Author: Nav Sharma, Registered Dietitian
Ever feel uncomfortable abdominal pains, cramping or bloating that seems to stick around no matter what you do? Or are you experiencing IBS symptoms, such as excessive gas that is unexplainable and embarrassing? How about diarrhea or constipation OR bouts of both?
If your answer is yes to any of the above, you, my friend, just might be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Don’t be alarmed though, 15% of the world’s population is affected by IBS – that’s 1 in 7 people!
Many people who are suffering from these symptoms are very aware of what IBS is but for those of you who are hearing about this syndrome for the first time, it is a gut disorder that can really disrupt your day-to-day life.
What is the best IBS diet?
The low FODMAP diet!
Keep reading if I’ve caught your attention! In this blog you’ll learn about:
- what FODMAPs are
- which foods contain FODMAPs
- what the low FODMAP diet is
- how it works
- probiotics for symptom relief and some FODMAP diet tips!
NOTE: If you haven’t been diagnosed with IBS but are feeling the symptoms, you can still start the low FODMAP diet.
What are FODMAPs?
Okay, so you may be wondering “what the heck are FODMAPs?”. Well, FODMAPS are a group of short chain carbohydrates (fibres and sugars) that are NOT absorbed properly in the gut. The acronym actually stands for:
Oligosaccharides – fructans (FOS) and galactans (GOS)
Disaccharides – lactose
Monosaccharides – fructose
Polyols – sorbitol and mannitol
Which foods contain FODMAPS?
After reading what FODMAP stands for, it is understandable that you want to learn more.I am here to help by addressing which foods actually contain these discomfort-causing food components. Here is a sample list of common foods that contain FODMAPS:
- Fermentable Oligosaccharides: Fructans (FOS) and Galactans (GOS)
- Grains: barley, rye, wheat and products made from these grains such as bread, cereals, crackers and snack foods
- Legumes: black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans
- Nuts: cashews and pistachios (of course my favourite nuts…hmm)
- Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, garlic, green and snow peas, leaks, onions
- Disaccharides (lactose)
- Cottage and ricotta cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, kefir, milk (cow, goat, sheep). Basically, anything that contains the milk sugar lactose.
- Monosaccharides (fructose)
- Fruit: apples, apple and grape juice, apple sauce, cherries, raisins, mango, pears, peaches and watermelon
- Sweeteners: glucose-fructose and high fructose corn syrup frequently found in desserts, snacks, soft drinks, honey, lemonade and energy drinks
- Vegetables: asparagus, beans and sugar snap peas, canned tomato products, sweet red peppers, sweet corn
- Fruit: apples, apple juice, avocado, prunes, watermelon and stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums
- Sweeteners: maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and others ending in -ol. Check labels, especially of common items such as candies, gum, ‘sugar-free’ foods and medications.
- Vegetables: avocado, cauliflower, mushrooms, show peas
What is the Low FODMAP approach for the IBS diet?
Now that you know the basics of FODMAPS, let’s get into the diet! The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and was the first to prove that low FODMAP diets improved IBS symptoms.
The diet strategically limits foods that have been shown to create irritation in the gut and cause IBS symptoms like bloating, gas and pain.
In fact, research finds that 75% of people who follow the low FODMAP diet properly will experience relief from their symptoms. The only challenge is… the FODMAP diet can be difficult to follow without proper guidance. It is also important to know that the diet is pretty restrictive and should be followed temporarily. For these reasons, it is very important that you work with a dietitian when taking on the low-FODMAP diet.
How does the low FODMAP diet work?
Now for the fun stuff! The FODMAP diet has three stages:
- ELIMINATION: In this stage, you remove ALL high FODMAP foods from your diet for about 3-8 weeks. The length of time depends on your response.
- REINTRODUCTION: Once your symptoms have improved significantly, you can start introducing high FODMAP foods back into your diet one at a time to see which foods you can and can’t tolerate. This phase will teach you which foods are your triggers.
- MAINTENANCE: This stage includes returning back to your regular diet as much as possible while limiting the high FODMAP foods that cause IBS symptoms. Often, people are able to incorporate all or most FODMAP foods back into their diet without symptoms.
Do probiotics improve an IBS diet?
Probiotics and/or other supplements could help in managing your IBS symptoms and are often recommended – you just have to make sure you choose the right one! There is a common misconception that the same probiotic can be used for all gut issues but that’s actually not true. The type of probiotic that you would use for diarrhea will likely differ from the type you would use for constipation because the type of probiotic strain in the supplement is particular to the issue.
If you’re curious, we can help guide you in choosing the right probiotic, digestive enzyme, and/or other supplement(s) if the supplement will help you with your IBS. My favourite combination of supplements include Ultra Flora IB (probiotic) and Ultra GI Replenish (prebiotic)!
Top dietitian tips when choosing the low FODMAP approach as part of your IBS diet
- Since garlic and onion (raw or in powder form) are considered high FODMAP foods (sorry!!!), try substituting with other herbs and spices for flavour. Some examples include basil, chili, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, pepper, rosemary, tarragon or thyme.
- Replace honey with maple syrup or table sugar. Although these options are low in FODMAPs, still try to stay mindful of the amounts you are using.
- Soy sauce is considered low FODMAP. Try choosing a low sodium option to reduce your salt intake.
- Avoid products with high fructose corn syrup. Some examples include certain candies, condiments like BBQ sauce or ketchup, processed snacks, soft drinks, or sweetened beverages.
- Read labels if you are unsure if a product has high FODMAP ingredients.
- Try the Canadian brand FODY Foods. Fody specializes in making foods that are low in FODMAPs.
- Eating out might be a challenge when following the low FODMAP diet. Call the restaurants ahead of time (that’s what I did!) or get ready to ask your server a few questions about their ingredients before making your selection.
- When reintroducing foods, make sure you journal. Journaling will help you make connections between your symptoms and trigger foods.
- Don’t low-FODMAP alone!! As mentioned above, following the low FODMAP diet can be challenging. Having a dietitian guide you through the process will increase your confidence and hold you accountable, as well as offer science-based advice on overcoming barriers. You’ll also have someone to complain to about the restrictions… someone who actually wants to listen! 🙂
Having a healthy gut plays such a vital role in our quality of life and mental and physical health. With proper support, it is possible to get to a place where you can confidently reduce or resolve your IBS symptoms.
Low FODMAP Food List For IBS Diet
Are you ready to change how your gut feels by starting an IBS diet?
Our program was developed in collaboration with a doctor specializing in gastrointestinal issues. Navigating a low FODMAP exclusion and reintroduction diet can be difficult on your own. Our team of dietitians have proven experience in helping clients with IBS.