Low FODMAP Diet A Complete Guide | Top 10 Foods & Tips
In an increasingly health-conscious world, people are always on the lookout for the best diet plan to suit their needs. Sometimes it is a disease, a genetic condition, a food allergy or even a workout regime that pushes a person to follow a particular diet plan. FODMAPs is one such term that is being increasingly used by nutritionists across the world. Let us know more about a low FODMAP diet in this post.
FODMAP is an acronym for a set of carbohydrates and stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols.
One of the most worrisome effects of high FODMAP content is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a chronic condition affecting the large intestine. IBS can often be exaggerated due to stress, depression and hormonal imbalances. Some of the common signs of IBS are:
- cramping and bloating in the abdomen
- excess gas formation
- some patients might experience spells of constipation and diarrhea
- the condition can also cause the presence of mucus in stools
- persistent pain in the abdomen
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs become a part of daily food mostly in the form of additives. As mentioned, they contain short-chain sugars or carbohydrates which are fermented in the large intestine. These sugars have a poor absorption rate in the human body whereby causing bloating and abdominal pain. This is mainly due to the absorption of a large quantity of water along with the production of gases like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. (3)
Some of the most commonly consumed food items containing these sugars are legumes, dairy products, sweeteners like honey and sugar, garlic, onions, etc. All the above-mentioned food items contain any of fructose, fructans, lactose, galactans or polyols.
Most of the gastroenterologists and physicians believe that IBS like disorders can be managed to a certain extent by controlling the type of food consumed by the patients. Based on the amount of FODMAPs present, diet is normally classified as:
- high FODMAP foods
- low FODMAP foods
It becomes important for the patient to decide the amount of each item in the diet so that the diet is well-balanced. As mentioned above, FODMAP foods contain larger amounts of certain carbohydrates that can often be harmful to the body. Since they are all highly fermentable, the resultant gas will eventually cause bloating and cramping of the abdomen. (4) (5)
Benefits of a Low FODMAP Diet
Typically, in a low FODMAP diet, the nutritionist would suggest diet plans that will reduce the amount of FODMAPs. According to the severity of the condition, the following steps are taken:
- Initially, the FODMAP containing food items is entirely taken out of the patient’s food plan or given in very limited quantities.
- The patient might be asked to follow the diet for 3 weeks to 8 weeks. To meet the other dietary requirements, it is essential to re-introduce these items slowly into the diet after the scheduled regime.
- Lower the intake of dairy products along with artificial sweeteners, items made from wheat, legumes in general and high fructose-containing fruits.
- These steps will allow the intestines to heal slowly whilst helping in the management of conditions like IBS. (6) (7)
A low FODMAP diet regimen can reduce the difficulties of Irritable Bowel Syndrome as follows:
- The abdominal bloating due to excess gas formation is reduced by 75% since fermentable sugar intake is lowered.
- Stomach pain associated with IBS can be controlled by 81% using a low FODMAP diet.
- Scientific studies have proved that a low FODMAP diet can also reduce flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation associated with bowel disorders
- It also helps in improving the overall quality of patients suffering from IBS
Top 10 Low FODMAP Foods
The nutritionist might plan for a low FODMAP diet regimen by adding the following categories of food items in the list:
2. Dairy Products
These items must be carefully added to diet since most of them contain FODMAP type sugars. Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and those products made from lactose-free milk can be used.
In the list of vegetables containing low FODMAPs, bell peppers, choy sum, eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, and carrots top the list. Hence, consume ample quantities of these.
4. Whole Grains
In this category, brown rice, maize, millets, oats, and buckwheat can be taken by the patients. (8)
Both coconut oil and olive oil have a low content of FODMAPs. (9)
Read More: Amazing Benefits of Flax Seed Oil
Some people have found consuming linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame and sunflower seeds being helpful in IBS.
One must be careful while eating fruits since many contain fructose and other fermentable sugars. Add bananas, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries, citrus fruits like mandarin, oranges, etc to the diet.
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Add chilies, mustard, pepper, salt, white rice vinegar, wasabi powder, and ginger to the food items.
Black tea, green tea, peppermint tea, and coffee can be consumed.
These are some of the healthiest additions in the diet. Add almonds, macadamia, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pine nuts to the diet.
Top 10 High FODMAP Foods
The patient should also be aware of the food items that contain high quantities of FODMAPs. This will help him/her to avoid them during the diet plan.
Avoid certain fruits that are rich in FODMAPs. Apples, cherries, ripe bananas, mango, grapefruit, peach, pear, plums, watermelons, etc.
Avoid meat marinated with onion or garlic.
3. Alcoholic Beverages
Avoid drinking rum since it can lead to increased FODMAP levels.
Avoid variants of tea made from chamomile, oolong, fennel. Beverages made from cow’s milk contains high levels of FODMAPs
Eat fewer food items made from barley, wheat, and rye.
Amongst nuts, pistachios, and cashews contain the highest levels of FODMAPs. Hence, avoid it.
7. Dairy Products
One of the biggest culprits in increasing the FODMAP levels in the body. Cheese varieties like ricotta and cottage, milk from a cow, goat and sheep, plant-based soybean milk, etc. must be avoided completely.
Consumption of legumes like bean varieties, silken tofu, soybean, split peas, etc should be reduced
Sweeteners and sweets- agave syrup, mannitol, candies, mint, sorbitol, jam, honey, etc contain high levels of FODMAPs.
9. Spices and Condiments
Flour blends, garlic salt/powder, onion salt, ketchup, etc.
Asparagus, beets, cauliflower, onion, peas, shallot, scallion, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. Avoid them always.
Low FODMAP Diet Chart
For the successful implementation of a low FODMAP diet plan, it is mandatory to restrict the intake of certain food items.
1. Restriction Phase
It is advisable to lower the intake of this high FODMAP containing food items gradually and finally eliminating the consumption for 3 to 8 weeks depending on the need. Cut back on those food items mentioned above that contain high levels of FODMAPs. In some cases, the results are seen within the first week of restriction. However, others might take up to 2 months to show improvement. In cases where the symptoms are not managed even after 8 weeks, consult a doctor for further advice.
- Avoid fruits containing high quantities of fructose at any cost. Restrict eating of sausages and chorizo made from meat mentioned above.
- Bread, biscuits, cookies, and cereals containing a higher amount of FODMAP substances should be avoided.
- Prebiotics might also contain inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and oligofructose. Hence, take them only after checking the labels. Keep an eye on the drinks and protein powders that are available in the market. Read the contents of each item before consumption.
2. Reintroduction Phase
After the restriction phase, there is the Reintroduction phase. Here, there is a gradual introduction of low FODMAP food items in the patient’s diet. After 6 to 8 weeks of complete avoidance of FODMAPs, there is an introduction to these food items. By this time the person’s symptoms must have returned to the baseline. There is the reintroduction of FODMAP containing food items one at a time.
It is important to identify which types of FODMAPs can be tolerated by the patient. There is a gap of about 3 to 7 days between each addition. After adding each item, check the patient for any aggravation of symptoms. This will help the nutritionist or doctor to identify the food items that cause the enhancement of symptoms.
Once the patient identifies the category of food item which causes aggravation of IBS symptoms, he/she can return to regular food habits. This can be done in phases where a modified low- FODMAP diet is introduced to the patient.
Drawbacks of Low FODMAP Diet
Low FODMAP diet plan works well for most patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. Most of the patients find the perfect mix of low and high FODMAP food items which can be tolerated by them. Here are some of the drawbacks of a Low FODMAP diet(10)
1. Restrictive Nature
The duration of a low FODMAP diet regimen is usually 3 to 8 weeks, which is a long time. During this period, there is no properly balanced diet which might lead to other health issues. It becomes essential for the patient to consult the nutritionist or dietician frequently.
2. Affect gut Microbes
FODMAPs are important for the survival of healthy gut microbes. A low FODMAP diet can affect their growth patterns and cause difficulties.
3. Short-Term Solution
A low FODMAP diet plan is only one of the many temporary solutions to the symptoms of IBS. After the re-introduction and maintenance period, many patients start showing symptoms again. Thus, it is not a permanent solution to IBS.
4. Difficult to Personalize
Many people especially vegetarians and vegans find it extremely difficult to cope with the low FODMAP diet. They are unable to maintain a balanced diet. It also affects those with certain food allergies. It might aggravate other health issues.
5. Pregnant Women and Children
A Low FODMAP diet can impair the health of both the mother and the fetus. Similarly, children require proper nourishment which might be affected by low FODMAP diet plans.
6. Time Consuming
The effect of a low FODMAP diet on the symptoms can be seen only after a month or two. Thus, the patient might feel frustrated with the long duration of such a regimen.
There should be a healthy mix between both low and high FODMAP food items. This will help in maintaining a balanced diet rich in all the required nutrients. In case any symptoms resurface, it should be notified to the doctor immediately to avoid further problems. The patient must undergo different sessions with the nutritionist to identify the perfect mix of ingredients in the diet.