You might have landed here because you’ve heard about the low FODMAP diet and the part it can play in combatting the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The low FODMAP diet involves first eliminating foods containing FODMAPs followed by gradual reintroduction of the various groups in turn. It aims to identify which FODMAPs are causing problems in digestion.
If you have some of the symptoms of IBS you should always consult your doctor as they will need to rule anything else out. Once you’ve got your diagnosis, your doctor may advise you to try the low FODMAP diet.
You should always consult a dietician before undertaking the low FODMAP diet as having the proper literature and guidance through elimination and reintroduction of foods is advised and will make your journey much easier. Research comes from Monash University Australia and is distributed to dieticians and the NHS in the UK via Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. (There’s a lot of conflicting and outdated information online so ensure your resources come from Monash).
New foods are tested by Monash all the time, and you can keep up to date with these changes by downloading the official Low FODMAP app here. It’s not a free app, but it’s worth it and I feel good about sending my money to Monash if it helps them continue their important research to help us to better understand and overcome IBS. Read more about their work and research on FODMAPs here.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for…
FODMAPs are a group of short chain carbohydrates that all humans have trouble digesting because they ferment in the colon, triggering symptoms such as bloating and cramps in some people. By following a diet with minimal amounts of these fermentable nasties around 70% of sufferers can alleviate almost all symptoms of IBS within a few weeks. For me, this was a miracle. I went totally back to normal in just three weeks, and for the first time in my life I had a totally flat stomach – what a bonus!
don’t freak out
This will seem painful at first but it isn’t forever. If you’re a bread/pasta lover like I am and feel that onion and garlic are the cornerstone of most recipes, it’s going to seem hellish to start with. But, if I can do it, you can too. There are tips and tricks that will help you navigate the diet and with any luck once you’ve completed the reintroduction stage your diet won’t seem so drastic – you just need to stick it out for 4-8 weeks.
My dietician told me that (in her pool of clients) she has identified lactose and grains as the main problem in people exhibiting the symptoms of IBS. For these intolerances, there are so many wonderful products on the market now, with restaurants of all kinds offering alternatives too. And a lot of them are delicious, which definitely hasn’t always been the case (I still don’t rate shop-bought gluten free bread!). It’s not a bad time to find you’re intolerant to these.
The bottom line is, if your symptoms disappear upon trying the low FODMAP diet, you’ll be glad you did it. What have you got to lose, besides the bloat, cramps, low energy and other tummy troubles?
OK, SO WHAT NEEDS TO GO?
FRUIT (in all its forms)
VEGGIES (in all their forms)
– onion (all kinds)
– spring onion (white parts only)
– garlic (all kinds)
– breakfast cereals containing wheat or bran
– bread (including soda, sourdough, rye and spelt. Spelt sourdough is OK)
– flour (including wheat, rye, barley, spelt and soya flour)
– wheat (including bulgur wheat, couscous, semolina, rye, barley, amaranth, millet and teff)
– pasta (dried and fresh, spelt, wholemeal and gnocchi)
– breadcrumbed or battered foods
– noodles containing wheat
(beware of ingredient ‘flavouring’ on labels as this often incorporates onion / garlic):
– prebiotic (Note: this includes some pre and probiotic supplements/yoghurt products often recommended for bloating/tummy troubles. If you take these, you will need to stop while on low FODMAP diet.)
TOP TIP: most people are fine with a small amount of grain-derived ingredients such as some flour to thicken a gravy, or wheat in sausages. Don’t feel that you have to buy gluten-free oats, for example.
BEANS & PULSES
– soy beans
– all beans including baked beans
– most peas including chickpeas, split peas. Garden peas/petit pois are allowed if serving is less than 3 tbps.
On labels, you’re looking for:
sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol or isomalt.
FOODS CONTAINING POLYOLS
– All sugar free confectionary including gum and mints
– cashews and pistachios
– Jerusalem artichoke
DRINKS CONTAINING POLYOLS
– chai, chamomile, chicory, fennel and dandelion teas
– coconut water
– rum and dessert / sweeter wines
– sugar snap peas
– fruit juice
– agave nectar
– fructose sweeteners (glucose syrup of any kind. Check labels: it’s everywhere.)
This can be alright in small amounts. Stick to the following and find out what works for you:
– milk: all kinds including cows, sheep and goats milk, condensed and evaporated milks, milk powder and buttermilk. Have no more than 50 ml
– yoghurt. Have no more than 2 tbsp
– cheese (processed cheese, low fat cheese, cream cheese, ricotta. Have no more than 2tbs)
– ice cream. Have no more than 1 scoop
– custard. Have no more than 2 tbsp
– added lactose
FOdmap foODs you can have limited portions of:
Rejoice! You can eat the following foods in small amounts (only one portion at a time):
– cherries. Have no more than 3.
– dried coconut. Have no more than 3 tbs.
– grapefruit. Have no more than 1/2 of one.
– lychee. Have no more than 5.
– pomegranate. Have no more than half a small one.
– artichoke hearts. Have no more than than 3 tbsp.
– asparagus. Have no more than 3 spears.
– avocado. Have no more than 1/4 of one.
– beetroot. Have no more than 4 slices.
– broccoli. Have no more than 3 tbsp.
– brussels sprouts. Have no more than 5.
– squash. Have no more than 3 tbsp.
– celery. Have no more than 1 stick.
– fennel bulb. Have no more than 3 tbs.
– mange tout. Have no more than 5 pieces.
– okra. Have no more than 3 pieces.
– peas. Have no more than 3 tbsp.
– savoy cabbage. Have no more than 3 tbsp.
– sweetcorn. Have no more than 3 tbs, or 1 cob.
– sweet potato. Have no more than 3 tbsp.
BUT I THOUGHT BROCCOLI WAS A SUPERFOOD?
The low FODMAP diet might seem baffling: it’s a pretty unconventional ‘diet’ as far as our experience of eating for our health goes. Be prepared for people you encounter to question it – many of the foods on this list have been previously thought to aid digestion and many of them are healthy, nutritious foods (which is why it’s also so important to reintroduce). Hang in there – it may seem crazy, but for many it’s crazy enough to work!