Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a quite common digestive tract disorder in the United States. According to the statistics, 10% to 15% of the United States population suffers from this health condition. People with this condition commonly experience stomach discomfort and bloating after eating certain foods. A low-FODMAP diet is an eating plan that restricts fermentable carbohydrates to manage IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, a class of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. Eliminating food irritants gives your gut lining an opportunity to repair itself and help restore healthy gut flora. If you noticed an improvement in your symptoms, you might use the low-FODMAP diet to identify which foods irritate your gut and should be limited.
Due to the risk of nutritional deficiencies, experts do not recommend following this diet for longer than six weeks.
FODMAP refers to fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. The listed compounds are short-chain carbohydrates that are hard to digest by the small intestine. These short-chain carbohydrates cause digestive distress in some people. Therefore, the low-FODMAP diet restricts foods that include listed carbohydrates. The FODMAP intake makes up approximately 0.5-1 ounce (15-30 grams) daily in the regular or high-FODMAP diet. Conversely, the low-FODMAP diet limits your FODMAP intake to 0.08-0.1 ounces (2.5-3 grams) daily.
In general, the low-FODMAP diet is a three-step elimination diet:
- Firstly, you limit your intake of high-FODMAP foods.
- Your next step is to introduce restricted foods gradually to find out which ones cause your symptoms.
- Once you identify the food that triggers symptoms, you can avoid or limit it while continuing to eat everything else worry-free.
The low-FODMAP diet is a way to identify specific food causing worsening of the symptoms, rather than a long-term eating plan.
It is essential to note that the serving sizes may also impact how well the person tolerates certain foods.
Only people with IBS should try this diet.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
The low-FODMAP diet is relatively restrictive and may result in fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 deficiency. To avoid potential nutritional deficiencies, you should pay attention to the listed foods when planning your meals.
- Fiber: bean sprouts, whole grains, brown rice, nuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, oats, baked potato with skin, and crunchy vegetables.
- Calcium: seeds, cheddar, mozzarella cheese, Greek yogurt, sardines, canned salmon, lentils, bean sprouts, almonds, leafy greens, tofu, and lactose-free milk.
- Iron: spinach, liver and other organ meats, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, tofu, and fish.
- Zinc: meat, seeds, pine nuts, peanuts, lactose-free milk, cheddar, mozzarella cheese, eggs, whole grains, and potatoes.
- Vitamin B-6: lactose-free milk, salmon, tuna, eggs, chicken liver, beef, carrot, spinach, and sweet potato.
- Vitamin B-12: organ meats, sardines, beef, tuna, trout, salmon, lactose-free milk, Greek yogurt, and eggs.
You may also consider taking supplements to provide your body with vitamins and minerals.
Tips on improving dieting experience
- Consult with FODMAP knowledgeable dietitian before starting this diet plan. It will help you follow the low-FODMAP diet correctly.
- Balance your meals. As you follow a low-FODMAP diet, be sure not to restrict your diet too much so that you miss out on key nutrients. Instead, try to eat a well-balanced diet.
- Keep Food and Symptom Diary. Write in the diary your feelings and symptoms after eating a certain food. It will help your doctor identify which foods trigger your IBS symptoms and should be excluded.
- Find well-balanced low-FODMAP recipes to diversify your meals. You can find various low-FODMAP recipes in social media groups, recipe banks, and websites to get some inspiration.
- Before heading to the grocery store, create a low-FODMAP shopping list to know which foods to purchase or avoid.
- If you are going to a restaurant or cafe, you should read a menu in advance to familiarize yourself with low-FODMAP menu options.
- Get rid of high-FODMAP foods to avoid any mistakes while preparing your meals.
The low-FODMAP diet may significantly improve digestive symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, not everyone experiencing IBS symptoms responds to this diet plan.
Unless you do not need the low-FODMAP diet for your digestive tract symptoms, this diet may harm you because FODMAPs contain probiotics essential for gut health. In addition, high-FODMAP foods are primary dietary sources of vitamins and minerals.
Even though some people may lose weight by following a low FODMAP diet, healthcare providers do not recommend it as a weight loss diet.