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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

RD, CDE, CLT​

What Is The Low FODMAP Diet And Can It Help Me Feel Better?

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registered dietitian weight loss tips

Living with IBS is the worst. IBS patients come to me struggling with symptoms like:

? Constipation

? Diarrhea

? Bloating

? Painful gas

Everyone experiences these symptoms occasionally, but if these issues are a near-constant battle for you, you might have IBS. If you want to learn more about how to get a diagnosis, read this article.

IBS can be a difficult condition to manage. And if you’ve gone to doctors, you may have been told you should just learn to live with the symptoms. Or even worse, they’ve tried to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with you at all!

If you think (or know) you have IBS, it’s important to work with a specialist. Your regular doctor probably doesn’t know much about this condition and will likely try handing you a prescription that will only mask the symptoms.

But if you really want to get to the bottom of what’s going on and take control of your IBS, you need to treat the problem, not just the symptoms.

That’s what I do every day in my practice. It lights a fire under me when a patient shows up, nearly hopeless because they’re miserable and they can’t find the answers they need. My mission is to get to the root cause of issues like IBS and get my patients feeling better so they can live their lives! 

IBS is an individualized condition — meaning there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In my practice, I create customized treatment plans that meet the individual needs of my patients. 

One of the tools I often use when supporting IBS is the Low FODMAP diet. The implementation of this diet looks different for everyone because we all respond differently to different foods. But I’ve found the Low FODMAP Diet for IBS to be invaluable for the majority of people who suffer with this condition.

What Are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are not absorbed by your body. FODMAPs cause people problems for two reasons:

  1. They draw water into your digestive tract, which can contribute to bloating and diarrhea.
  2. They aren’t digestible so your gut bacteria ferments them, which can lead to excess gas.

FODMAPs can trigger symptoms like bloating and gas, stomach pain, and bowel problems including constipation, diarrhea, or both.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. You see why we shorten it to FODMAP. Let’s break that down…

There Are Four Groups Of FODMAPs:

Oligosaccharides

This group includes fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. You’ll find these carbohydrates in  wheat, rye, nuts, garlic, onion, various fruits and vegetables, pulses and legumes.

Disaccharides

You’ve probably heard of lactose — a sugar found in dairy products. That’s the most common disaccharide. You’ll find it in milk, yogurt, ice cream, buttermilk, whipped cream, and soft cheese.

Monosaccharides

Fructose, the sugar found in many fruits, is the most common monosaccharide. You’ll find it in various fruits including apples, pears, and watermelon, and in sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, and high fructose corn syrup.

Polyols

Polyols include sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol, which are often used in keto or low-sugar products. You’ll also find polyols in various fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, stone fruits, cauliflower, and mushrooms. 

Why Use The Low FODMAP Diet For IBS?

IBS — Irritable Bowel Syndrome — affects your digestion. And digestion is all about food. In fact, about 60% of IBS patients report that their symptoms are triggered by food. Many people with IBS are scared to eat!

Anytime you eat a carbohydrate, enzymes break it down into single sugars so it can be absorbed by your body. But because some humans lack the enzymes needed to fully break down FODMAPs, these undigested carbs travel through the digestive system and into the intestine.

When they reach the small intestine, they move very slowly. And this causes them to draw water into the intestine. This extra water can cause symptoms like bloating and diarrhea in sensitive people. 

Let’s take a look at two types of sugar — one is a FODMAP the other is not. Fructose, which is a FODMAP, draws in 2X as much water as glucose, which is not a FODMAP. 

Then when the FODMAPs reach the large intestine, the bacteria that live there (also known as your microbiome) ferment the FODMAPs, causing bloating, stomach pain and bowel issues. 

Again, let’s compare glucose (not a FODMAP) with inulin, which is a FODMAP. Inulin produces 70% more gas in the large intestine than glucose! You can imagine how that could cause problems for people with sensitive or compromised digestive systems.

A low FODMAP diet helps reduce symptoms in many IBS patients. Four solid studies concluded that a low FODMAP diet contributes to an 81% chance of relieving stomach pain and a 75% chance of relieving bloating in IBS patients. 

And many studies suggest that the Low FODMAP Diet may also improve flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation.

Why Would Anyone Want To Eat FODMAPs? 

This may come as a surprise, but FODMAPs are actually healthy for people who tolerate them well. 

They serve as a prebiotic, which means that they help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. And this healthy bacteria benefits a wide variety of body processes including digestion and the immune system.

FODMAPs also provide nutrients that your body needs, including fiber and calcium. 

FODMAPs are not the problem. The compromised digestion and irritable bowels are. But, for people with these issues, going on the Low FODMAP Diet Plan can make a HUGE difference in how they feel.

What Is The Low FODMAP Diet Plan?

The Low FODMAP diet plan is a therapeutic eating program that restricts the intake of FODMAPs. The Low FODMAP plan plays out over a few weeks and goes through three stages:

Stage 1: Restriction

During the first 4-8 weeks of the Low FODMAP Diet, you avoid all high FODMAP foods. Often this results in a reduction of symptoms — sometimes within the first week. Within 6 weeks, up to 75% of IBS patients following this diet report that their symptoms have improved.

Stage 2: Reintroduction

The Low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet. You eliminate specific foods for a period of time. But then you slowly reintroduce them. This helps you and your practitioner discover which foods cause the most problems and which foods you tolerate well. 

During the reintroduction phase, you’ll continue the diet as you have been, but you’ll reintroduce one new FODMAP type at a time to see how your body reacts. You’ll spend 6-10 weeks in this stage.

Stage 3:  Personalization

Known as the “modified Low FODMAP Diet”, this stage involves continuing to restrict many FODMAPs while adding in controlled amounts of the ones that you tolerate. This stage will be different for everyone because the specific FODMAPs that cause a reaction will vary from person to person. The goal is to add in as many higher FODMAP foods as you can tolerate.

Stay Tuned For More Info On FODMAPs

Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig into the specifics of the Low FODMAP Diet. But — and I can’t stress this enough — this is not a diet to try on your own. There are risks to this diet and it’s critical not to stay on it for too long. 

So, find yourself a dietitian or other holistic health professional who specializes in working with IBS patients and utilizing the Low FODMAP Diet.

I’ve worked with over 1,000 patients with IBS and other stomach issues. If you’re ready to get to the bottom of your symptoms with an individualized approach, click the link below to schedule a consultation. Let’s get you feeling better!

I’ve Taken My Top IBS Resources And Put Them In My IBS Resource Guide. You Can Download It Here.

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