The low FODMAP diet is a diet that a common recommendation for people with SIBO or IBS, but it may also be able to benefit digestive health overall. FODMAPs are difficult-to-digest fermented carbs fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. This article will discuss FODMAPs and the low FODMAP diet in detail.
What Are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, polyols, and short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that do not absorb well in the small intestine. People commonly experience digestive distress after eating foods high in FODMAPs.
Essentially, FODMAPs are difficult-to-digest carbohydrates and are fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. When carbs can't break down, they sit in your gut and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating. In addition, if you have bacterial overgrowth, the small intestine bacteria begin to ferment the carbs too early, leading to further digestive issues.
Why Would Someone Follow a Low FODMAP Diet?
Foods high in FODMAPs do not break down easily in the intestines and break down with the help of gut bacteria. In some cases, this may be beneficial as it can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. However, if someone has a bacterial infection, this could feed pathogenic bacteria in the stomach and encourage them to grow. Additionally, if someone has bacterial overgrowth, the excess bacteria will break down these foods too fast, resulting in digestive issues.
A low FODMAP diet is recommended for someone struggling with bacterial infections or bacterial overgrowth, as it can prevent these bacteria from growing even more out of control.
Additionally, people that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive issues may have difficulty digesting foods high in FODMAPs and are often encouraged to follow the low FODMAP diet.
Many health experts recommend a low FODMAP diet for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and consider it an essential part of a proper SIBO protocol.
What Is the Low FODMAP Diet?
The low FODMAP diet is essentially an elimination diet that eliminates all foods high in FODMAPs. The low FODMAP elimination diet removes these foods because they could contribute to poor digestive health and are especially difficult to digest for people with an already compromised digestive system.
While the definition of the low FODMAP diet is a diet consisting of only low FODMAP foods, there are other things to consider that may enhance the diet.
The big concern with people following a low FODMAP diet is digestive health. However, digestive health depends on much more than just what we eat. It also depends significantly on how we eat.
If you wish to improve your digestive health, consider incorporating the following tips into your low FODMAP diet plan (or in any diet plan for that matter):
· Chew your food thoroughly. As simple as this tip sounds, it can drastically improve your digestive health if you apply it. Digestion begins in your mouth. Chewing your food well prevents larger particles of food from going down into the stomach for digestion, which can help smooth the entire digestive process and enhance nutrient absorption. When your food is not chewed properly, large particles enter the digestive tract causing digestive problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, food reactions, headaches, low energy, and food fermenting in your gut.
· Eat slowly and mindfully. When your body is stressed, it stops digesting your food and instead focuses its energy on handling the stressful situation. This process is detrimental to your digestive health. Rather than being adequately broken down and assimilated, the food you consume is emptied into the colon. As a result, the nutrients are not taken up by the body but instead become a toxin in the intestines. For this reason, it is essential to make sure you are not stressed or distracted while eating. Instead, eat in a relaxed way in a relaxed environment, with a calm mind. This can significantly improve your digestion.
· Wait at least 4 hours between each meal. The digestive process takes up to 4 hours to complete. You can optimize your digestive health by giving each meal full time to digest and assimilate. If you eat between meals or do not give enough space between meals, it interferes with the digestion of the previous meal, and the new meal does not get digested as efficiently either.
· Aim to eat at the same times each day. The body has a circadian rhythm, and we thrive when we structure our lives according to this rhythm. So having a routine around eating can be a great way to support your digestive health, as it trains your body to know when to expect food. In Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine system, this is the number one recommendation for improving digestive health recommended above all others.
· Eat fruit on an empty stomach only (usually in the morning in a fasted state). Fruit digests very quickly, and when combined with other foods (especially fat and protein), it can slow down the regular rate of digestion of fruit and lead to fermentation in the gut. Therefore, it is best to eat fruits on their own and eat them while your stomach is empty (ideally 30 minutes to an hour before eating anything else).
· Take digestive bitters a few minutes before a meal. Another way to enhance digestion is to consume bitter digestive herbs a few minutes before a meal. Bitter herbs contain alkaloids that stimulate the release of bile from the liver. Bile contains acids and compounds that break down foods, especially difficult to digest fats. By stimulating bile production before a meal, you can enhance your digestion of the food you consume.
· Avoid overeating. Overeating puts a tremendous strain on your gut and is detrimental to digestive health. It may be challenging but aim to stop eating before getting full. Ideally, stop eating when you feel you are 75%-85% full.
What Are Examples of High FODMAP and Low FODMAP Foods?
One of the biggest challenges of a low FODMAP diet for beginners is learning about all of the foods that are okay and not okay to eat. It may seem a bit confusing and overwhelming at first, but in time, you will get a good grasp of what foods are safe to eat on the low FODMAP diet. It is especially helpful to follow a low FODMAP diet plan, as this can simplify the process and make it easier to follow the diet.
It would be unrealistic for us to provide a list of every single high FODMAP and low FODMAP food. However, we will give some examples of foods to eat and avoid in the low FODMAP diet list below.
Again, you will want to avoid all high FODMAP foods and focus on eating only low FODMAP foods.
High FODMAP foods to avoid include:
· High-fructose corn syrup
· Agave nectar
· Soda and soft drinks
· Butternut squash
· Beans (green beans are okay)
· Dried fruits
· Flavored yogurt
· Ice cream
· Sweetened cereals
Low FODMAP foods to eat include:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Ginger Root
- Green beans
- Bok choy
- Green bell pepper
- Oyster Mushrooms
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Red Romain
- Almond milk
- Feta cheese
- Hard cheeses
- Lactose-free milk
- Soy milk
- Sourdough bread
- Wheat/rye/barley free bread
- Macadamia nuts
- Sweet potato/yam
- Pumpkin seeds
There are many other low FODMAP foods, of course. If you are unsure of whether a food is high or low FODMAP, do a quick internet search of the name of the food and ask if it is a low or high FODMAP food.
Low FODMAP Diet Plan
Below is an example of foods you can eat on the low FODMAP diet for each meal. Make sure to buy organic for these foods.
Breakfast foods on the low FODMAP diet:
- Poached eggs with cooked spinach and a poached egg on sourdough bread
- Oatmeal with almond milk, banana, and cinnamon with plant protein powder infused
- Grilled zucchini in an egg omelet on wild rice
Lunch foods on the low FODMAP diet:
- Sourdough bread sandwich with grilled chicken, lettuce, and dijon mustard
- Veggie stir fry (zucchini, bell pepper, and grass-fed steak)
- Quinoa bowl with kale, and white potato, topped with poached eggs
Dinner foods on the low FODMAP diet:
- Coconut curry soup with sauteed bell peppers and wild salmon
- Wild salmon with brown rice and sauteed bell peppers (green, red, and yellow)
- Grass-fed ground beef with grilled zucchini, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes
- French Salad (red Romain, chives, feta, cherry tomatoes) with mini white potatoes (baked) and french green beans, with a piece of filet of sole
The low FODMAP diet has become much more popular recently, and you can find many low FODMAP diet recipes online. Again, if you are unsure whether a food is low in FODMAP or not, do a quick internet search, and there will more than likely be a bunch of information about the food you searched.
How Long Should I Follow a Low FODMAP Diet?
How long you follow a low FODMAP diet depends on your unique situation and the recommendations of your healthcare practitioner. In general, if you are following a low FODMAP diet for a specific digestive issue, it is recommended to follow it until you see relief from your symptoms. However, if you reintroduce high FODMAP foods and your symptoms return, you should go back to the low FODMAP diet and speak with your doctor for further health guidance.
A low FODMAP diet can have many benefits for your gut health, especially if you are dealing with a bacterial infection or are struggling with digestive issues like IBS. However, it is essential to understand that just because a food may be high in FODMAPs, it does not mean you have to cut it out of your diet if you are not struggling with any digestive issues.
A low FODMAP diet is recommended for anyone with digestive issues that high FODMAP foods may aggravate. But if your digestion is fine, there is no reason to exclude high FODMAP foods from your diet. Still, it may be beneficial to be aware of what foods are high or low in FODMAPs.
A low FODMAP diet can be used as an elimination diet to help you determine what foods may be contributing to digestive upset. In this case, a low FODMAP elimination diet is followed to remove high FODMAP foods to determine if they are causing digestive issues. A proper elimination diet also involves eliminating common food allergens as well.
Exactly how long you follow a low FODMAP diet depends on your unique situation and your doctor's recommendations. But in general, it is recommended to follow it until you see relief from your symptoms.
If you are struggling with digestive issues, a low FODMAP diet may be able to provide you with some relief. However, with any significant dietary changes, it is recommended to talk to your doctor first to see if a low FODMAP diet is proper.