, if you swapped processed foods, for foods such as fruits and vegetables, you might see your weight drop.
This diet modifies bacteria in the gut as well. This plays a huge role in obesity. However, it’s not entirely clear how FODMAP shapes the connection. However, eating this way might just help get rid of the belly bloat that comes from food intolerance. Following a low FODMAP diet that’s led by dietary counseling can be an effective part of relieving GI symptoms in IBS.
How Much Exercise Should You Do?
Keep in mind the low FODMAP diet plan is just that; a diet plan. That means it’s best to incorporate some exercise into your daily routine also. By being active, you can help lower your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease. You’ll have an increase in energy and you’ll notice you might even lose some weight while on the diet plan. It’s recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, which can include walking at a brisk pace on most or all days of the week.
Benefits of the FODMAP Diet
Following a low FODMAP diet means you are restricting high FODMAP foods from being a part of your diet. Here are some benefits that you might experience from following a low FODMAP diet.
Reduced Digestive Distress and Symptoms
IBS symptoms can vary from one person to the next. Some symptoms can include bloating, stomach pain, flatulence, reflux, and bowel urgency. Stomach pain is one of the biggest symptoms and affects about 80% of people who suffer from IBS.
These symptoms to some people are debilitating. There was a report done that showed IBS sufferers would give up their lives to be symptom-free. However, following a low FODMAP diet can help decrease stomach bloating and stomach pain. Bloating was decreased by as much as 81% while stomach pain was decreased by as much as 75%.
Increased Life Quality
Those who suffer from IBS often have a decreased quality of life as they suffer from severe digestive distress and symptoms. However, following a low FODMAP diet has helped with these symptoms. There has also been evidence that has shown a low FODMAP diet could increase energy in those who have IBS.
What to do Before Getting Started with a FODMAP Diet
Do You Have IBS?
Many conditions lead a person to have digestive discomfort. Some might be more serious than others.
There really isn’t a diagnostic test to determine whether you have IBS or not. If you feel there are more serious symptoms, consider seeing your doctor to help rule out any other serious illnesses and conditions. Such conditions might include celiac, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Once these conditions are all ruled out, certain IBS criteria can be used to diagnose you. All three of the following need to be fulfilled to be diagnosed:
- Ongoing stomach pain: Needs to happen at least once a week in the previous 3 months.
- Stool symptoms: You should have at least two if not more of the following: a change in frequency, a change in appearance, or other characteristics related to defecation.
- Ongoing symptoms: the last 3 months of criteria have been fulfilled and symptoms have become onset at least 6 months before you became diagnosed.
Consider Different Diet Strategies
When it comes to the FODMAP diet, this can be a resource and time-intensive diet plan. It’s considered to be a second-line diet and should only be used in people who suffer from IBS or another GI dilemma similar. It should only be used in those who do not respond well to first-line strategies.
Always Plan Ahead
If you find yourself unprepared, the diet might be difficult to follow. Some tips to consider include:
- Determine what you should be buying. Find yourself a low FODMAP list of foods to go shopping with.
- Go through your cupboards and refrigerator and get rid of all high FODMAP foods in the home. These foods should not remain in the home as they will become enticing and hard to ignore if you find yourself struggling to follow the diet plan.
- Create a shopping list. Consider sitting down before you go to the store and make a low FODMAP shopping list. This helps you make a list of food to buy and what foods you should avoid.
- Always read menus in advance. If you plan on dining out, make sure you know what foods you can eat and what you should avoid. This will make dining out easier and possible.
Can You Follow a FODMAP Diet if You Are Vegetarian?
If you are a vegetarian, you will find that you can follow any FODMAP diet as well. However, it might be a little bit more challenging. This is primarily because legumes are one of the staple foods found in a vegetarian diet and this food is something you need to avoid on a FODMAP diet.
However, you can have small portions of canned legumes as long as they are rinsed. A serving size is about ¼ cup. There are other vegetarian-friendly options available on the FODMAP diet including eggs, Quorn, and tempeh. Most seeds and nuts are included as well.
What Do You Do if Symptoms Don’t Improve?
The FODMAP diet can be ineffective for some people. There are around 30% of people who have reported seeing no improvement in their symptoms. If you find that you have gotten no benefits or relief, consider talking to your doctor about other alternatives.
Make sure you are eating the right foods. Prepackaged foods will often contain hidden FODMAPs in them. Common culprits might include sorbitol, garlic, onion, and xylitol which can all trigger symptoms even in the smallest amounts.
You’ll find several FODMAP food lists online nowadays. Make sure that the list you have is accurate and are validated.
Are There Other Stressors?
Other triggers might be causing you to experience IBS symptoms besides the diet alone. Stress is a huge factor that can cause symptoms to flare up. In fact, regardless of how effective the diet is, if you are under a lot of stress, symptoms are likely to hang around for a while until you get your stress under control.
Should You Hire a Dietitian or DIY?
The low FODMAP diet is rather complex. For some people, it can be difficult to start something this restrictive and keep at it.
Some people take part in group sessions, but most people take part in one-on-one sessions to help with any diet modifications that might need to be made to fit their individual needs. The diet has been delivered as a dietitian diet.
This is why it’s recommended you only do this diet under the supervision or guidance of a dietitian wherever possible.
With so many resources available these days, many people are trying it on their own. It has become so much easier to stay highly disciplined and motivated. The FODMAP diet is not designed for strictly weight loss purposes. However, it has been shown to help people shed bloating and pounds associated with eating foods high in FODMAP.