In my practice as an IBS dietitian I love helping my patients with IBS management – including the implementation of the low FODMAP diet. On Instagram @AndreaHardyRD, I talk all about FODMAPs – what they are and how they impact our bodies!
What are FODMAP’s, anyway?
It’s been a while since we did an IBS basics recap, so let’s start with FODMAP’s!
FODMAP’s stand for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Talk about MOUTHFUL – hence the acronym.
Simply put, these are types of carbohydrates found in foods that either pull water into our bowels, and/or rapidly ferment.
This process of gas and water causes our guts to stretch.
This can be a normal part of digestion, but in IBS, food intolerances (ie. lactose, fructose) can worsen symptoms, OR this stretch can be misinterpreted as pain and discomfort by the brain. The brain then turns around and can alter digestion, worsening symptoms.
How long is the low FODMAP diet supposed to last?
The Low FODMAP diet is a short term diet (usually 2-6 weeks) to reduce these carbohydrates and see if your symptoms improve. About 50-75% of those with IBS will see symptom improvement with this diet. If you’re a responder, you would move on to strategically reintroducing each FODMAP category to see what and how it impacts your gut.
It’s important to know, FODMAP’s aren’t bad for us. They’re found in a wide variety of foods, including nutritious ones!
The Low FODMAP diet isn’t a NO FODMAP diet – with the goal working towards liberalization and the ability to include FODMAP’s in the amounts you tolerate.
Where do you find FODMAPs in your food?
FODMAPs are found in a variety of different foods, including certain plant-based, dairy, and processed foods.
Are FODMAPs bad?
🚨It’s important to know: these foods are NOT “bad” foods!🙅♀️
However, these foods may cause IBS symptoms, depending on the FODMAP category, quantity, and the individual.
What are the phases of the low FODMAP diet?
They also aren’t meant to be avoided forever – the elimination phase is where you focus on low FODMAP food choices, followed by reintroduction of each category, and finally, liberalization of the diet to include the FODMAPs and amounts you tolerate!
If you are new to the low FODMAP diet, the list can be overwhelming. At first glance you may think “great, what’s left to eat!?” I prefer to have patients look at a low FODMAP list rather than a high FODMAP list, because it actually gives you options! Luckily, there are still many low FODMAP fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and snacks to choose from! It just takes some getting used to, and figuring out which items to swap in for your usual high FODMAP foods. ’
How do we know which foods contain which FODMAPs? 🤔
The FODMAP content of foods is tested by Monash University, and they share these results with the rest of us through the Monash app.
Pro tip: The Monash app is a MUST HAVE when starting the low FODMAP diet, especially if you’re not working with a dietitian. Lists online frequently get outdated and cause a LOT of confusion for patients.
Want to learn more? Our amazing intern created a ‘Getting Started on the Low FODMAP Diet’ ebook that goes through all this important information and more!
Handy Substitutions for the low FODMAP Diet
How can I cook without garlic and onion?
If your first thought starting the low FODMAP diet was “how am I going to cook without onion and garlic??” you are not alone. 🧄
Garlic and onion are high fructans, which can be frustrating to hear because these are two of the foods used most often for flavour in dishes! Luckily, there are alternatives to your high-FODMAP favourites that you can substitute in to help you achieve a similar flavour.
Low FODMAP Alternative to Garlic
🧄 Did you know that although garlic is high FODMAP, garlic-infused oil is NOT? It’s because the FODMAPs are water-soluble, so while the yummy fat-soluble flavour infuses, the FODMAPs are left behind. You can even make your own at home by gently sautéing a crushed clove in oil and then removing it! Just be sure to remove all pieces of garlic from the oil before using, keep it refrigerated, and finish it within a few days to avoid any unwanted bacterial growth.
Low FODMAP Bread Option
🍞 Another lovely low FODMAP surprise is SOURDOUGH! Traditional sourdough bread is low in fructans, the usual FODMAP culprit found in wheat breads. Sourdough bread is made with microbes that “digest” the fructans for you – this way, they won’t ferment in your gut and cause unpleasant symptoms!
I’ve provided a list of the most common swaps above – I’d love to know, what are your favourite low-FODMAP swap-ins? 😋
How to Build a Low FODMAP Meal
Following the Low FODMAP diet but pressed for time? I’ve got you covered in 3 easy steps! 🤩
Step 1: Choose your protein.
Most high protein foods like chicken, fish, meat and eggs are already low FODMAP because they contain no carbohydrates, and FODMAPs are types carbohydrates!
Some of my favorite #plantbased options include:
- Firm tofu
- ¼ cup chickpeas or ½ cup lentils
Step 2: Choose your carbs.
While ‘meal sized’ portions of most wheat products might be off the table because of their FODMAP content, there are still plenty of grains that you can add to a low FODMAP meal.
My go to’s:
Gluten free pasta
Step 3: Choose your veggies
Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, look at all the amazing veggies you can!
- Broccoli florets
- Red bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Leafy greens like spinach
Choose 1 food from each category and you’ll be on your way to building a quick low FODMAP meal. If you’re looking for some flavour boosters, try the green parts of green onions or garlic-infused olive oil to give your meals a kick. Or, try adding low FODMAP herbs and spices to really take your meal up a notch!
To get more meal ideas AND a FULL list of high and Low FODMAP foods – download our new ‘Getting Started on the Low FODMAP Diet’ e-book!