The low FODMAP diet is the new kid on the block when it comes to managing IBS. It has been around for a while now (since 2004), but it seems to be still an unknown concept for most people with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
The reason why low FODMAP diets are not more widely known can be the lack of much research into them yet. It’s not clear whether this will change as time goes by or if we will have to wait for the next generation of researchers who can take up where their predecessors left off. So let’s go ahead and explore what exactly a low FODMAP diet is, how it works and what you need to know before embarking on it.
What is a Low FODMAP Diet?
A low FODMAP diet plan is based on identifying and restricting foods high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). These are sugary carbs that are known to be not fully digested and absorbed poorly in our small intestines. The bacteria in our gut use these ingredients as food and produce fatty acids and gas as a result. Too much of such chemicals and gas in the intestines lead to bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, and other common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
A standard high FODMAP food list usually include the following ingredients –
- Sugars – fructose, lactose, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol
- Vegetables – artichoke, chicory, leek, onion, garlic, shallot
- Legumes – lentils, chickpeas, black beans, lima beans, navy beans, soybeans
- Dairy products – regular milk, yoghurt, high lactose cheese, sour cream
- Vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli (more than 1/4th cup), brussels sprouts, green beans (more than 75 grams), red bell peppers, and tomato (raw)
- Whole grains – bulgur wheat, rye bread, barley
- Fruits and nuts – apples, apricots, cherries, figs, mangoes, pistachios, cashews
There is no single list of all low FODMAP foods out there. While some experts recommend avoiding all FODMAP foods, others suggest limiting your intake of them.
How Does a Low FODMAP Diet Work?
The idea behind the low FODMAP diet is by reducing the intake of foods containing large amounts of FODMAPs, one can manage the uncontrolled growth of harmful gut bacteria and maintain a balanced bacterial ecosystem in the digestive tract, reducing the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms and eventually lowering the chance of developing chronic IBS.
On top of that, your immune system may improve over time, which could mean fewer inflammations, infections, and other illnesses. Studies have also suggested that a low FODMAP diet might lead to weight loss, though this has not been researched enough yet.
If you want to try a low-FODMAP diet, first consult your doctor and ask them about the best way to eat low-FODMAP foods. A certified medical professional can also help you design a dietary plan that suits your needs.
Once you get started, you need to keep track of everything you eat. Make sure you read the labels carefully. Avoid foods that contain high FODMAP ingredients. Instead, choose low-FODMAP vegetables, fruits, meat, whole grains, and dairy products [Almond milk, lactose-free milk, Hard, aged cheeses]. You may need to avoid certain types of fruit, such as apples, pears, and mangoes because they are high FODMAP fruits. If you consume any of these fruits, ensure you eat them in low amounts to keep the FODMAP quantity in check. Or you can choose low-FODMAP fruits such as lemon, grapes, strawberries, cranberries, etc. Your goal should be to lower your intake gradually until you reach the recommended level for someone following this diet.
The best part about a low FODMAP diet is that it allows you to eat whole, natural foods without having to restrict your favorite meals. This means the diet doesn’t make you feel deprived in any way, and it encourages you to stay on this diet for longer.
Even though a low FODMAP diet chart has helped many people with IBS and digestive problems, its efficacy is far from being established. There is no scientific evidence to prove that this diet is effective at treating IBS or other digestive disorders. However, the fact that so many people find relief after going on this diet speaks volumes about how well it works.
Key Benefits Associated with Low FODMAP Diet
Following are the major two key benefits of this diet plan:
1. Reduce Digestive Issues
Common IBS symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, reflux, flatulence, or bowel urgency can be pretty irritating for anyone. According to several trials, it has been found that a low FODMAP diet has shown a significant decrease in both bloating and stomach aches. Other studies have also concluded that this diet further helps to manage diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.
2. Improves the Overall Quality of Life
People with ongoing issues have to face several problems in life. Such symptoms might affect both work performance and social interactions. Sometimes people with IBS also go through depression, fatigue & stress. The low FODMAP diet can be really beneficial for such individuals as it will help them to lead better lives.
Is a Low FODMAP Diet Right for Me?
If you have tried a number of medications to treat your IBS and you are still experiencing symptoms, then it is worth considering a low FODMAP diet plan. In some cases, the symptoms may even disappear entirely. For example, one study found that 85% of people who followed a low FODMAP diet saw their IBS symptoms improve.
It’s important to mention that the low FODMAP diet has only been tested on adults so far. There is no data available on how children react to a low FODMAP diet. However, it’s recommended that parents try the diet out themselves and then decide whether to continue with it once kids grow older.
Are There Any Risks Associated with the Low FODMAP Diet?
Some people find that the diet makes them feel tired or lightheaded at first. The main culprit is probably the lack of fiber in the diet, which many people don’t usually get enough of. You should talk to your doctor about this side effect, and they may suggest an alternative way of adding fibre content to your diet.
Other potential problems include diarrhea, headaches, and nausea. For people who follow a low FODMAP diet chart, these issues tend to go away after a few days. If they persist, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor.
How Do I Follow a Low FODMAP Diet?
There are different ways to follow the low FODMAP diet. One option is to keep a food diary. Each day, write down every food you eat and the amount of FODMAPs contained in each serving. Try to include all the meals and snacks you have throughout the day, both at home and outside. This way, you’ll see exactly how much FODMAPs you consume on a daily basis.
Other options include joining a local group or going online and reading about the low FODMAP diet.
Most people find the low FODMAP diet easy to follow. The problem is keeping track of everything you eat and drink. But, with practice, this becomes easier.
Although there is no conclusive evidence yet to support the effectiveness of a low FODMAP diet, many people have benefited from this diet. Most importantly, it has helped them reduce their IBS symptoms and regain control of their life. More research needs to be done to establish the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet. Until then, it’s best to try it out yourself under the supervision of a medical professional to see if it helps you.