FODMAP 101

Want to know more about Low FODMAP foods, diets, and recipes?

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FODMAP 101 - The Basics

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates found in commonly eaten foods such as pasta, bread, onions, garlic, beans, milk, apples, honey and mangoes.

Why do FODMAPs cause problems for some people?

Instead of being properly digested and absorbed, FODMAPs travel through the gastrointestinal tract, drawing excess fluid into the small intestine and generating gas when they are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine.
The fluid and gas build-up caused by undigested FODMAPs pushes on the walls of the intestines, causing uncomfortable symptoms and altered bowel habits in susceptible individuals.

What is the Low FODMAP diet for IBS?

The low FODMAP diet for IBS was first defined in 2004 by researchers at Monash University, Australia. It categorizes foods that trigger gastrointestinal problems according to the type of carbohydrate they contain, i.e., Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. This makes it possible to systematically test one group of food at a time, instead of individual items.

Before the advent of the low FODMAP diet, people were handed a long list of seemingly unrelated foods and instructed to avoid the ones they felt were causing their symptoms. Not only was this confusing, it also did not provide an orderly way of assessing one’s tolerances.

Examples of High FODMAP Foods

Oligosaccharide Group

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Beans
  • Split peas
  • Dates
  • Raisins

Disaccharide Group

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese

Monosaccharide Group

  • Mango
  • Honey
  • Asparagus
  • Sugar snap peas

Polyol Group

  • Peaches
  • Blackberries
  • Prunes
  • Avocado
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery

 

Many low and high FODMAP foods lists are available online, but they are not updated regularly, and often contain conflicting advice.

For the most accurate and comprehensive information, check out the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. It provides the FODMAP content of hundreds of foods, including certified low FODMAP products such as bread, crackers, snacks, and condiments. This Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App is an indispensable tool for people who are following the low FODMAP diet for IBS.

Who might benefit from following a diet low in FODMAPs?

Since its inception, the low FODMAP diet has been subjected to numerous clinical trials, and has become the go-to dietary intervention for irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Studies show that foods for IBS provide relief for up to 75% of people suffering from the common disorder, which is characterized by recurrent episodes of lower abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation.

IBS is considered to be a functional disorder, which means that the symptoms are real, but no tissue damage, structural abnormalities, or biochemical changes are found on examination.

Proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist is very important, because IBS symptoms are shared by more serious gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and colon cancer.

[OPTIONAL: In addition to IBS, the low FODMAP diet shows promise for helping people with other digestive disorders, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).]

How do you follow a low FODMAP diet?

The low FODMAP diet is very effective, but only if you follow it correctly. Because of its complexity, the folks at Monash University stress that it is best undertaken with supervision by a Registered or Licensed Dietitian who specializes in gastrointestinal conditions and foods for IBS.

The low FODMAP diet is broken down into three parts:

Elimination: During this phase, high FODMAP foods are avoided until symptoms are eliminated or significantly reduced. This can take anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on severity of symptoms and ability to adhere to the FODMAP elimination diet.

Challenge/Reintroduction: In the challenge/reintroduction phase, High FODMAP foods from each group are added back from the initial FODMAP elimination diet step in a controlled fashion. There are many ways to approach this, but it is important to challenge only one type of FODMAP at a time. For instance, when testing oligosaccharides, the rest of your diet should not contain other FODMAPs or it will be impossible to tell which one is responsible for your symptoms.

Integration: Once you have determined which FODMAP group(s) are a problem for you, it’s time to integrate what you’ve learned into your everyday life. It's important to remember that your ultimate goal is to include as many nutritious FODMAP foods in your diet as you can, because total avoidance is neither healthy nor practical.

In some ways, this is the hardest phase of all, because there’s no one roadmap that will be right for everyone. The good news is, there are more low FODMAP recipes, packaged foods, and other resources available to help you on your journey than ever before.

Now What?

Questions people have before starting a Low FODMAP diet

Frequently Asked Questions

I feel overwhelmed…how do I start the low FODMAP diet?

First, take a deep breath! Seriously…stress can trigger tummy trouble, so try not to get overwhelmed before you even start the low FODMAP diet.

Next, contact a knowledgeable dietitian to help guide you through the process. This may seem indulgent or unnecessary considering how much information is available online, but it will ensure that you are following the three phases of the diet correctly. If you feel confident that you can go it alone, try to wait until you have time to mentally and physically prepare yourself. You’ll be much more successful if you understand the low FODMAP concept, are aware of which IBS foods to avoid, have collected some good low FODMAP recipes, and have stocked your kitchen with low FODMAP foods.

I still have symptoms…is the low FODMAP diet not right for me?

Maybe, maybe not. Persistent symptoms are often due to dietary indiscretion, either intentional or not. If you are eating too many high FODMAP foods, IBS foods to avoid, or frequent, large portions of low FODMAP foods, then the diet is obviously not the culprit. Detailed food records should be able to reveal whether the problem is due to dietary “slippage,” or if something else it to blame. A dietitian with expertise in the Low FODMAP diet and foods for IBS can be very helpful with this, and may also be able to offer additional remedies or a different approach. If nothing seems to be helping, you may want to see your gastroenterologist again, or seek a second opinion, to verify the original diagnosis of IBS.

Do I have to follow the low FODMAP diet forever?

The low FODMAP diet is not one diet, even though it’s often portrayed that way. It actually encompasses three distinct and equally important parts.

The FODMAP Elimination diet phase, which is what most people think of when they hear the term low FODMAP diet, was never meant to be followed indefinitely. After you have achieved symptom relief during this phase, it’s time to systematically test one FODMAP group at time in order to discover which FODMAPs are problematic for you; this is the Reintroduction/ Challenge phase.

The Integration phase is the diet you will follow “forever.” It will be uniquely yours; it may change over time, and it will most certainly contain some high FODMAP foods. The type and amount of these foods varies from person to person depending on a number of factors, including which foods provoked symptoms during the Challenge phase.

Can I be successful on the low FODMAP diet if I’m a vegetarian?

You can be successful on the low FODMAP diet if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, but it may be more difficult for you than your carnivorous friends. Remember, FODMAPs are only found in foods that contain carbohydrates, such as grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fruit – all of which are staples of a healthy vegetarian diet. Meat, fish, and poultry, on the other hand, are composed of protein and varying amounts of fat. Animal foods are not only FODMAP-free, their high protein content also makes them very satiating, and this helps makes the diet easier to follow. Good sources of vegan low FODMAP protein include tofu, tempeh, canned lentils and chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat groats and flour, soymilk made from soy protein, and certain nuts and seeds. Information about portion sizes for these foods is available on the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can get additional protein from eggs; lactose-free milk, yogurt and cottage cheese; and low-lactose cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss and feta.

How do I get enough fiber in a low FODMAP diet?

This can be a concern (especially for people who tend toward constipation) because many fiber-rich foods are also high in FODMAPs. That said, as long as you know where to look, it is possible to get your recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day while also keeping a lid on your FODMAP intake. Here are some good options:
  • Brown rice, 1 cup (180 g) cooked – 3.5 grams fiber
  • Buckwheat groats (kasha), 3/4 cup (135 g) cooked – 3.5 grams fiber
  • Chestnuts, 10 roasted – 4 grams fiber
  • Chia seeds, 2 tablespoons − 9 grams fiber
  • Chickpeas, 1/4 cup (42 g) canned – 2.5 grams fiber
  • Flax seeds, 1 tablespoon – 3 grams fiber
  • Kiwi, 2 small – 5 grams fiber
  • Lentils, ½ cup (46 g) canned – 8 grams fiber
  • Macadamia nuts, 20 – 5 grams fiber
  • Oat bran, 2 tablespoons – 2 grams fiber
  • Orange, 1 medium – 3 grams fiber
  • Papaya, 1 cup (140 g) cubes – 3 grams fiber
  • Peanuts, 32 − 3 grams fiber
  • Quinoa, 1 cup (155 g) cooked – 5 grams fiber
  • Rice bran, 1 tablespoon – 2 grams fiber
  • White potato, with skin, 1 medium – 3.5 grams fiber

Should I get tested for lactose or fructose intolerance before I start the low FODMAP diet?

Probably not, and here’s why…

In the past, breath testing for lactose and fructose malabsorption was routinely recommended before you began the low FODMAP diet. A negative test meant you could enjoy a more liberal diet during the Elimination phase, and a positive one meant you didn’t have to include lactose (the “D” in FODMAP) or fructose (the “M” in FODMAP) in the Challenge phase.

Recently, however, a study out of Monash University concluded that routine testing for fructose malabsorption was no longer advisable because the test itself was not reproducible. In other words, you could have a positive fructose breath test one day, and a negative one a few weeks later. Furthermore, there was little correlation between a positive or negative breath test and the symptoms experienced by patients in this study.

Lactose breath testing was not part of the Monash study, but skeptics have long questioned its value, in large part because the amount of lactose given – 25 to 40 grams – is the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce (250 ml) glasses of cow’s milk. Most people never drink that much milk in one sitting, so even if symptoms did occur during the test, it’s not very useful information in the real world.

What does a whole day of low FODMAP eating look like?

There are endless possibilities, but here’s a low FODMAP day that includes all the major food groups and plenty of fiber.
Low FODMAP Breakfast Ideas
  • Omelet: 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup (26 g) chopped raw red or green pepper, 1 cup (38 g) raw baby spinach, 1 ounce (30 g) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 slice 100% spelt sourdough bread, 1 to 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup (140 g) papaya cubes
  • Espresso

Lunch Ideas
  • Quinoa Veggie Bowl: 1 cup (155 g) cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup (46 g) canned lentils, 1 cup (90 g) broccoli florets, sautéed or steamed, 1 cup (115 g) Swiss chard, sautéed or steamed, 1 medium carrot (61 g), shredded
  • 1 medium orange

Low FODMAP Snack Ideas
  • FODY Dark Chocolate, Nuts & Sea Salt bar
  • 1 mug black, green or peppermint tea

Dinner Ideas
  • Grilled salmon
  • Baked potato
  • 1 cup (130 g) kale, sautéed

Snack
  • 6 ounces (170 g) lactose-free vanilla yogurt topped with 2 tablespoons FODY Cinnamon Seed Crunch breakfast cereal

What are the BEST resources to help me follow the low FODMAP diet?

We have some great resources listed on our website! Here are some downloadable Low FODMAP food lists and guides, as well as IBS foods to avoid (High FODMAP Foods), to get you started: