Get Rid of Gut Distress and Flatten that Bloated Belly: How Eating Low FODMAP Can Save Your Life
20% of all Americans suffer with IBS or some of the symptoms associated with it, which include stomach pain, abdominal cramping, gas/flatulence, bloating, and periods of diarrhea alternating with periods of constipation.[i] Around the world, in developed countries from Dubai to China, the statistics are about the same, with 10 to 15% of the population being ridden with painful, embarrassing, and life-limiting symptoms that accompany IBS.[ii]
For these individuals, their daily quality of life is compromised, and they become like slaves to a slave-master—unable to work, drive, think, be . . . determined largely on sensitivities they may have not figured out yet or could it be that several factors beyond diet work together to cause gut distress like stress or hormonal imbalance(s)? After all, 70% of adults with IBS are women!
Still, researchers are still working on discovering the real, root cause or causes of IBS as we speak. What we do have even if we lack answers as to causes are solutions to the problem. Today, studies that tracked patients over several years to discover the long terms effects of diet upon IBS have learned that a low FODMAP diet an relieve virtually all symptoms of IBS for a whopping 86% of adults! Such an overwhelmingly positive result upon so many people is rarely seen in medicine toddy. From patients who experienced all the debilitating effects of IBS to patients those with just one or two symptoms, all found relief—and fast relief—by following a low FODMAP diet.
Why Low FODMAP Works
There have been no shortage of drugs designed to bring relief from the debilitating symptoms of IBS. Most individuals report little relief from them. The low FODMAPS Diet has actually been around quite some time—14 years in fact. And although it’s been around over a decade, there were no medical studies to call attention to the diet’s effectiveness.
Luckily, now that researchers finally acknowledge how effective and safe this diet is, more and more people will find relief through strategic eating and taking the time to test for every single trigger that could be causing their GI problems.
That’s why it’s important to do this diet slowly, with very thorough observations recorded into a .diet diary.
What else is fantastic about this diet is that it’s super-easy to follow. First, you eliminate all FODMAPS from the diet. FODMAPS, by the way, is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides (And) Polyols
In short, FODMAPS are short chain carbs that are poorly absorbed by the small intestines and, therefore, not fully digested in the gut, and while there, they begin to ferment, which causes the GI distress associated with IBS.
How and Why it Works
The FODMAP diet works by helping to both eliminate and target substances in the diet wich are the source of GI distress. For some people, these will be fructans, which are naturally occurring carbs found in wheat and some fruits and vegetables. Fructan intolerance causes stomach pain, bloating, and all kinds of GI distress. And persons intolerant of wheat fructans are not necessarily intolerant of fruit and vegetable fructans. Others will be intolerant of lactose or fructose.
The FODMAPS diet helps individuals first to completely detoxify all traces of these carbohydrates and then slowly, FODMAP group by FODMAP with days after for washout periods, introduces these foods back into the diet in doses designed to illicit either no or a moderate reaction that indicates a light, moderate, or full intolerance of certain types of foods. as the individual progresses, one by one, through an entire series of compounds that cause these GI symptoms, she/he learns which FODMAPS are their friends and which their sworn enemies, and is then able to design a diet that’s missing only one or two substances out of thousands of foods they can eat. It’s truly a diet without deprivation but the payoffs are that you get to eat again without ANY GI distress and you regain your freedom to do whatever you want to after eating instead of being chained to a bathroom!
slowly and painstakingly, over a period of time of some 18 to 30 weeks (you progress at your own pace). Helps you eliminate all traces of a substance that ferments in the gut and causes gut distress. Then, slowly, you begin adding FODMAPS back as there will probably only be a coupld of FOD What you do during this time period is first, eliminate all sources of FODMAP in the diet
Today, we know a whopping 86% of persons who tried a low FODMAP study for 2 years experienced relief from all of their symptoms. Most studies focus on FODMAP for people with IBS, but it’s sometimes recommended for people with SIBO, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and other functional GI disorders.
So yes, low FODMAPs is a way of eating really works and, in fact, helps to cure all of the symptoms associated with IBS for a whopping 86% of people.[iii] In fact, even for patients suffering with depression and IBS, those who followed the diet for two years experienced major improvements in their mood, outlook on life, quality of life and alleviation of symptoms.[iv]
In another study, thirty people followed the low FODMAPs diet for at least 21 days. They reported improvement in all GI symptoms after only three weeks![v]
In fact, eating the low FODMAPS way has proven to alleviate nagging, recurring, quality-of-life destroying symptoms, most of which arise after eating—just plain eating a simple meal can throw someone with IBS into 2 hours or more of excruciating pain as well as:
Another huge incentive to try the diet, though, is what it can do to help you lose that once- unbudgeable belly. This is because it eliminates one major cause of leaky gut (which will swell and inflame the body) which is grains, most especially wheat.
How Wheat Causes a Big, Inflamed Belly
Chances are if you have a belly that won’t budge with diet or exercise, that the belly is being caused by something more resistant than diet—like bloating or inflammation. What’s good about the low Fodmaps diet for the core area of the body is that it works to eradicate inflammation and bloating by eliminating all foods that cause that response in the body in the first place—like wheat.
Wheat can cause inflammation in the body not just because some persons react negatively to gluten and become bloated because of glucose intolerance but because the quality of our grains today is so bad that they pierce the tender lining of the gut, causing stomach acids and toxins to seep out into the blood where they DO NOT belong—and WHEN THIS HAPPENS the way it would in response to any foreign invader in the blood, by setting off an inflammatory response called “the inflammatory cascade.”
How Foods Can Cause Inflammation Throughout the Body—Especially Wheat
Eliminating foods that you may have an intolerance to can cause gas, intestinal and abdominal, as well as other GI distress, but foods like wheat can cause leaky gut strictly because of its physical structure—or what’s become of its physical structure. A century of engineering and pesticides—and engineering wheat to withstand hardier and hardier pesticides as insects swiftly acclimated to the—has resulted in today’s wheat being so hardy, so thick, sharp, and puncturing, that it’s much like sharpened bits of cardboard or even glass, that it can cause, understandably, small punctures in the gut lining that result in toxins and food particles leaking into the circulatory system that do not belong there.
Any foreign invader in the blood will set off an inflammatory response because that is what our body is designed to do. Slay invaders. Keep the body alive.
For example, that swelling response that happens when you hurt yourself or get bitten by a snake, let’s say, on the ankle. Your leg will swell around that bite and try to isolate any poisons encouraging them to “stay right there”—not to travel to the heart.
But if these poisons were released from the gut into the bloodstream, you’d get total body inflammation and that, I believe, is the source of much of our obesity epidemic today. It’s not so much the fast food or bad fat we’re eating, it’s the sharp grains piercing our gut, releasing toxins into our systems, and setting off the inflammatory immune response cascade that swells us up like the arsenic-spiked turkeys and chicken we eat that’s swelling up our bodies like Butterball turkeys. If you don’t believe the truth or think it’s hype look at the article from The New York Times, May 2013 issue, “Study finds an Increase in arsenic.”
Other Foods that Cause Inflammation
It’s not just wheat that can cause total body inflammation. Any poisons will as well, and this includes the arsenic put in chicken feed that sets off an inflammatory response that makes skinny turkeys look like Butterballs in no time. So while America, at least, doesn’t apply swelling hormone patches to chickens like it does their cattle, it does feed the chickens something to inflame them.
Smart Americans who know this have given up virtually all meat or they buy from farms that raise animals ethically and allow their cattle and chickens to graze on healthy grasses. Or they have their proteins flown in. Both options are somewhat expensive, which means, if you want to stay healthy, you can spend a lot of money in America or go vegan.
Other toxic food-poisons that cause the inflammatory cascade:
Preparing to FODMAP!
The low FODMAP diet has become not just a temporary fix for GI distress “the results I’ve seen in my own practice, IBS aside, a low-FODMAP diet helps a variety of gut conditions including small-intestinal bacterial on.”[vii]r
Even if one doesn’t follow the diet permanently, just temporarily going on the diet can bring relief to persons with GI conditions or imbalances relief by “reducing symptoms like bloating and pain in 75 percent of cases. Dr. Mullin has also seen it spark weight loss in his patients—since rebalancing your gut bacteria may mean fewer cravings—but research hasn’t documented this benefit yet.”[viii]
The Ultimate Guide to Going Low-FODMAP
To follow the low FODMAP diet plan correctly, you must do the diet and follow instructions completely, avoiding all high FODMAP foods during the elimination phase. The low FODMAP diet moves through three phases: elimination, reintroduction, and Integration.
By moving through phases where, first, you eliminate all high FODMAP foods that might be causing your GI distress, through reading FODMAP containing foods from high-risk groups like lactose, fruits containing fructans and fructose, beans, sweeteners, etcetera, you’ll be able to target which foods affect you the most, which FODMAP groups are tolerable or hard to tolerate. Then, in phase three, you’ll add back foods containing more than one FODMAP. As you peruse the lists of example foods from different groups when moving through the phases, try to select the food you’d be most likely to reach for and often. This way, you’ll select foods you most like will eat and can strategize a working eating plan that you’ll into only be happy with but one that that will keep you free from this nagging GI distress (or the constant looming threat of flatulence and diarrhea—not two conditions you want going on during a dating IT’s period, for example).
Low FODMAP Food Chart
|Low FODMAP||High FODMAP|
|Vegetables and Legumes|
Cabbage, common and red Carrots
Celery (less than 5cm stalk) Chick peas (1/4 cup max) Corn (1/2 cob max) Courgetti
Cucumber Eggplant Green beans Green pepper Kale
Lettuce e.g. Butter, iceberg, rocket Parsnip
Squash Sweet potato Tomatoes Turnip
Beans e.g. black, broad, kidney, lima, soya Cauliflower
Cabbage, savoy Mange tout Mushrooms Peas
Scallions / spring onions (white part)
|Bananas, unripe Blueberries Cantaloupe Cranberry Clementine Grapes
Melons e.g. Honeydew, Gallia Kiwifruit
Pineapple Raspberry Rhubarb Strawberry
Avocado Bananas, ripe Blackberries Grapefruit Mango Peaches Pears
For up to date and extensive information go to www.IBSDiets.org
|Meat and Substitutes|
Cold cuts e.g. Ham and turkey breast
Processed meat (check ingredients)
|Breads, Cereals, Grains and Pasta|
Gluten free foods e.g. breads, pasta Savory biscuits
Chips / crisps (plain)
Oatmeal (1/2 cup max)
Rice e.g. Basmati, brown, white Tortlla chips
Wheat foods e.g. Bread, cereal, pasta
|Nuts and Seeds|
|Almonds (max of 15) Chestnuts
Hazelnuts Macadamia nuts Peanuts
Pecans (max of 15) Poppy seeds Pumpkin seeds Sesame seeds
Sunfower seeds Walnuts
Lactose free milk
Oat milk (30ml max)
Rice milk (200ml max)
Soya milk made with soy protein
Soy milk made with soy beans
|Dairy and Eggs|
Milk chocolate (3 squares max) White chocolate (3 squares max)
|Buttermilk Cream Custard
Greek yoghurt Ice cream
Sour cream Yoghurt
For up to date and extensive information go to www.IBSDiets.org
|Brie Camembert Cheddar Cottage cheese Feta Mozzarella Parmesan Swiss||Cream cheese Ricotta cheese|
|Barbeque sauce Chutney (1 tbsp max) Garlic infused oil Golden syrup Strawberry jam / jelly Mayonnaise
Jam (mixed berries)
Pasta sauce (cream based) Relish
|Aspartame Acesulfame K Glucose Saccharine Stevia Sucralose Sugar / sucrose||Agave
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Honey
|Beer (one max)
Drinking chocolate powder Herbal tea (weak)
Orange juice (125ml max) Peppermint tea
Wine (one max)
|Coconut water Apple juice
Sodas with HFCS Fennel tea
Herbal tea (strong)
You can use this chart or the more extensive food lists of permissible, low FODMAP, high FODMAP, and moderately FODMAP foods here. IBS Diets has many online and printable resources that will help you complete all phases of the diet correctly and successfully, to make informed and correct decisions about substitutions and allowable foods, and to, eventually, identify those foods causing your gastrointestinal distress.
Some people get confused about the phases of the low FODMAP diet because there are several different steps lumped into each. So I’ve divided up all steps numerically.
Another great resource is the handy low FODMAP diet app and website produced by Monash University, where the diet was formulated originally. The app has handy, easy to understand substitutions and lists of foods and is really handy for stocking up low FODMAP at the grocer.
How to Do the Low FOODMAP DIET Correctly
The elimination phase: in this phase, you eliminate all high FODMAP foods completely and swap out low FODMAP substitute for them: for example, an orange instead of an apple, or chives instead of onions.
***The Monash team who designed the diet has a handy app to help you make the swap and identify high FODMAP foods easily.
The following lists are high FODMAP foods that you need to completely avoid, especially now that you’re trying to eliminate all trades of consumed FODMAPS.
I get this question a lot from my clients who are starting this diet:
How do I know when I am finished with the elimination phase?
Quite simply, since you’re eliminated all FODMAPS and their effects, if your problem is with these kind of gasses sugars and carbs fermenting in the gut, you’ll notice a complete cessation of symptoms. For some people who travel, lead high-stress lives, or who eat rich, varied, and/or unhealthy diets, this can take three to four weeks.
What you want is to make sure to have no symptoms for two weeks before reintroducing FODMAPS for testing your responses to them to figure out the FODMAP culprits that cause your particular gut distress—you may only have a reaction to lactose, for example, but lactose is so pervasive in prepared foods, sauces, beverages, and condiments that you’re noticing symptoms even when you don’t traditional dairy per se . . .
Also, the chart above would be great for helping you design a 2 to 6 week plan!
You’ll want to take your time with phase 2, the Reintroduction Phase. Why? So you can really take your time to gauge your physical response to different types of FODMAPs, fructose, fructans, lactose—all of them.
Plus, the more carefully you pinpoint the bad guys who are creating your gut distress, the more of a varied diet you can eat when you return to eating your GI-distress-free personal eating plan that removes those culprits and substitutes delicious low FODMAP foods to replace them.
You must try at least two different foods within each FODMAP group.
With each FODMAP you experiment with, you want to take several days eating smaller and then larger portions of the food and then charting at which point the food does or does not aggravate your IBS or GI distress.
To be clear, during this phase, you will eat first small, then medium, then large portions of foods while continuing a low FODMAP diet, being careful to select a different food from a different “eliminated group” each time—for examples, fruits, vegetables, sweeteners, dairy, eggs and other proteins that are high FODMAP . . . The rationale behind this is that you may have a reaction to large amounts of a food because you are not that sensitive to it. But with increasing amounts of the food ingested, it can cause increasing GI problems.
If the food causes no problems in small amounts, you increase the amount to medium and then large servings to see if the more you eat of this food, it either doesn’t bother you at all or does in increasing amounts.). This way, you’ll be able to design a livable, tolerable eating plan that includes all the foods you can but only ingest smaller amounts of said food if a small portion produces no symptoms but a large one does.
As the Monash group notes,
This step involves reintroducing foods back into your diet in a methodical way to determine which foods and FODMAPs trigger symptoms and which do not. Each FODMAP subgroup should be reintroduced separately while your background diet remains low in FODMAPs. The reintroduction step is also best completed under the guidance of a dietitian, who will advise you on when to reintroduce; which foods to reintroduce with (e.g. honey to test your tolerance to excess fructose); the amount of the reintroduction food to have, and the order of reintroducing foods. Remember to have a break of a few days between reintroduction of foods to avoid any crossover effects.[ix]
And it works.
As a graduate of the low FODMAP diet (now on a happy and successful modified FODMAP diet for life explains, “ personally, I feel 99% symptom-free and have for years. I know what my triggers are, how to eat day-to-day and I do enjoy a modified Low FODMAP diet and eat well for digestion. I believe this is possible for you too.”[x]
The Reintroduction Phase: Doing a Graded Reintroduction Phase the Easy Peasy Way
There are five different FODMAP groups and it is important during this first step of the reintroduction phase to ONLY EAT FODMAP FOODS CONTAINING ONE TYPE OF FODMAP. So the list below gives you suggestions for one-FODMAP-only foods, three portion sizes that you MUST use because these have been carefully established by FODMAP specialists and nutritionists and based on the degree of FODMAP or MAPs in that particular food , how to experiment with combined FODMAPs to tell you more information about your digestive system, and how long to spend “washing out” these FODMAPS.
There aren’t that many foods with only GOS. Most have mixed FODMAPS like fructans with GOS. So, choose one of the following foods and follow the directions.
|GOS Food||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Washout|
|Almonds||15 nuts||20 nuts||25 nuts||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|Black bean||2 tbsps.||4 tbsps.||6 tbsps.||“ “|
|Custard apple||1/4th apple||1/2 apple||1 whole apple||“ “|
|Peas||2 T.||4 T.||6 T.||“ “|
|Lima beans||“ ”||“ ”||“ “||“ “|
|Butter beans||“ ”||“ ”||“ “||“ “|
Your testing of fructans with a washout period will take you two weeks. That’s because you’ll want to test two fructan-containing vegetable, one fructan-containing fruit, and one food from the list of bread, cereal, and grains.
|Veg. Fructan Fodmap||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Washout|
|Garlic||1/4th clove||½ clove||1 whole clove||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|Leek||1/4th leek||½ leek||1 whole leek||“ “|
|Okra (fresh)||8 pods||12 pods||16 pods||“ “|
|White or Red onion||2 oz.||3 oz.||5 oz.||“ “|
|Shallot||½ shallot||1 shallot||2 shallot||“ “|
Fructan-Containing Breads and Grains (Choose two and only do one at a time
. . . . and stick to it for three days)
Remember try two with full washout days.
|Grain Fructan Fodmap||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Washout|
|Wheat pasta (cooked)||3 oz.||7 oz.||10 oz.||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|Cous cous (cooked)||2 oz||3 oz||5 oz.||“ “|
|Rice Krispies||1 ounce||1 and ½ ounces||2 ounces||“ “|
|Wholegrain wheat||1 slice||2 slices||3 slices||“ “|
|White wheat bread||“ “||“ ‘||“ “||“ “|
|Pumpernickel||“ “||“ ‘||“ “||“ “|
|Fruit Fructan Fodmap||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Washout|
|Raisins||1 T.||2 T.||4 T.||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|Grapefruit||3 oz.||7 oz.||10 oz.||“ “|
|Dried cranberries||2 T||4 T.||6 T.||“ “|
|Dried dates||1 date||2 dates||4 dates||“ “|
|Dried figs||1 fig||2 figs||4 figs||“ “|
Fructose is in all sweet tasting fruits, veggies, and of course honey. So why not choose some healthier options. Choose only one food here. One is enough to give you an accurate picture of your sensitivity/lack of sensitivity to fructose.
Choose one the following:
|Fructose Food||Day 1 Test||Day 2 test||Day 3 test||Washout period|
|½ cup at meal of choice.||1 cup at one meal.||1 cup and ½ at meal.||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|1 tsp.||1 tbsp.||2 tbsp.||“ “|
|1/4th mango||½ mango||A whole mango||“ “|
|Sugar snap peas
|½ ounce||1 ounce||2 ounces||“ “|
|Fructose Food||Day 1 Test||Day 2 test||Day 3 test||Washout period|
|½ cup at meal of choice.||1 cup at one meal.||1 cup and ½ at meal.||3 days before move onto different FODMAP group|
|Milk, all, including evap. or buttermilk
|1 tsp.||1 tbsp.||2 tbsp.||“ “|
|1/4th mango||½ mango||A whole mango||“ “|
|½ ounce||1 ounce||2 ounces||“ “|
Make sure to check all milks and ice creams for * added high FODMAP ingredients e.g. that might skew your results like fructose, inulin, sorbitol etc
All of the foods in this table only contain high amounts of the FODMAP mannitol. You only need to choose one food to re-challenge. Always choose an average or medium sized fruit or vegetable unless stated otherwise. Stick to the same food for the duration of the 3 dayeewfe re-challenge.
|Polyols (sorbitol)||Day 1 Test||Day 2 test||Day 3 test||Washout period|
|1 oz.||2 oz.||3 oz.||s|
|3 oz.||5 oz.||7 oz.||“ “|
|Celery||1/4th stalk||½ stalk||A whole stalk||“ “|
Polyols with sorbitol
|Polyol (sorbitol)||Day 1 Test||Day 2 test||Day 3 test||Washout period|
|1/4th avocado||½ avocado||1 whole||3 days – prepares you to move onto different FODMAP group|
|3 berries||5 berries||10 berries||“ “|
|Yellow peach||1/4th peach||½ peach||A whole peach||“ “|
|Broccoli||2 oz.||4 oz||“ “|
Phase two Part Two: Finding Your Upper Limit
The point of phase three is to try increasingly more challenging foods containing fodmaps in order to push the envelope, shall we say, as much as possible, finding out more exact limits of what you can and cannot eat without GI distress. The point is, we want to create an eating plan for life that feels as free and as loose as possible, as allowing as possible, in order to allow you to have as much of a variety in your diet as is humanly possible.
So the goal of this phase is to eat combined fodmap foods, ones that contain more than one kind, that it; to test your tolerance (or lack of it ) to foods ranking very high on the low FODMAPs list,
So in phase three you’ll eat foods containing several FODMAPs in one food serving, to see if you have reactions and, if so, how
Good examples include:
Apples and pears. These contain fructose and sorbitol.
Plums, prunes, and apricots: fructans and sorbitol
Snow peas, Fructans, COS, and Mannitol
But you might want to get inventive and have an apple after bagels and lox with cream cheese! What you really want to do in this secondary stage of the reintroduction phase is to find out how many fodmap containing foods you can combine before you just feel yourself beginning to feel as if distress were right around the corner. Use these results and combine them with an intelligent and thoughtful consideration of all your results throughout the reintroduction phase and use these to inform your construction of your life eating plan.
You may learn, as some individuals on the low FODMAP diet do that:
The Third Phase: Use All You’ve Learned to Create a Diet You Can Live With (In more ways than one!)
The Goal of Low-FODMAPS?: To Enjoy a Life Without Limits and Feel Great Every Day!
Eventually, after you move thorough all three phases, you will end up creating a diet tailor made for you and which will allow you to reenter the world with a new sense of freedom without fears of embarrassing yourself in front of your new date or having to do any date-killing, self-esteem killing explaining to spare their feelings when you head home at 9:30 p.m. instead of over to his house for a night cap.
Yes, the diet does take time but if you regain your freedom and a whole new life full of people and adventure, what could be more worthy of your time?!?!? Plus, you‘ll lean down, rid your body of inflammation, repair your gut lining, which will help ensure your absorption of nutrients from your food, preventing you from vitamin deficiencies, and you’ll just plain feel like the younger self you’ve been thinking on so often—the one with the real life before IBS struck.
Now you get back the best of the old you, and the new, more resilient you you’ve become from your struggles!
All my best to you and much love!
[i] WebMD. What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
[ii]About IBS. Facts about IBS.
[iii]Magge, S. and A. Lembo. (2012). Low-FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. , 8(11): 739-45.
[v]Ong DK, Mitchell SB, Barrett JS, et al. Manipulation of dietary short-chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of gas production and genesis of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome. J Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 25:1366–1373.
[vi]Spritzler, F. (208). 6 foods that cause inflammation. Healthline.
[vii]Riley, E. Everything you need to know about the low FODMAPS diet to treat IBS.
[viii]Gold, S. (2015). Glamour. The real flat belly diet.
[ix]Monash Univ. FODMAP BLOG. The three steps of the FODMAP diet.