FODMAP and IBS – A Scientific Solution

Can a low FODMAP diet help IBS

Note from Katie: My own health struggles have been thyroid and autoimmune related, but I’ve received many questions from readers who suffer with digestive struggles like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Since I don’t have any firsthand experience, I asked my friend Suzanne, who works as a coach for those with IBS, to talk about a scientifically backed solution for it. Enter Suzanne…

Are you feeling confused and depressed because your life is ruled by your digestive system?

Do you live with a bloated stomach that could rival that of a pregnant woman?

Do you either have to rush to the toilet several times a day or feel the urge but the effort to have a bowel movement almost has you passing out?

Have you tried every diet on earth – lactose-free, gluten-free, Paleo, SCD, Keto, but nothing has helped?

Have doctors poked and prodded you, scoped you from end to end, scanned you, and taken enough blood to fill a blood bank?

And still no real answer as to why your life is so miserable. Maybe doctors have told you that you have irritable bowel syndrome, a diagnosis of exclusion, and to go away and live with it – there is no solution. They may have even inferred that it is all in your mind. Some have given you gut-churning fiber supplements or habit-forming medicines that have your bowel movements dependent on them, weakening your natural ability to eliminate even further.

You no longer trust anyone or anything. You have been through the wringer and spat out, exhausted, humiliated and desperate.

But there is an answer – a magical, miraculous, scientifically proven answer. The Low FODMAP Diet.

What is The Low FODMAP Diet?

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. The low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University in Melbourne by Dr Peter Gibson and Dr Sue Shepherd and has been scientifically proven to significantly help 75% of people with IBS. This is not a fad diet but an incredible, scientific breakthrough in the treatment of IBS. Research into the FODMAP levels in individual foods is ongoing at the research center of the Monash University.

Let’s Break Down the Word FODMAP

  • Fermentable: the process through which gut bacteria break down undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide).
  • Oligo-saccharides: a) fructo-oligosaccarides found in wheat, rye, onions and garlic etc. b) galacto-oligosaccharides found in legumes/pulses.
  • Disaccharides: lactose found in milk, soft cheese, yoghurts etc
  • Mono-saccharide: fructose (in excess of glucose) found in honey, many fruits and vegetables, high fructose corn syrups etc.
  • And
  • Polyols: sugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners.

All this time, the problem has been the high FODMAP carbohydrates in our food which don’t get well absorbed in the small intestine and travel down into the large intestine where they get fermented by the bacteria there, resulting in uncomfortable bloating along with either diarrhea, constipation or a mix of the two.

If you don’t send excess FODMAP down into the large intestine, in the face of no other underlying problem, there will be no bloating or embarrassing elimination problems. You can live a happy healthy life like everyone else.

Let’s be clear – there is no cure for IBS. But this is the solution for the unpleasant symptoms. A very big thank you goes out to Dr. Peter Gibson and Dr. Sue Shepherd. They have transformed so many lives with this diet.

However, this diet is complex and not just a list of good foods and bad foods, and you will need guidance where the amounts, combinations and accumulation of FODMAP are concerned, but it is the answer that you have been seeking for years, if not decades, for your IBS symptoms.

How to Eat a Low FODMAP Diet

The first stage is to go on an elimination diet and cut out all high FODMAP foods like wheat, lactose, onions and garlic (to name a few). This has to be done very strictly and very carefully because even one high FODMAP food or one too many low FODMAP foods in the same meal and your symptoms return, which can be very discouraging. People fail and give up on this diet, a diet which could have saved them, all because they don’t have enough knowledge or experience to implement it correctly.

Once you have no more symptoms at all on the elimination diet, it is time to reintroduce high FODMAP foods one at a time in a very scientific way in order to see how far you can expand your diet. It is highly unlikely that you will malabsorb all the FODMAP groups, and it is necessary to find out what your tolerance levels are.

Your expended diet will probably be a diet you will have to maintain long term, but you can re-test foods every six months or so to see if something has changed and you can now absorb higher levels of certain FODMAPs.

The news of this diet is spreading throughout the world, changing lives. If your health practitioner hasn’t heard of it, don’t give up – find someone who has both the knowledge and personal experience of the diet to help you implement it correctly and to integrate it into your life.

An Example of Low FODMAP Foods

Vegetables:
Broccoli (½ cup), common cabbage (1 cup), bell peppers (½ cup), carrot (1), celery (¼ stalk), cucumber (½ cup), eggplant (½ cup), green beans (10), kale (1 cup), leeks (green part only -½ cup), lettuce (1 cup), peas (¼ cup), potato (1), pumpkin (½ cup), radishes (2), spinach (1 cup), spring onion (green part only – 2), sweet potato (½ cup), tomatoes (1), zucchini (½ cup).

Fruit:
Bananas (1), blueberries (20), cantaloupe (1/2 cup), grapes (20), honeydew (1/2 cup), kiwifruit (1), lemon juice (1 tsp), oranges (1), passionfruit (1), paw paw, (1/2 cup), pineapple (1/2 cup), raspberries (10), rhubarb (1/2 stalk), rock melon (1/2 cup), strawberries (8).

Grain:
Gluten-free bread and cereals, amaranth, arrowroot, brown rice (1cup), buckwheat, millet, oats (1/4 cup), oat bran (2 tbsp), gluten-free pasta (1 cup), polenta (1 cup), potato starch/flour, quinoa, quinoa flakes (1 cup), white rice (1 cup), rice noodles (1 cup), sorghum, sourdough oat bread (1 slice), puffed wheat (1/2 cup), sourdough spelt bread (2 slices).

Legumes/pulses:
Chickpeas – canned (1/4 cup), Lentils – canned (1/2 cup), lentils green/red, boiled (1/4 cup). Note: you can have more canned lentils than fresh as long as you drain and rinse them because most of the FODMAPs have leeched out into the liquid.

Dairy:
Cheddar (40gms/1.4oz), cottage cheese (4 tbsp), feta (1/2 cup), halloumi (50gms/1.8oz), ricotta (2 tbsp), lactose-free milk (1 cup), hard cheeses including brie and camembert (40gms/1.4oz), lactose-free yoghurt (1 small pot), butter. Note: dairy products like hard cheeses and butter are very low in lactose because they are mainly fat.

Do you struggle with IBS? Have you tried any of these suggestions? Share below!

About the author: Suzanne Perazzini is the author of two low FODMAP cookbooks, Low FODMAP Menus and Low FODMAP Snacks. She is also the creator of the Inspired Life Low FODMAP Coaching Program. She lives in New Zealand in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean with her husband and son. Since discovering the low FODMAP diet, her irritable bowel syndrome issues, which she has suffered from all her life, have all but disappeared. Her blog, Strands Of My Life, focuses on the low FODMAP diet and features videos, recipes and articles on irritable bowel syndrome and the diet. Her mission in life is to help those who suffer from IBS to implement the low FODMAP diet and to integrate it into their lives. If you want to have a complimentary, obligation-free conversation with Suzanne, fill out this application form and she will call you for a chat about your IBS issues and her program.

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Reader Comments

  1. I can say positively to any one who has IBS ,or symptoms like it, this diet is going to work! My 3 year old has this very uncomfortable disorder. She has for over a year. This diet is totally amazing! The suggestions they have are a little to broad for someone with sever symptoms. You really should eliminate all cruciferous veggies and dairy, at first. Then when you are symptom free you add in foods you want to eat in very small amounts and only one at a time. Then you will know which of these foods bother you and to what extent. My daughter can eat things like avocado, onion and garlic powder, in small amounts. Apple’s and dairy are a no and we have problems shortly after eating them. It is like an elimination diet for allergies. Food will be enjoyable again when you find out what is causing the sever pain and embarrassment.

  2. I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity and even though I’ve been Paleo for two years, I’ve not found the gut health I’m looking for yet. Cutting out high FODMAPs has been the secret to my gut happiness. I’m doing it in conjunction with AIP and the Whole Jouney candida cleanse, so it’s not easy to stick with so many restrictions, but, I definitely feel and see (on my skin) the most improvement when I abstain from the high FODMAPs.

  3. Do you know the name of the recipe in the photo, if so I’d love to have it, it looks really yummy.

  4. I had to comment, because I’ve been on this diet for 4 months now (well, a combination of low-FODMAP plus the Specific Carbohydrate Diet). The author is so right–it works beautifully for symptom remission. I saw the results almost immediately. However, I think people should know that there CAN be a cure for IBS depending on the source of it. I have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth that has caused my IBS. The great thing is that you treat the infection and heal and seal the gut lining and the IBS is treated. There have been studies done that up to 85% of people who suffer IBS have it from Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), so people should check it out to see if that might be their underlying cause. I know how much this diet, combined with treatment of my infection, have helped me. I estimate that I’ve had SIBO for 8-12 years until I finally figured out that my stomach distension was NOT normal and that there was something my body was trying to tell me. The absolute best resource I’ve found is siboinfo.com. I’m just so indebted to Dr. Siebecker for her fantastic work to educate people who suffer from IBS caused by Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.

  5. Is there a recipe to this dish in the photo?

    • Katie posted it in an above comment 🙂

  6. I first heard about low fodmaps about 4 yrs ago. However, it took me another 3 1/2yrs to finally try it. It seemed so crazy and restrictive. However now that I have been on it for 6-9 months, I feel normal. It is wonderful to know after 20 years of IBS that my digestive system is working normally. I no longer suffer from week long bouts of constipation.

    I avoid wheat, onion, garlic and cabbage no matter what. The rest I can tolerate in small amounts. In reality, to avoid 4 things and feel normal is definitely worth it.

    Please try this diet if you have IBS.

    • I’ve had the same problems for 20 years. I will give it a try.

  7. Hi Katie,
    I Love your posts, thank you for sharing your passion with others..
    My question is…. What are your thoughts on Hydrolized Collagen Pwd,( I use great lakes ) I heard it’s great for gut issues but have also heard it has some side effects.
    I would appreciate your opion please
    Kind regards
    Bertie

    • I like it! I use it in place of the regular gelatin when I don’t want my dish to gel but do want the benefits of gelatin!

  8. Seems many people have gut issues. Do you think more fermented foods seems to help that? Like Kombucha? Just starting to try that and I love it.

  9. Having gone gluten free and dairy free to treat Ibs symptoms, I was disappointed that although seeing improvement, I still had too many stomach upsets — gas, bloating, belching, and diarrhea. After hearing about FODMAPS on Dr. Oz, I tried the elimination diet he recommended. I used his list of high FODMAP foods, and the list from the Monash University. After 3 weeks eating only low FODMAP foods, I started to put 1 high FODMAP food back into my diet each week or two. I started with foods I hated to give up. I soon found out that apples, onions, garlic, and corn were foods I really could not eat. I have found both onions and corn to be really difficult to avoid. Both are in so many foods. I have had to hunt for substitutes. The difference in my symptoms has been dramatic. I still have some episodes occasionally, usually because I eat something with a bit of the wrong food, or eat too much of something. I am not used to keeping my vegetable portions to 1/2 cup. It helps me to eat a variety of vegetables at each meal, but smaller portions of each. Although difficult to do, I am glad I have stuck with it. I am still adding in foods, but I feel I now know what foods to avoid. I am glad to find blogs like these to help me get good recipes I can eat.

  10. I have suffered from IBS since I was 8 years old. As a little girl, it was scary and confusing why my tummy would hurt. As a high schooler/college student, it was embarrassing, and as an adult, it was just plain frustrating that I never knew what foods would trigger it. I tried changing my diet, probiotics, etc…but to no avail. Finally, I went to see a lady who does epidural screening. She told me that while I do have IBS, there is a reason for it and once we could pinpoint it, that should take care of it. Immediately she found that nothing in my body was balanced because I was lacking hydrochloride acid. My stomach wasn’t producing it, which in turn wouldn’t break down many of the foods I was eating which resulted in IBS. She immediately put me on hydrochloride acid pills and also had me go to a chiropractor to have my stomach adjusted and moved back to the righ place (I had a touch of hiatal hernia) and literally, my life has been forever changed. I went from being anxious and fearful ANYTIME I was out and having episodes 3-4 times a week to have 2 episodes in 8 months. Eating well is extremely important, but IBS could also be triggered by something else. I just wish I would have known this 20 years ago….

  11. I have found that ‘tap water” bothers me. Whatever is put into it to kill bacteria, algae (resevoir sourced water) and whaterver else in in it must bother my intestine. Water at resteraunts (ice not filtered) or drinks that are unbrewed (boiling the water seems to make it ok). Many bottled waters even bother me. Pure spring water or any safe untreated water seems to be fine!
    Milk with palmate, or uber treated milk bothers me. Milk with minimal processing is ok.
    “fresh” fruits and vegetables that have been treated to ‘stay fresh’ longer bother me if not well rinsed. Makes it hard to eat ‘healthy” at resteraunts…. many salads will have me running to the restroom!
    There are still other things that bother me that I havent figured out.
    Can kombucha get a bad thing in it? I had been brewing it for several months, second brewing with lemon & ginger, Drinking a glass in the morning and all was fine. 2 weeks ago the mornings I have it, I’ve been getting severing cramping & diahrea all day on the days I drink it. Am starting a ‘fresh’ batch – starting a new brew from scratch, threw out scoby & liquid of old stuff. But wondering about something going bad in it?
    Thanks!

  12. Is the FODMAP diet compatible with being Vegan?

  13. Of allllll of the blogs out there, yours is THE best!!! Love seeing your email n my inbox! It’s like getting a new, glossy magazine???? Even though I may not get to read all of your information immediately, I know it is readily available whenever I need it! SO happy about that. You are my go-to guide in this crazy world of food & additives, etc. I even asked my daughter for ur new cookbook for Christmas-it is beautiful& I love the interior spiral-bound cover! Rock on! Nancy

  14. Is this diet also good for diverticulosis?

  15. I have this problem for last 35 yrs. My doctors first flooded me with antibiotics and flagil. Then with Antacids and laxatives. Then with antidepressants etc. None of that worked. After having read so much on social sites and blogs about this problem I am now concentrating on multiple natural remedies. But I also have multiple issues like uric acid, Hypothyroidism and slightly raised BP. Thanks for guidance through your blog

  16. I suffer with ulcerated colitis . I. Take Asacol tablets but they don’t seem to work at times.. Is there any special foods I can eat to cure this problem?? Many thanks

  17. Thank you so much, Katie for your article about the FODMAP diet helping IBS!!! I did the elimination for 10 days, then added the FODMAP foods back in one at a time to find my triggers. It has made a huge difference in my digestive system… no more gas and bloating! I am so appreciative of this particular article you shared and for all of the other information you share. 🙂

  18. Hi, I was wondering if you have heard of taking enteric coated peppermint oil gels for IBS? Do you have any experience with it helping?

  19. The truth is, if you do your research, is that IBS is being reversed. IBS can be gotten rid of. Now I know that the FODMAP diet helps many people with IBS. But, not all are helped though. Why is this ? Well, it’s like this : we each have millions of bacteria that live in our gut. Most of these bacteria are good, helpful ones. When we take antibiotics or medications we often affect these helpful little guys, by killing some of them. This allows some bad bacteria to take their place on the intestinal wall, and then we get problems.

    So, we each have different microbiomes, and each of us takes different antibiotics for this or that, and it results in the killing off of different species of our microibomes, and thus the different symptoms that we each have.

    But the good thing is; medical researchers have found a way to restore the health and diversity of our microbiomes. It’s called a microbiome transplant. It works. Granted this is new, and clinical trials are just beginning for different diseases, but the whole idea of reversing disease successfully is starting to catch on. In the past, we just tried to treat symptoms. In the future, we will reverse disease, and ALL of us will try to maintain the health of our microbiomes.

    The more that I read about the Human Microbiome, that more that I want to say, “Wow, this is really important !”

  20. It changed my life!

  21. I found a low FODMAP diet has really helped. It’s tough and restrictive and takes a long time to work out what foods you can and can’t tolerate but it’s worth it in the long run if it means no/less pain and discomfort. I’m still working out my tolerance levels for individual foods and, as others, have found that onions and garlic are no-nos and are actually harder to avoid than gluten which I’ve been off for about 10 years!
    I’d recommend anyone to try it but to be prepared to give it a good go and do it at a time when you have the space to do it properly and strictly. I’m still working on it 7 months after starting the elimination phase.

    I’ve also found that my emotional state hugely affects how well I digest food whether high or low FODMAPs. If I eat in a hurry or when I’m stressed, upset or tense I get far more problems than if I’m in a calm state of mind.

  22. I’ve had IBS for 26 years I’ve read all good things about this diet. I’m definitely gonna try this. I’m tired of the bloating , constipation and not knowing what foods are gonna trigger it. I loved all the posts. Can’t wait to try it out!

  23. i have just been diagnosed with ibs and cannot do milk products it doesn’t work for me. i know milk is one of the trigger and really not sure what all but its not funny cramping, diarrhea, stomach rolling try to look for bathroom when out either diarrhea, or its constipation and gas is so nasty and recommendation please don’t know what to do