Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 22, 2022
What Are FODMAPs?
They are a group of carbohydrates that’s in lots of foods, from fruits to meats to dairy. Most people eat them with no problem. But some can’t absorb or digest FODMAPs well. They stay around in your stomach or intestines and feed the bacteria. This can lead to bloating, gas, nausea, and pain. They also can bring extra water into your intestines and give you diarrhea.
Low FODMAP Diet 101
If you often have tummy troubles, eating less FODMAPs may help. You swap foods that have lots of those carbs for those that don’t. For example, you might give up an apple for an orange or switch out peas for green beans. You stay on this plan for 2-6 weeks. If you feel better, that means you’re sensitive to FODMAPs.
Benefits of Going Low
Do you have irritable bowel syndrome? Research shows that eating less FODMAPs may help a lot with symptoms like bloat, constipation, diarrhea, and pain. People with a more serious condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, also may get relief.
FODMAPs and Crohn’s Disease
If you have Crohn’s or another IBD, FODMAPs are especially likely to cause you trouble. Cutting back on them can help. But a low FODMAP diet is not a cure. Talk to your doctor and see a dietitian before you switch your diet.
A Short-Term Tryout
You don’t stick to the diet forever. The goal is to test if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs. Some people feel better in a few days. But you should still stay on the eating plan for the full 2-6 weeks. This gives your gut time to heal and reset. Then you add back high-FODMAP foods, one by one. The step helps you figure out which FODMAPs set off your symptoms.
A Diet for All?
If you’re healthy, a low FODMAP diet won’t do much for you. Try it only if you have digestive problems. And it’s best to work with a dietitian. It’s tough to guard against so many high FODMAP picks on your own. If you don’t do it right, you may not benefit at all. You also can miss out on valuable nutrients.
Veggies to Eat and Skip
Steer away from:
Pro tip: If you love garlic, cook a couple of pieces in oil and then toss them. Flavor with the infused oil instead.
Fruits to Eat and Skip
Fructose, a type of sugar in fruits, is a FODMAP. Some fruits have more of it than others.
Nectarines and peaches
Dried and canned fruits
Grains to Eat and Skip
Love bread, pasta, cereal, and crackers? Sorry. Foods made with wheat, barley, and rye are off-limits on a low FODMAP diet. What can you have instead? Try quinoa, rice, millet, and cornmeal. You can also enjoy many gluten-free breads and pastas. Just check the label for any high-FODMAP ingredients like onion or honey.
Dairy Products to Eat and Skip
Cow’s milk, ice cream, yogurt, and many dairy foods have a FODMAP called lactose. Trade them for lactose-free versions or for almond milk. Hard cheeses like cheddar and aged cheeses like brie also are low in lactose. What about soy milk? Read the label. Skip those from whole or hulled beans. Look for brands made with soy protein, which are low in FODMAPs.
Proteins to Eat and Skip
Meat, poultry, and seafood are low in FODMAPs. Same goes for:
Watch out for:
Meats marinated with honey, garlic, or onions
Sweeteners to Eat and Skip
You can have:
White and brown sugar
Pure maple syrup
Sucralose, an artificial sweetener sold as Splenda
Stevia, a natural sugar substitute from a plant
Limit or cut out:
High-fructose corn syrup
Sorbitol, a low-calorie sweetener made from fruit sugars
Xylitol, a sugar alcohol often used in sugar-free candies and cookies
Sweeteners of all types are in many processed foods, like breads, soup, and sauces. So read the labels.
Similarities to Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Those foods also happen to be high in FODMAPs. So if you feel better on a gluten-free diet, it just might be because you’re eating less of the problematic sugars and other carbs. A low FODMAP diet is more restrictive. It targets not only grains but fruits, veggies, legumes, and dairy as well.
Not Seeing Results?
You’ve cut out high FODMAP foods, but you don’t feel any better. Now what? Double-check how closely you stuck to the diet. Slip-ups can keep you from reaping results. But what if you followed the diet closely? That means you’re not sensitive to FODMAPs. There’s no reason to stay on the diet. Talk to your doctor about how else you can manage your symptoms.
How to Bring FODMAPs Back
If you feel better after the low FODMAP diet, that means you’re sensitive to them. The next step is to find out which foods -- and how much -- trigger your symptoms. To do that, you bring back foods from each FODMAP group one at a time. You try it for 3-5 days and see how you feel. This can take up to 3 months. At the end, you’ll know exactly which foods you need to avoid.
A New Way of Eating
Once you figure out which foods mean trouble, target only those items. You can eat other high FODMAP foods. This strategy can help you manage your digestive problems. Keep in mind that over time, your body may change the way it reacts to FODMAPs. So try those off-limit foods again in a few months and see how you feel.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology: “Efficacy of a Low-FODMAP Diet for Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Evidence to Date.”
Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: “Use of the Low-FODMAP Diet in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”
Kristi King, MPH, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Monash University: “Low FODMAP Diet.”
Peter Gibson, MD, professor of gastroenterology, Monash University, Australia.
Robin Foroutan, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Stanford Health Care: “Low FODMAP Diet.”
University of Virginia Health System: “Low FODMAP Diet.”
FDA: “Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States.”
National Health Service (UK): “Sorbitol: helpful for diabetics?”
Gluten Intolerance Group: “Gluten Sensitivity and FODMAPS.”