What the Heck is the Low-FODMAP Diet?!

“Wait! Don’t put garlic in that!”

“Sorry, I can’t eat apples”

“Hold on, gotta get a measuring cup for the sweet potato-I can only eat 1/4 cup”

Those are all actual quotes that I’ve said in the past year since I switched to a low-FODMAP diet. When I say stuff like that, people usually say something along the lines of, “but this isn’t gluten!” Well, they’re not wrong. But the FODMAP diet has other restrictions besides gluten and dairy. It can be incredibly confusing at first. It took me probably 6 months to finally have everything memorized, and I still carry the “safe” and “not safe” foods list in my wallet at all times, just in case. The low-FODMAP diet isn’t exactly ‘mainstream’ or ‘trendy’, but it is really beneficial for people who have stomach issues like I did. Here are some of the most common questions I get when I tell people that I’m on this diet:

What are “FODMAPs” and what foods are they in?

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are a collection of molecules that are found in many foods. The FODMAPS in the diet include:
-Fructose (some fruits, honey, high-fructose corn syrup)
-Lactose (dairy products)
-Fructans (wheat, onion, garlic)
-Galactans (legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans)
-Polyols (sweeteners containing isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol; and stone fruits such as plums, avocado, cherries, peaches, and apricots)

 How do they affect the body?

FODMAPs may not be digested or absorbed well. When these molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, they travel to the large intestine and become a food source for the bacteria found in the large intestine. The bacteria digest/ferment these molecules, which causes symptoms often associated with irritable bowl syndrome. These symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, gas, and cramping. Since I had all of those symptoms, my doctor suggested trying the low-FODMAP diet.

How do you do it? Isn’t it hard?

Yes. It is hard. It requires A LOT of planning. Many foods that I enjoy eating have been cut out of my diet. It’s tough to get used to, but once you do it becomes second-nature. You’ll know what you can and can’t eat. I have to read EVERY food label. If the ingredients list a high-FODMAP food, it’s out of the question (unless its the last ingredient on the list). I worked with an RD and did experimental dieting where I tested each FODMAP group individually over the course of two months. During this time I was extremely strict so that I could see if any one group hurt me more than another. Now that I have the results from that, I am sometimes more lenient.

It’s important to note that I can still eat pretty much anything if I wanted to. It will just be followed up by bloating and gas, but I can still indulge if I choose to. There are lots of people on low-FODMAP diets that only stick to them 90% of the time. Eating these foods will not hurt me and is technically not life-threatening (unlike with Celiac disease or Crohn’s, where specific foods MUST be avoided).

For example, lactose is a FODMAP, so I’m *technically* dairy-free. But I still sometimes eat cheese because cheese = bae. I’ll still eat gluten-free pizza and have cheese on my burgers. Cheese was one thing I decided I could live with the side effects.

Some foods that I have not touched since last April are garlic, onion (both are big no-no’s), apples, gluten, raisins, green peppers, honey, and certain nuts. Some foods are good in small amounts-like sweet potato, broccoli, and corn.

I’ve gotten good at eye-balling  measurements, cooking without garlic and onion (did you guys know those are literally in like, everything?!), and making gluten-free treats for when I’m craving something sweet.

My IBS is completely under control now, and I never had to go on medication for it! I feel so much better than I did a year ago. I’m so glad my doctor suggested trying this way first!

If you’re interested in trying the FODMAP diet, Kate Scarlata is an awesome resource. She’s a Boston-based RD who specializes in FODMAPs. Her blog has a ton of great articles and recipes. It really helped me out when I was first starting this!

Good luck, future FODMAP-ers! 🙂


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