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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

RD, CDE, CLT​

Low FODMAP Diet Basics: What You Need To Know To Feel Better

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registered dietitian weight loss tips

The Low FODMAP Diet has been gaining popularity — not as a weight loss plan, but as a therapeutic approach to dealing with the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). 

In fact, if you google “Low FODMAP Diet” you’ll get almost 6 million results! But if you start clicking on those results, you’re likely to go down a deep rabbit hole, only to emerge confused. 

The Low FODMAP Diet is complicated. Many diet plans (therapeutic or otherwise) are fairly straightforward. You count your calories, cut your carbs, avoid gluten, etc. But the Low FODMAP Diet is more nuanced.

For starters, FODMAPs aren’t actually bad for you. In fact, these carbohydrates are a healthful — and even necessary — type of food that provides specific nutrients, fiber, and helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome. But for many IBS patients, they also trigger digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea. 

If you want to learn more about FODMAPs and why I use the Low FODMAP Diet in my nutrition practice, read this article.

What Is The Low FODMAP Diet?

The Low FODMAP Diet is an approach to reducing — not eliminating — FODMAPs so you get the benefits of these foods without suffering the nasty side effects. But before you can reduce FODMAPs, you have to figure out where they’re hiding. 

FODMAPs are everywhere. But they aren’t listed on labels. So avoiding them isn’t all that easy. 

And not all FODMAPs are created equal. When you go on the low FODMAP diet, it isn’t about just reducing the amount of FODMAP foods you eat. This is a therapeutic elimination diet that helps you and your practitioner figure out which FODMAPs you tolerate, which ones you don’t, and how much you can handle while still reducing your IBS symptoms.

I work with a lot of IBS patients in my practice. And the Low FODMAP Diet is a protocol that I utilize extensively because it is so helpful. But I wouldn’t want anyone to try to navigate it without a trained practitioner because…

? FODMAPs support gut health. Giving up too many or for too long could backfire and cause additional health problems.

? Unless it’s handled properly, the Low FODMAP Diet could cause nutrient deficiencies. Many foods that are high in FODMAPs contain important vitamins and minerals.

? FODMAP foods are rich in fiber. If you give up too many, while not replacing them with other high-fiber alternatives, you could worsen constipation.

? The Low FODMAP Diet can lead to a calcium deficiency. Many dairy foods are high in FODMAPs, but they also contain both calcium and the main cofactor needed to absorb calcium.

If you are working with a qualified practitioner, the Low FODMAP diet is an incredible therapeutic tool. And as you work through the phases you’ll be able to know for sure which FODMAPs you tolerate, which ones you don’t, and how much you can eat while still reaping the benefits of reduced IBS symptoms.

What To Avoid On The Low FODMAP Diet

When you first start on your Low FODMAP journey, your practitioner will have you avoid high FODMAP foods.

You won’t give up FODMAP foods completely. But your practitioner will provide a specific plan and tools to help you avoid these higher FODMAP foods that are more likely to be exacerbating your symptoms:

❌ Some dairy foods including milk, yogurt, pudding, and ice cream

❌ Products that contain wheat like bread, pasta, and crackers

❌ Beans and lentils

❌ Certain vegetables like onions, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, and scallions. 

❌ Some fruits, such as apples, blackberries, cherries, watermelon, pears, peaches, and avocados

❌ Certain sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, and xylitol

This is not an exhaustive list. But a good practitioner will provide tools to help you navigate which foods to exclude, and which foods to limit. If you’d like to check out some of the tools I use with my IBS patients, download my IBS Resource Guide here.

What Can I Eat On The Low FODMAP Diet?

It depends on which phase of the Low FODMAP Diet you’re in. The Low FODMAP Diet isn’t a way of life. It’s an elimination diet that takes place in three stages that occur over a period of weeks: restriction, reintroduction, and personalization. 

Restriction Phase

Eliminate all high FODMAP foods.

Reintroduction Phase

Reintroduce high FODMAP foods one category at a time over a period of several weeks to determine your tolerance level.

Personalization Phase

Develop a long-term eating plan that includes the FODMAP foods that you tolerate, while avoiding the ones that don’t work for you. This phase varies from person to person because each patient reacts to specific FODMAPs differently. The FODMAPs that trigger your symptoms may be fine for another IBS patient. That’s why working with a practitioner is so important. 

Generally though, you’ll focus your diet on low FODMAP foods such as:

✅ Proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, lobster, salmon, tuna, shrimp, and eggs.

✅ Some dairy products like, sour cream, brie, cheddar, and feta

✅ Non-dairy milks like almond milk and coconut milk

✅ Gluten-free grains including rice, quinoa, popcorn, and oats

✅ Low FODMAP vegetables like lettuces, carrots, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers 

✅ Certain fruits like strawberries, pineapple, grapes, oranges, blueberries, and kiwi

✅ Butter, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, walnuts, and macadamias

With the Low FODMAP Diet you are giving up some big flavors in the form of onions and garlic. But there are a number of herbs and spices you can add to your foods so your taste buds stay satisfied. These include chives, ginger, pepper, some chilies, and turmeric.

This Sounds Complicated. How Do I Navigate The Low FODMAP Diet?

There are many dietary changes that you can safely make on your own: give up fast food, reduce your sugar intake, cut down on processed foods.

But if you want to reduce your IBS symptoms with the Low FODMAP Diet, you really need to work with an experienced practitioner.

A trained dietitian or physician who has experience with the Low FODMAP Diet will be able to safely walk you through the three phases of the plan. And once you hit the personalization phase, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll know how to safely include the FOMAPs that your body tolerates well.

If you’re ready to try the Low FODMAP Diet with an experienced practitioner, click below to book a consultation. I’ve helped over 1,000 patients improve their symptoms with my individualized, scientifically-backed approach.

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