- The low-FODMAP diet can be used to help alleviate digestive symptoms that accompany conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
- The low-FODMAP diet is a three-phase nutritional approach which includes the elimination phase, the reintroduction phase, and the personalisation phase.
- You should not observe the low-FODMAP diet without guidance from a healthcare professional.
- It’s best to read nutrition labels carefully as there are many ingredients that should be avoided when you are in the elimination phase of the diet.
Chances are you’ve heard about the low-FODMAP diet, a diet that is said to help alleviate gastrointestinal (GI) issues. But according to Kate Scarlata, RDN, the low-FODMAP diet is actually not a long-term diet at all, but more of a three-phase nutritional approach, which includes the elimination phase (when FODMAP-rich foods are removed from the diet), the reintroduction phase (when FODMAP-rich foods are systematically added back to the diet to help identify food triggers), and the personalisation phase (when tolerated FODMAP-rich foods are added back into the diet).
The goal of the diet, she said, is to enjoy the most liberal diet possible without experiencing any uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for “fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharide, and polyols.” This refers to the foods those observing the diet should avoid which include fermentable sugars and fibres including lactose (found in milk, ice cream, yogurt), fructose (found in honey, mango, watermelon, and high-fructose corn syrup), fructans (found in onion, garlic, wheat), galactooligosaccharides (found in beans, cashews, and pistachio nuts), and polyols or sugar alcohols (found naturally in stone fruits, cauliflower, celery or as sugar-free additives in gum and mints), according to Scarlata.
INSIDER spoke to Scarlata and other dietitians on what you should know about the low-FODMAP diet.
You should never go on the low-FODMAP diet without guidance from a professional
Since the low-FODMAP diet can be very limiting, Rebecca Elbaum, MPH, RD, CDN, CDE, said that it’s best to work with a professional when observing this diet, as you can eliminate key nutrients your body needs if you aren’t careful.
A dietitian will ensure you are getting the nutrients you need while sticking with the diet.
The low-FODMAP diet can be very confusing, according to Elbaum, so it’s also important to ask your healthcare professional any questions you might have.
You’ll want to read labels carefully when observing the low-FODMAP diet
“Read labels carefully,” said Lisa Garcia, MS, RDN, LD. When you’re following the low-FODMAP approach, she explained that it’s critical to be wary of product labels, as there are many added ingredients that need to be avoided or limited while you are in the elimination phase.
Often times, you might not realise that a high-FODMAP food is in a product that seems like it should be strictly low-FODMAP foods. For example, garlic – a high-FODMAP food – might be hiding in a bag of potato chips that would otherwise be low in FODMAPs.
You’ll want to be open to new foods if you are giving the low-FODMAP diet a try
Garcia also advised being open to new ways of thinking about foods. New ways of preparing foods or dressings can open you up to new items you may enjoy, according to Garcia.
For example, learn how to make a low-FODMAP ranch dressing or opt for blueberries or kiwis over apples and watermelon when you’re craving fruit.
The low-FODMAP diet shouldn’t be confused with a gluten-free diet
According to Elbaum, many people confuse a low-FODMAP diet with a gluten-free diet, which cuts out foods containing the protein gluten. She said, however, that it’s very important not to confuse these two diets, as some gluten-containing foods are allowed on the low-FODMAP diet.
Don’t cut out fruits and vegetables entirely
Elbaum stressed that there are a number of fruits and vegetables that are allowed on the low-FODMAP diet and should not trigger symptoms. This makes it extremely important to work closely with a registered dietitian to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need, she said.
Vegetables such as bell pepper, bok choy, and zucchini are low in FODMAPS, as are fruits such as blueberries, oranges, and grapes.
It’s important to choose your condiments with care
“Salad dressings, ketchup, salsa, and even some spice blends contain high-FODMAP ingredients such as onion, garlic, honey, or high-fructose corn syrup,” Scarlata said.
Instead, she recommending making your own salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Some alcoholic beverages are low in FODMAPs
“You can still have a good evening out as beer, vodka, and whiskey are all low-FODMAP foods,”Scott Keatley, RD told INSIDER. He recommended, however, sticking to soda water as a mixer since most other mixers are high in fructose.
The low-FODMAP diet can be difficult to follow
Although the low-FODMAP diet can be helpful in eliminating digestive discomfort, Keatley said there are important disadvantages worth keeping in mind.
The low-FODMAP diet, he said, is probably the most difficult diet to follow, and usually requires a great deal of knowledge about food and cooking. In addition, he added that it is almost impossible to eat out when observing this diet, especially since some triggering foods, like garlic or onions, may be present in sauces and condiments.
But it’s important not to get discouraged
Yes, the FODMAP diet can be overwhelming if you are new to it, but Julie Upton, RD, said it’s important to not to get discouraged, especially since the elimination phase typically lasts for just two to six weeks. Then, you can begin reintroducing foods to see what works for you and what doesn’t, she said.
Always have support when you are on the low-FODMAP diet
“Don’t be afraid to lean on others,” said Upton, It helps to tell your friends and family what you’re doing, she said, as having their support and encouragement can reduce your stress and make following a low-FODMAP plan easier.
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