The Low FODMAP Diet & IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome)

You may have heard of the term “FODMAP” diet from social media, through a friend , your GP or whilst surfing the internet, but what exactly is it and is it beneficial for IBS?


When you hear the term FODMAP people are usually referring to a LOW FODMAP diet. A low FODMAP diet is a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates and is often recommended to manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).


What does FODMAP stand for?


FODMAP stands for

  • fermentable oligosaccharides

  • disaccharides

  • monosaccharides

  • and polyols”.

Quite the mouthful... but it is not as confusing as it may sound.


SO …. What is a LOW FODMAP diet?

A low FODMAP diet is a restrictive temporary eating plan that can aid your process of discovering what your body can or cannot tolerate. It limits these fermentable carbs listed above. These fermentable carbohydrates are not easily digested due to their prebiotic , often fibrous nature. Additionally, because they’re non-digestible, gut bacteria ferments them in the large intestine (colon), increasing gas and short-chain fatty acid production. Therefore, FODMAPs are famous for triggering digestive symptoms such as abdominal bloating, gas, stomach pain, and altered bowel habits varying from constipation to diarrhoea or a combination of both.


Essentially this diet can help you understand what type of foods make your symptoms flare up! It is so important to remember that this is NOT A LONG TERM EATING PLAN, but rather phases that one should adhere to for maximal benefit.


HOW DO I FOLLOW A LOW FODMAP DIET?

A low FODMAP diet is complex and involves 3 stages and takes up to at least 8 weeks to see improvements. It is always recommended to only do the Low FODMAP with an accredited/registered dietitian that specialises in IBS and Low FODMAP'S.


Let's dive a little deeper into the phases.


Phase 1 : Restriction.

This stage involves strict avoidance of all high FODMAP foods. This stage should last only 4–8 weeks. Some people notice an improvement in symptoms in the first week, while in others improvements take the full 8 weeks. Up to 75% of people following this diet report improved symptoms within 6 weeks). Once adequate relief has been restored from the gut, it's time for stage 2.


Phase 2 : Reintroduction.

This stage involves systematically reintroducing high FODMAP foods. Although its duration varies from one person to another, it typically lasts 6–10 weeks. The purpose of this phase is; to identify which types of FODMAPs the body can tolerate, as few people are sensitive to all of them to establish the amount of FODMAPs you can tolerate. This is known as “threshold level”. In this step, test small amounts of specific foods one by one for 3 days. It’s advised to remain on a strict low FODMAP diet while testing each food and wait 2–3 days before reintroducing a new one to avoid additive or crossover effects. Once establishing your minimal tolerance, evaluate tolerance to larger doses, increased intake frequency, and combinations of high FODMAP foods, remembering to take the 2-3 day break. It’s best to undertake this step with our expert IBS Dietitian's who can guide you through the appropriate foods.


Phase 3 : Personalisation.

This stage is also known as the “modified low FODMAP diet” because the process of restricting some FODMAPs takes place but reintroducing well-tolerated ones into the diet. During this stage, the amount and type of FODMAPs are tailored to the personal tolerance identified in stage 2. The low FODMAP diet is neither a one-size-fits-all approach nor a lifelong diet. The ultimate goal is to reintroduce high FODMAP foods at your personal tolerance levels. It's essential to progress to this final stage to increase diet variety and flexibility. These qualities are linked to improved long-term compliance, quality of life, and gut health. This phase is absolutely vital to do with a qualified nutrition professional so avoid unnecessary restriction.


What foods can be eaten on a LOW FODMAP DIET?


Many foods are naturally low in FODMAPS. However, when following a low FODMAP diet, be mindful of processed foods, which may contain added FODMAPs.


Here is a list of a few Low FODMAP foods (not extensive!)


Types of food: Examples of type of food:


Proteins

  • Beef, chicken, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, prawns, tempeh, and tofu

Whole grains and starches

  • White and brown rice, lentils, corn, oats, quinoa, cassava, and potatoes

Fruit

  • Blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, kiwi, limes, guava, starfruit, grapes, and strawberries

Vegetables

  • bean sprouts, bell peppers, radishes, bok choy,carrots, celery, eggplant, kale, tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, pumpkin, and zucchini

Nuts:

  • Almonds (no more than 10 per sitting), macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and walnutS.

Seeds:

  • Pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, as well as linseeds

Dairy:

  • Lactose-free milk, Lactose free yoghurt , and Parmesan, Colby, cheddar, and mozzarella cheeses

Oils:

  • Coconut and olive oils

Beverages:

  • Peppermint tea and water

Condiments:

  • Cumin, saffron, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cardamom, soy sauce, fish sauce, some chile-based products, ginger, mustard, pepper, salt, white rice vinegar, and wasabi powder

What foods should be avoided on a FODMAP diet?


FODMAPs are found in varying amounts in a wide range of foods. Some foods contain just one type, while others have several. The primary dietary sources of FODMAPs can be split into four groups;


Type of FODMAP Foods to avoid:


Oligosaccharides

  • Wheat, rye, nuts, legumes, artichokes, garlic, and onion

Disaccharides

  • Lactose-containing products such as milk, yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream, buttermilk, condensed milk, and whipped cream

Monosaccharides

  • Fructose-containing foods, including fruits such as apples, pears, watermelon, and mango and sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and high fructose corn syrup

Polyols

  • Apples, pears, cauliflower, stone fruits, mushrooms, and snow peas, as well as xylitol and isomalt in low calorie sweeteners, such as those in sugar-free gum and mints


Benefits of a LOW FODMAP diet

  • May reduce digestive symptoms - low FODMAP diet leads to an 81% greater chance of relieving stomach pain and bloating.

  • May improve quality of life- enhances overall quality of life by significantly reducing symptom severity.

Should I consider trying it?


If you struggle with IBS or SIBO then this diet can help you have a better quality of life.


HOWEVER, this diet should only be considered if - experiencing ongoing gut symptoms which haven’t responded to stress management strategies or to first-line dietary advice, including adjusting meal size and frequency and restricting intake of alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and other common trigger foods.


At Nutrition and Co, we offer a 3 month IBS Gut Re-set program which is the PERFECT solution for all your gut issues!


Can you do it alone or do you need support ?


The answer is you NO - YOU NEED SUPPORT !


As this diet is so complicated and challenging during the first, most restrictive phase, it’s important to work with a Registered Dietitian , who can ensure you’re following the diet correctly and still maintaining all the nutrients your body needs, which is the secret to success ! If you are wanting to enquire via a FREE discovery call, please click HERE.



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