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What is a Low FODMAP Diet? Get to Know FODMAP Foods That Trigger IBS

9 minute read time

A FODMAP diet may be used to manage IBS symptoms, however this diet can be very difficult to maintain. Firstly a FODMAP diet involves eliminating a large number of foods from a person’s diet which can lead to nutrition issues is maintained for a sustained period. Secondly restricting your diet so heavily is very difficult to maintain for long. Therefore a Food Intolerance Test can be used to help identify the specific foods people are reacting to, in many cases saving the need to go through lengthy elimination diets.

Most commonly used to prevent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a low FODMAP diet can help individuals with a number of related conditions, like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other digestive disorders resulting from food sensitivity.

Consuming low FODMAP foods has been shown to reduce symptoms associated with these conditions, like persistent bloating, wind, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrheoa, and altered bowel habits. One of the most groundbreaking studies from Monash University found that 70% of people with IBS were able to reduce their symptoms with a low FODMAP diet1. However high FODMAP foods are common parts of many people’s diets, either as the direct food or as an ingredient in processed food.

Additional studies have investigated this subject and there’s increasing evidence suggesting that a low FODMAP diet can benefit individuals dealing with certain functional gastrointestinal disorders, like IBS. The intention of this article is to better understand the FODMAP diet, various foods that fall on the spectrum from high to low, and how diet and testing might be used to curb symptoms. Use the links below to jump to topics further down the page.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharide’s and Polyols, which are certain types of carbohydrates and sugars that are not fully broken down and absorbed by the small intestine.

When the small intestine is unable to absorb these carbohydrates, the undigested food makes its way into the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria in the colon. Hydrogen, carbon dioxide, short-chain fatty acids, and other trace gases are produced during this fermentation process, which contributes to symptoms of bloating and gas.

The delivery of carbohydrates to the bowel and colon also creates an osmotic, sponge-like effect drawing greater water resorption. In turn, this increased water disrupts normal gut functioning and can trigger diarrheoa, constipation, and other IBS-related symptoms.

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrate foods that are more resistant to digestion. Instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream via the small intestine, they reach the far end of your intestine where most of your gut bacteria reside – causing greater fermentation and digestive problems.

To better understand the components and makeup of these carbohydrates, it’s important to learn the FODMAP acronym, which stands for:

Not all individuals have a reaction to high FODMAP foods the same way. It’s important to have a food intolerance test to determine which foods are tolerable, and which foods may need to be avoided to reduce flare-ups and symptoms. For example, some people will react more severely to fructose and fructan-containing foods, whereas others will have stronger reactions to foods containing lactose. Not all types of FODMAP foods may need to be removed from the diet long term.

What’s a Low FODMAP Diet?

The majority of people with functional gastrointestinal disorders attribute certain foods to making their symptoms worse. A low FODMAP diet which complements the elimination foods identified by a food intolerance test has been shown to benefit most individuals with these digestive conditions, including IBS.

In general, a low FODMAP diet is a regimen that avoids specific foods that are high in FODMAPs while consuming foods that contain low to no FODMAPs. The spectrum of these foods is vast and can be very difficult to avoid, especially in processed food, and can range across different fruits, vegetables, grains, milk products, etc. Knowing specific types of high FODMAP trigger foods, and how your body reacts to those foods, is key.

Because functional gastrointestinal disorders and FODMAPs are based on the individual, it’s not always obvious which foods FODMAP-containing foods are triggers. As such, guidance is needed from a Dietician or Nutritional Therapist to help determine which foods can be safely consumed and which need to be avoided.

High FODMAP Foods to Avoid

For this with IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders, it’s important to familiarize yourself with high FODMAP foods and avoid these foods, particularly when using an elimination diet to determine your triggers.

Again, FODMAP-containing foods are on a spectrum, so while some fruits and vegetables may contain high amounts, others may be low in FODMAPs. Below we list some of the highest FODMAP foods to minimize consumption or avoid entirely.

High FODMAP Vegetables

Given the fast range of vegetables, pinpointing high FODMAP vegetables can be the most difficult to detect. Among some of the most potent to avoid are garlic, onions, and other pungent, onion-like foods in the Allium family. Vegetables high in FODMAPs include:

High FODMAP Fruits

Like veggies, high FODMAP fruits can be difficult to differentiate. Very ripe or naturally sweet fruits (containing high levels of fructose), acidic fruits, and any canned or tinned fruits should generally be avoided. Among the most common fruits high in FODMAPs include:

Additionally, certain dried fruits (e.g. pineapple) can sometimes contain higher fructose levels and should be consumed with caution.

High FODMAP Legumes

With the exception of green beans and small amounts of lentils, people with IBS and other digestive disorders are typically advised to avoid legumes. Some of the most common legumes that are high in FODMAPs include:

High FODMAP Meat

When it comes to meat and poultry, most animal-based protein sources are safe to consume. However, plant-based meat alternatives often contain wheat gluten or soy, and should generally be avoided. Not all, but some meat blends can sometimes contain higher concentrations of FODMAPs because they may contain garlic and spices, such as chorizo, sausages, and certain ground meat combinations.

High FODMAP Grains, Nuts, Cereals, Bread

Perhaps the biggest culprit is high FODMAP grains, bread, cereals, nuts, pasta, and the many processed forms of these foods. Countless packaged snacks like crackers, biscuits, and cookies are made with conventional, processed flour that often contains FODMAPs, so reading labels is crucial. The vast list in this category includes:

High FODMAP Dairy

While several forms of cheese are safe to consume, many dairy products can cause intolerance issues and are generally off-limits depending on lactose levels and the individual. Among the highest FODMAP dairy products include:

With the many non-dairy milk and cream alternatives available, there are several great substitutes in this category that we outline further below.

High FODMAP Drinks

Drinks are particularly individual, as some people can safely consume beer, wine, or tea in certain quantities, whereas also must avoid these drinks entirely. In general, high FODMAP drinks to be cautious about consuming are:

Low FODMAP Foods to Eat

On the other end of the spectrum are the many low FODMAP foods that are primarily safe to consume with IBS and digestive conditions. Keep in mind that even some of the fruits, vegetables, and beans mentioned above may be safe to consume in moderate quantities. This largely depends on the person and what foods they’re able to tolerate.

Low FODMAP Vegetables

Fortunately, the list of low FODMAP vegetables is much greater than the veggies that contain higher amounts. Among the vegetables that have low amounts of FODMAPs are:

Low FODMAP Fruits

Fruit is a category in which the ripeness of certain fruits may change the fructose content. So depending on the ripeness, they may be lower or higher on the FODMAP spectrum. A perfect example of this is bananas, which are oftentimes safe to consume when unripe, or green, but mostly avoided when very ripe. Among other low FODMAP fruits include:

Low FODMAP Legumes

Most individuals tend to avoid legumes altogether, however, in some cases certain types of beans can be consumed in a moderate, calculated manner. Among those that may be tolerated include black beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh. Most seeds are generally accepted low FODMAP foods.

Low FODMAP Meat

Meat is predominantly safe to consume as a low FODMAP protein source, so long as there’s no breading or concerning additives. This includes red meat, poultry, and seafood, such as:

Low FODMAP Grains, Nuts, Cereals, Bread, and Seeds

As mentioned above, reading labels on consumer packaged goods is critical, as many products can contain a combination of flours, starches, and potentially high FODMAP ingredients. The grains, nuts, seeds, cereals, and breads that are generally low in FODMAPs include:

Low FODMAP Dairy & Eggs

In general, dairy is a problematic food source due to its lactose levels. For this reason, most foods that are acceptable in this category are either lactose-free or very low in lactose. It’s also worth noting that eggs are a terrific protein source that contain no FODMAPs at all. Among the low FODMAP foods in the dairy department you can find:

Low FODMAP Drinks

Drinks can vary widely, as some fizzy drinks, alcoholic beverages, protein supplements, and meal replacements can have varying degrees of FODMAPs. The types of drinks that are generally safe to consume are:

Certain types of tea, like green tea, white tea, and peppermint tea, can be safe to consume, depending on the volume and individual. Given the endless options for packaged drinks, label reading is also crucial to know what ingredients certain products may contain.

Low FODMAP Diet for IBS

Alongside a Food Intolerance Test, a low FODMAP diet eliminating trigger foods has shown considerable evidence in helping individuals with IBS4. The idea behind eating a low FODMAP diet for IBS is to eliminate only specific foods i — not all of them. Many nutritional therapists recommend using a food intolerance test alongside a guided FODMAP diet as it is better for an individual’s nutrition as it prevents individuals having to eliminate large parts of their balanced diet.

Professor Peter Whorwell, Gastroenterologist from the University Hospital of South Manchester says “there is emerging evidence that a diet low in FODMAP’s seems to help reduce the symptoms of IBS. Certainly, it is easy to implement and a patient should adhere to it for two to three months after which they can make a judgment about whether it has helped or not. If it helps they should continue and if it doesn’t then they should abandon the idea as it does not work for everybody.”

In essence, some individuals tolerate certain foods better than others. One key way to determine your tolerance or sensitivity to certain foods is by taking our Premium Food Intolerance Test.

Take the guesswork out with a Food Intolerance Test

In addition to a FODMAP elimination diet our food intolerance test can help you to identify which foods are causing IBS symptoms.

At YorkTest, our Premium Food Intolerance Test is one of the most comprehensive ways to determine whether you have an intolerance to over 200 food and drink ingredients. It’s an at-home finger-prick test that measures all four subtypes of food-specific IgG. In addition to easy-to-read results broken down by high, borderline, and normal reactivity, this test helps identify FODMAP food sensitivities and comes with a 30-minute consultation with a qualified nutritional therapist.

YorkTest have 40 years of experience in helping people identify their intolerances. Learn more about the Premium Food Intolerance Test, which is backed by expert analysis from our fully-accredited laboratory technicians.

Citations

1 Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Feb;25(2):252-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06149.x. PMID: 20136989.

2 Symons, P, Jones, MP, Kellow JE. Symptoms provocation in irritable bowel syndrome. Effects of differing doses of fructose sorbitol. Scan J Gastroenterol. 1992;27:940-944

3 Shepherd, SJ, Parker, FC, Muir JG et al. Dietary triggers of abdominal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: randomized placebo controlled evidence. Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol 2008;6:765-71.

4 Gearry, RB, Irving, PM, Barrett JS et al. Reduction of dietary poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPS) improves abdominal symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease- a pilot study. J. Crohns Colitis 2009;3:8-14.

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