I’m not shy about sharing my experience with IBS and other digestive woes in order to help others, which is why I want to share with you what I’ve learned about the FODMAP diet for IBS. Because of what I’ve gone through in my own health journey, I feel it is a responsibility to share what I’ve learned so that maybe someone else gets relief sooner than I did. Many people assume they have IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, without ever being tested. Symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, flatulence, nausea, nervous stomach and more can be symptoms of IBS, along with poor nutrient absorption from foods. What I didn’t know for years about IBS was that a diet known as the FODMAP diet was the answer to my greatest health questions regarding IBS. Many IBS self-help books still advised eating foods that upset my stomach, leaving me confused and in pain. Now, with the discovery of the FODMAP diet, I can be symptom-free and lead such a healthier and happier lifestyle. I don’t even miss all the foods I can’t have, because my IBS symptoms have completely disappeared as long as I eat low FODMAP foods. Plus, it doesn’t restrict calories or food groups either, and is easy to follow. Read on to learn what the FODMAP diet for IBS is, what foods you’ll need to avoid and eat, and if it can work for you.
If you’re wondering what the FODMAP diet for IBS is and what all those letters actually mean, let me enlighten you! The letters in the word FODMAP stands for the types of sugars that upset those with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, and irritable bowel disorder, also known as IBD. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols, which are all types of sugars. Basically, these sugar types are found in a variety of foods and food groups, and the theory is that that consuming foods high in FODMAP results in increased volume of liquid and gas in the small and large intestine, resulting in distention and symptoms such as abdominal pain and gas and bloating. The theory of the FODMAP diet proposes that following a low FODMAP diet should result in a decrease in digestive symptoms and I can assure you, it is quite effective. Read on to learn what you need to know about the FODMAP diet if you’re considering it as a natural treatment to digestive woes like IBS or IBD.
For starters, you’ll want to cut out fruits that include types of sugars more apt to ferment in the gut and create gas, bloating and other digestive symptoms. Remember, if you don’t have a digestive disorder like IBS, you’ll be able to eat these just fine. This isn’t a diet for calorie restrictions or losing weight but more to calm down the digestive tract in people with sensitive systems, like those with IBS and IBD. Fruits to avoid include apples, apricots, cherries, mangoes, pears, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, watermelon, canned fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice.
These fruits are low in FODMAP sugars and are safe to consume once or twice a day. Remember, too much sugar overall can aggravate symptoms but in one or two servings a day, most people tolerate these fruits just fine. Fruits to include are bananas, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew melons, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, passionfruit, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries and tangelos.
Since grains take awhile to digest, learning which grains are high in FODMAP sugars is key to preventing flatulence, pain and gut inflammation. Grains to avoid include gluten-containing grains, which are wheat, barley, rye, couscous and kamut, along with buckwheat, which is high in fermentable sugars even though it has no gluten.
Some of the healthy grains you’re encouraged to enjoy that are low in FODMAPS include gluten-free oats, quinoa, rice, and millet. These grains are full of healthy nutrients and so tasty that you’ll probably never miss the other stuff anyway!
Most people with IBS don’t tolerate dairy, but others can eat small amounts. I find that I can only digest a little bit of unsweetened yogurt, for example, while others can’t tolerate any dairy at all. Find what works for you, but start by avoiding all high lactose foods, which include all sources of dairy. Note that lactose-free forms of dairy should not cause an issue and these are fine to consume on a low FODMAP diet.
If you need alternatives for dairy, try the multitude of nondairy varieties out there, such as coconut butter instead of butter, nondairy milks, nondairy cheese, nondairy yogurts, and tapioca pudding instead of dairy puddings. Almond milk, soy milk and coconut kefir are staples in my fridge, along with low lactose dairy sources such as lactose-free whey protein, low lactose Greek yogurt and lactose-free kefir. These don’t pose a problem for me and being able to enjoy these leaves no room for a sense of denial.
One of the biggest problems for people with IBS is getting enough vegetables since many are hard to digest. However, remember that in order to be symptom free, it doesn’t mean you can’t have any veggies at all. Just avoid the main culprits, which include all legumes and beans, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, along with eggplant, green peppers, avocados, raw summer squash and veggies high in inulin, which is a fermentable fiber. Veggies high in inulin include onions, garlic, beets, artichokes and asparagus. I seem to tolerate small amounts of onions, garlic, artichokes and asparagus fine, so be sure to test all veggies out before taking them out altogether.
Don’t worry if you love veggies like I do! There are plenty healthy veggies you can enjoy that are low in FODMAP sugars. These include carrots, celery, endive, green beans (which aren’t beans at all), all lettuces, olives, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, red bell peppers, spinach, kale, winter squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, and cooked zucchini. Also note that you may be able to tolerate some very well cooked vegetables from the veggies to avoid list, but probably can’t tolerate any of them raw.
Most sugars are best avoided since sugar ferments naturally in the gut, which can lead to problems. The sugars you’ll definitely want to stay away from include all artificial sweeteners that end in the term “ol” and high-fructose sugars. These sugars include fructose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, inulin, isomalt, maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, and xylitol.
There are some alternatives to those higher FODMAP sweeteners out there, but keep in mind some of these aren’t the healthiest alternative, such as sucralose (Splenda). Choose healthier options that are safe instead, which include stevia and coconut sugar. Sucralose, also known as Splenda, glucose, stevia, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup and tapioca syrup are also low in FODMAPs if you wish to include them.
Typically, many people don’t tolerate nuts and seeds on a FODMAP diet, or may tolerate them better if they are blended, such as in a nut butter. Seeds that pose a problem for most people include sprouted seeds and nuts in whole form.
A low FODMAPs diet includes plenty of protein sources, such as animal protein and tofu, nut butters in small amounts and some seeds such as chia, hemp and flaxseed, which are tolerated better than sunflower seeds, pistachios and pumpkin seeds.
Again, please remember this isn’t a diet centered around cutting calories or food groups, and not a diet aimed at weight loss, but instead more about limiting the sugars found in some foods to prevent digestive symptoms from arising in sensitive individuals. For a complete list of FODMAP foods to avoid and include, please visit ibsgroup.org and webmd.com to learn more. Do you have IBS or IBD?
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