I was introduced to the low FODMAP diet by the gastroenterologist who first diagnosed me with IBS. Many individuals with digestive issues find relief from avoiding high FODMAP foods, but I personally did not experience full relief until combining it with a grain-free, low carbohydrate, dairy-free diet (as well as some other tweaks).
High FODMAP foods contain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, resulting in excessive gas and digestive upset. The goal of a low FODMAP diet is not to avoid these foods indefinitely, but rather, to eliminate all of them and then reintroduce them slowly to see which ones you can tolerate (and how much of them you can tolerate). When beginning reintroduction, it is important to remember that you may be able to handle something like 1/4 cup butternut squash per day, but not 1/3 cup. Or, you may be able to handle 1/4 cup one day, but then on a day that you also eat 1/4 of an avocado, you have symptoms. Essentially, FODMAPs have a cumulative effect that make it very challenging to figure out which ones impact you. To make it even more complicated, each individual person seems to have a different list of foods that works for them.
Examples of high FODMAP foods:
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, garlic, onions, avocado, apples, peaches, pears, wheat, barley, rye, lactose, honey, etc. (the list goes on and on).
To learn more about FODMAPs:
Click on this link to learn more about FODMAPs. The podcast with Dr. Siebecker (a pioneer in SIBO research) provides an in-depth analysis of the science behind FODMAPs and how they impact digestion. The summary article written by Steven Wright is good if you have limited time or do not want such an in-depth explanation. However, fair warning: Wright is one of the authors of scdlifestyle.com. I find scdlifestlye to be overly aggressive in their sales approach. I purchased and followed their meal plan for the “tough case” and it did not work for me. The food tasted horrible (bland & too much puréeing) and the order in which they introduced foods did not make sense. For example, they introduced pears (a high FODMAP food) in the first or second week, making my symptoms flare up. One thing I did like about scdlifestyle’s meal plan was that it gave calorie information which was helpful for figuring out how much food I needed to make. This is important because healing from SIBO requires lots of cooking and advanced preparation (inaccurate estimating can mean no safe food to eat).
Another resource that may be helpful for beginning a low FODMAP diet is a website by the author of the book IBS-Free at Last!, Patsy Catsos.
Finally, try downloading this $9 app for your smartphone: The Monash Uni Low FODMAP Diet. It can be helpful if you are at the grocery store and want to quickly look up an item’s FODMAP content.
Why the low FODMAP diet was not enough for me:
- It did not eliminate grains, potatoes, and starchy vegetables which are high in polysaccharides. See SCD diet for an approach that does eliminate polysaccharies (although SCD does not take FODMAP into consideration).
- It allowed lactose-free dairy products. However, lactose is not the only problematic component of dairy. Casein (the protein in dairy products) also causes problems for some people. If lactose-free dairy is giving you problems, try eliminating dairy completely.