Low FODMAP Diet, Simplified

by Rachel Stuck, RDN



What if I told you that one of the latest diet trends includes cutting out a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? You’d probably initially think, “All right, I’m not that surprised because all of the latest diets cut something out, but vegetables too? This has gone too far!” 

Allow me to introduce you to the low FODMAP diet. Yep, this diet cuts out certain vegetables, but only for a short period. Even more importantly, no one is claiming this diet will magically make ten pounds of your midsection disappear. Your next thought might be, “Ok, so what’s the point?”

The low FODMAP diet is recommended to help people get to the bottom of their neverending GI (gastrointestinal) discomfort. Long stretches of bloating, uncomfortable bathroom visits, and just feeling “icky” after eating have been relieved by following the low FODMAP diet. This diet offers hope and may provide solutions for those who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), chronic diarrhea or constipation, celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 

The low FODMAP diet is not a long-term diet; instead, it is a two-step diet that first eliminates a variety of foods and then slowly reintroduces them to help individuals find the likely offenders causing their ongoing discomfort. So, where does this interesting name come from?

FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, And Polyols.  

FODMAP Components Defined 

  • Fermentable sugars are quickly broken down by bacteria. The bacteria break down food in the gut through fermentation. Some people are sensitive to gut fermentation results, such as gas and bloating.
  • Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates made up of a few sugars, including galactans (short chains of the monosaccharide galactose) and fructans (short chains of the monosaccharide fructose and inulin).
  • Disaccharides are carbohydrates made up of two sugars. For example, lactose is made up of glucose and galactose, while sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose.
  • Monosaccharides are carbohydrates in the simplest form of sugar, including fructose, glucose, and galactose.
  • Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, are found naturally in some vegetables and fruits. Polyols are also manufactured as reduced-calorie sweeteners, and the term “sugar alcohol” refers to their chemical structure. Sorbitol and mannitol are two common sugar alcohols found in the diet.

Carbohydrates that fall into any of the categories listed above have been found to cause adverse symptoms for some people. This is because FODMAP carbohydrates are highly osmotic, meaning they draw water into the intestinal tract. This can lead to cramping and diarrhea. People who lack certain enzymes may find FODMAP carbohydrates difficult to absorb and digest. When this happens, the food traveling through the gut is fermented by the gut bacteria in the GI tract. During fermentation, gas is produced, leading to bloating, gas, inflammation, and discomfort. Below are examples of high FODMAP foods and their low FODMAP alternatives. As you can see, even though some foods would be excluded for a period of time, a low FODMAP diet still allows you to enjoy a wide variety of foods.

Note: This list is intended for informational purposes and is not a complete list of all FODMAP-containing foods. For a more extensive list of foods to avoid and foods to include if following a low FODMAP diet, refer to ibsdiets.org FODMAP Food Lists.



Photo: Rachel Stuck, RDNAbout the Author

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel Stuck has a background in culinary arts and nutrition counseling. Rachel takes a positive approach to nutrition: she avoids recommending restrictive diets and instead focuses on helping people choose foods that promote health and well-being. She is passionate about empowering and assisting Ixcela members as they develop their unique, gut-healthy lifestyles.

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Resources

  1. “About Us.” About IBS, aboutibs.org/low-fodmap-diet/what-are-fodmaps.html.
  2. “FODMAP Food List.” FODMAP Food List | IBS Diets, 14 Mar. 2019, www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/.