FODMAP Diet Guide: Setting Up Your Special Eating Plan

fodmap diet

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the FODMAP diet in recent times, even if you don’t understand what it means. FODMAP is a special eating plan that aims to soothe digestive problems and deliver other benefits as well. We explore exactly what this diet is all about and how you can start the FODMAP eating plan for yourself. 

If there’s one symptom that many of us experience from time to time, it’s stomach upset. Whether you’re experiencing gas, bloating, unusual bowel motions, or just regular discomfort in the abdomen, there’s been a diet created especially to relieve those symptoms.

The foods we eat have a lot of impact on how we’re feeling and our health, so it makes sense that altering our diets would lead to a decrease in symptoms. The FODMAP diet was designed for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other issues with the gut.

The premise behind the FODMAP diet is that certain foods lead to inflammation and irritation which then cause these symptoms. If you’ve been searching for relief from your gastrointestinal and digestive problems, following this diet could finally deliver some relief.

What is FODMAP?

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The full name for FODMAP is Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. If that all sounds confusing, don’t worry, as that why this diet is more commonly referred to its abbreviated version.

FODMAPs are all different kinds of carbohydrates and it was discovered by researchers at the Monash University in Australia that these are what commonly lead to stomach upset. They believe that some people are irritated by certain carbohydrates or all of them, and so cutting down on them in your diet could offer relief.

These specific types of carbohydrates are not absorbed well by the small intestine which can then lead to water being stored in the gut, and in some cases see the carbs travel to the large intestine. From there, they become fermented and turn into gas which causes all of the common symptoms of IBS.

How to Do the FODMAP Diet

Understanding how to implement the FODMAP diet is simply a matter of knowing which foods are high FODMAP and those that are low. It’s believed that the symptoms of IBS will occur if you have an increase in the number of intolerant FODMAPs that you eat, and these intolerances will be different for each person.

Following this diet, you’ll work your way through the different high FODMAP foods and eliminate them. Along the way, you’ll need to track the nutrients you’re consuming to ensure that these are still at an adequate level.

Once you’ve eliminated all of the high FODMAP foods from your diet, you can then complete a number of tests or challenges that will indicate which of them were causing your IBS symptoms. Because the diet is quite details and the challenges need to be analyzed, it’s best to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian for assistance, but these are the steps you’ll take.

Low FODMAP Diet

Swap out high FODMAP foods for low FODMAP foods according to their category so you don’t miss any nutrients. Do this for 2-6 weeks until your symptoms have been relieved.

Reintroduce FODMAP

Over the following 12 weeks, start by reintroducing one FODMAP at a time, by one food at a time, and waiting three days for each one. Each day, increase the serving size a little more.

FODMAP Personalization

Once you understand what foods you can tolerate and those that bring on IBS or stomach upset, you can stick to the other high FODMAP foods and leave those out.

High FODMAP Foods

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FODMAPs are quite common and they’re found in many of the foods we eat, both healthy and unhealthy. These are just some of the foods within the categories that will be eliminated when you start this eating plan, according to the team at Monash University.

Vegetables

Garlic, green peas, onion, cauliflower, and asparagus

Fruits

Cherries, peaches, watermelon, apples, plums, and mango

Dairy and alternatives

Cow’s milk, custard, yogurt, and soy milk

Bread and cereal

Breakfast cereals, wheat/rye-based bread

Protein sources

Processed meats, marinated meats, and legumes

Nuts and seeds

Cashews and pistachios

Sweeteners and confectionery

Honey, high fructose corn syrup, sugar-free candy

Each of these foods belongs to a certain FODMAP, and your dietician will show you how you can work at eliminating them one at a time. Once you’ve cleared them from your system and the symptoms have been relived, you’ll then start introducing them again.

Low FODMAP Foods

While you’re testing the high FODMAPs and eliminating them, you’ll need to eat a diet full of low FODMAP foods instead. These are some of the foods within each category that you’ll be sticking to:

Vegetables

Carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, lettuce, and potato

Fruits

Orange, pineapple, grapes, and strawberries

Dairy and alternatives

Feta cheese, brie, almond milk, and soy milk made with protein

Bread and cereal

Oats, quinoa flakes, rice cakes, and sourdough with spelt

Protein sources

Firm tofu, eggs, cooked meats, and seafood

Nuts and seeds

Peanuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds

Sweeteners and confectionery

Dark chocolate, rice malt syrup, and table sugar

When to Do A Low FODMAP Diet

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Unlike other diets, a low FODMAP diet isn’t something that should be followed forever. To understand more about whether it would be right for you, you should speak to your doctor or a dietician about your suitability.

When you start to follow the FODMAP diet it’s all about eliminating foods and then testing which ones trigger your symptoms. Once you know which high FODMAP foods are okay for you to eat, you’ll be able to keep these in your diet.

The recommended length of time to follow the FODMAP diet is between two to six weeks or until your symptoms are getting better. When you can pinpoint the ones that are causing the irritability in your stomach, you’ll be able to avoid them from here on out. 

The Benefits of a Low FODMAP Diet

The most obvious benefit to a low FODMAP diet is a reduction in symptoms related to IBS. People who experience symptoms like diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating will understand how embarrassing and painful they can be. The FODMAP diet, when done correctly, offers relief from something that many have struggled with for years.

Another great benefit to this diet is a flat stomach which you might not have experienced in years. Eating the right foods that don’t inflame your gut means less bloating, and a more toned and flat looking abdomen that can take pounds off your appearance.

Following a low FODMAP diet means regulating what you eat and being careful about what you’re putting into your body, so you can be guaranteed some weight loss usually. This is simply an added bonus as the main purpose is to relieve IBS, but many followers find themselves dropping at least five pounds over the first few weeks.

Potential Downsides to this Diet

This is not a diet that you can do simply at home by counting calories or avoiding a few things. It requires a lot of time and planning, as well as constant monitoring over a few months to see how your body is reacting to everything. You’ll need to be committed to analyzing foods, reading labels, and speaking with a qualified nutritionist or dietician to get results.

Another downside to this diet is that IBS is still a complicated condition. Those who suffer from it will know that one day a certain food might affect you and on another day it’s completely tolerable. Therefore more study is needed into this diet and the exact causes and triggers for someone who has IBS.

Pros

  • Reduction in symptoms related to IBS
  • Flat stomach
  • Don't inflame your gut
  • Less bloating
  • Weight loss

Cons

  • Requires a lot of time and planning
  • Requires constant monitoring
  • Needs to be committed to analyzing foods and reading labels
  • Speaking with a qualified nutritionist or dietitian to get results
  • IBS is still a complicated condition

An Eating Plan for Improved Digestive Health

People usually follow diets in order to lose weight, but this is a diet that claims to offer relief and better health. For those who know the pain and discomfort that comes with symptoms of IBS, you’d be willing to try just about anything to relieve it.

The FODMAP diet is still in early stages and continuing research is being done. However, speaking to those who have already followed it and the researchers who created it, it truly works in relieving these symptoms as well as delivering a myriad of other health benefits.

We know now how important our gut health is for the rest of our body and anyway that we can improve it is a good idea. Following the FODMAP diet doesn’t need to be overly restrictive to see results, and you’ll feel a great sense of relief knowing you don’t have to suffer from your previous symptoms any longer.

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