A low FODMAP diet has become incredibly popular among people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This is because it eliminates the fermentable, indigestible carbs that cause unpleasant IBS-related symptoms.
There’s a lot to know about this diet, and it’s hard to find all the information you need in one place.
So, to help you figure out whether the low FODMAP diet is for you, here’s a list of all the essential things you should know about this dietary plan.
A low FODMAP diet can be hard to understand, especially for beginners. But, luckily, it’s not impossible to find out all you need to know about it.
So, here are 20 things you should absolutely know about the low FODMAP diet before starting it.
20 Things You Should Know About the FODMAP Diet
1. A low FODMAP diet doesn’t eliminate all FODMAPs.
While this diet is called low in FODMAPs, this doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate all FODMAPs from your diet.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are a class of short-chain carbohydrates that your small intestine finds hard to absorb.
Because of that, they should be limited on a low FODMAP diet to help with IBS symptoms.
Still, most foods contain FODMAPs, even if in small amounts. So, it’s nearly impossible to remove FODMAPs from your diet altogether.
What’s more, FODMAPs are mostly fiber-rich foods, which are important for your health. So, make sure not to avoid FODMAP-containing foods – only limit your consumption of them on a low FODMAP diet.
2. A low FODMAP diet doesn’t cure IBS.
A low FODMAP diet is effective for people with IBS, but it’s not a cure by any means.
In fact, it’s important to remember that IBS has no cure – you can only improve and manage your symptoms by changing your diet and taking some medications.
So, following a low FODMAP diet can benefit you if you suffer from IBS, but it won’t bring you permanent relief; you’ll have to stay on this diet permanently to keep your symptoms in check.
3. There are many foods that don’t contain any FODMAPs.
Foods containing FODMAPs often contain a lot of carbohydrates. As a result, it’s quite easy to determine which foods are FODMAP-free. Some of the best choices include:
- Meat, fish, eggs (as long as there are no added ingredients that are high in FODMAPs)
- All fats and oils
- Most herbs and spices (but check for other ingredients that might contain FODMAPs)
- Most dairy products
There are also many fruits and veggies that contain small amounts of FODMAPs, so you can consume them in large quantities without any issues.
So, including these in your diet is a great idea.
4. You can actually still eat foods containing FODMAPs on a low FODMAP diet.
It’s important to remember that you will still be eating foods containing FODMAPs on a low FODMAP diet.
This diet only limits the amount of FODMAPs you’re ingesting, but it doesn’t eliminate these carbs altogether.
This is because everyone has different tolerance levels for each of the FODMAPs. In fact, it’s rare that someone doesn’t tolerate every FODMAP carb.
So, this changes which FODMAPs you have to limit and which you can consume in larger quantities. So, it’s important to personalize your diet as much as possible.
5. A low FODMAP diet has three stages.
When starting a low FODMAP diet, you don’t just eliminate all FODMAP-containing foods and carry on. In fact, this diet comes in three stages: restriction, reintroduction, and personalization.
During the first stage, you eliminate most FODMAPs from your diet. This stage usually lasts about 4-8 weeks.
After that, you slowly start reintroducing FODMAP foods to your diet for about 8-10 weeks.
This stage allows you to identify which FODMAPs you can tolerate and which trigger your IBS symptoms.
It also helps you determine what’s your threshold – how much of each FODMAP you can safely consume.
The final stage restricts some FODMAPs but reintroduces the ones your body can easily tolerate. That’s why the FODMAP diet is very personal.
6. FODMAP diet looks different for everyone.
As mentioned above, every low FODMAP diet looks different. It all depends on which FODMAPs you can tolerate and which cause digestive system issues.
For example, some people might be able to tolerate the FODMAPs found in grains better than the ones found in high-carb fruits. But someone else might have the opposite experience.
So, each FODMAP diet is very personal. That’s why it’s important to follow each of the steps carefully and adhere to the plan.
This will also help you avoid failing on the diet, as you’ll be able to consume a wider range of foods.
7. A low FODMAP diet can be very time-consuming and costly.
A low FODMAP diet requires a lot of planning and discipline, which can be very hard.
You have to monitor all the FODMAPs you consume carefully and note them down. This is important as, for example, ¼ of an apple can be safe for a low FODMAP diet, but a whole apple is considered high FODMAP.
As you can see, it takes a lot of dedication to stick to a low FODMAP diet.
What’s more, this dietary plan can also be quite costly, especially at the beginning stages. In the long run, it doesn’t have to break your budget, but it might be something to consider before starting this diet.
8. A low FODMAP diet isn’t good for all other digestive system disorders.
The low FODMAP diet is mainly recommended for people with IBS. This is because it limits your intake of the specific carbohydrates that trigger digestive system issues in people with this condition.
However, a low FODMAP diet can also benefit people with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
People with these conditions can also benefit from limiting the fermentable, indigestible carbs that a low FODMAP diet restricts.
But, in most cases, it’s best to consult your doctor or registered dietitian prior to starting this diet, just to be sure you’re not causing damage to your digestive system or worsening your condition.
9. Some people might experience side effects from a low FODMAP diet.
Generally, a low FODMAP diet can help you manage and reduce IBS symptoms and some other digestive system conditions.
But unfortunately, this diet can have some adverse side effects on certain people.
Firstly, this time restricts a lot of high-fiber foods, and if you know even a little about nutrition, you know how important this nutrient is for the health of your digestive system.
Fiber helps feed the ‘good’ gut bacteria that contribute to digestive system health. It also reduces the symptoms of several health conditions like GERD and acid reflux.
So, strictly eliminating food with fiber – also known as prebiotics – is bad for your health and can cause some side effects.
In addition, this diet can lead to some mineral and vitamin deficiencies, especially if you’re eliminating a lot of fruits and veggies.
Taking supplements can help with that, but it’s always best to get these nutrients from natural and fresh produce to ensure good absorption.
10. A low FODMAP diet isn’t suitable for people without IBS.
If you don’t suffer from IBS, there’s no reason for you to follow a diet low in FODMAPs. This diet limits your intake of fermentable, indigestible carbs that trigger IBS symptoms.
So, if you don’t suffer from this condition, there’s no reason for you to follow this diet.
In fact, following a low FODMAP diet when you don’t have to can lead to some serious health problems like mineral and vitamin deficiencies, lack of fiber, and indigestion.
So, don’t follow a low FODMAP diet if you don’t have to – there’s no reason to do that.
11. Many apps can help you determine which foods are low in FODMAPs.
These days, there are many apps that you can download on the phone or install on your computer that can help you figure out which foods and in what amounts are suitable for a low FODMAP diet.
This can make the transition to this dietary plan much easier and less troublesome, especially in the first stage of a FODMAP diet.
Some of these apps might be paid, but you can also easily find free versions.
12. A low FODMAP diet can benefit more than just your digestive system.
Even though the primary benefit of following a low FODMAP diet is reduced IBS symptoms, this diet can help you with more than just that.
For example, studies show that following a low FODMAP diet improves your overall health. This is most likely because you can’t eat any processed foods on this diet. This kind of food is associated with an increased risk of health issues.
So, eliminating this food group can improve your health.
Plus, while carbs are very important, consuming more healthy fats and protein can benefit your health. For example, it can aid in healthy weight loss, improve exercise performance, and reduce the likelihood of snacking between meals.
13. There are some risks associated with a low FODMAP diet.
A low FODMAP diet is very restrictive, so it comes with several risks.
One of the most significant concerns when following a low FODMAP diet is that it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Strictly limiting a lot of high-carb foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains can lead to inadequacies when it comes to minerals and vitamins.
These nutrients are incredibly important for good health, so they can’t be eliminated from any diet.
Since this diet strictly restricts what you can eat, it can also promote disordered eating. This is because it can lead to binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors.
14. It’s a very restrictive diet, which means it’s not for everyone.
Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of following a highly restrictive diet like the FODMAP diet.
This diet requires a lot of commitment, precision, and willpower. So, if you find it hard to adhere to such a strict plan, it might be best to avoid this diet.
Instead, try to make small changes to the way you eat if you have IBS – this can help too.
15. Your medication can increase your intake of FODMAPs.
Surprisingly, some medications might contain FODMAPs, such as lactose. So, if you’re intolerant to this type of sugar or suffer from lactose intolerance, make sure to account for that when adjusting your FODMAP levels.
If the lactose in your meds triggers your IBS, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
16. A low FODMAP diet isn’t necessarily good for your gut health.
A low FODMAP diet may not be too good for the health of your digestive system – especially the strict kind.
This diet greatly limits your intake of fiber-rich foods, which are incredibly crucial for keeping your digestive system healthy.
So, as mentioned previously, avoid this diet unless you suffer from IBS, as this diet has different results for people with this condition.
17. A diet low in FODMAPs is meant as a short-term dietary plan.
Eliminating FODMAPs from your diet forever isn’t the goal of a low FODMAP diet.
Instead, this diet temporarily restricts these carbs to help you figure out which ones trigger your IBS symptoms.
After that, you should slowly reintroduce these carbs to your diet. This is important, as they’re crucial for your health – including the health of your digestive system.
18. A low FODMAP diet requires a lot of precision.
This diet is quite limiting, as there are huge differences between the FODMAP content of foods, depending on the serving.
In fact, taking in more than one tablespoon of some foods can greatly change how many FODMAPs you’re ingesting.
So, it might be beneficial to note down and track each food you’re consuming to get the best results.
19. You should start the diet with the help of a doctor or dietitian.
This diet can be quite challenging to follow. So, many experts recommend starting this diet with the help of a specialist.
A doctor or registered dietitian can help you create a meal plan that suits your needs and requirements while avoiding nutrient deficiencies.
So, try not to embark on this journey alone if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
20. Not everyone with IBS has to follow a low FODMAP diet.
Finally, if you don’t suffer from IBS, don’t follow this diet.
There are no real benefits that you can gain from following a low FODMAP diet if you don’t experience any IBS-related symptoms.
Instead, aim to consume a lot of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. This can ensure that you stay healthy without compromising your health.
Every diet comes with many facts that you have to be aware of, especially before starting it. So, the same goes for a low FODMAP diet.
Luckily, if you do your research, it can be relatively easy to figure out all the things you need to know about the low FODMAP diet. And with the 20 facts above, you are definitely well on your journey to understand this IBS-friendly diet.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.