Skip to content
Home » What Is A Low FODMAP Diet?

What Is A Low FODMAP Diet?

FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates and sugars commonly found in various foods.
(FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.)

Fermentable – Broken down by our gut microbes (fermented)

Oligosaccharides – Fructans & GOS, such as garlic, onion, wheat products, etc. 

Disaccharides – Lactose, such as milk, and other dairy products

Monosaccharides – Excess Fructose, such as asparagus, mangos, honey, etc

Polyps – Sorbitol & Mannitol, sugar alcohols, celery, cauliflower, etc.

FODMAP acronym

FODMAPs are good for us. They feed our gut microbes. However, while many people can digest FODMAPs without issue, some individuals have difficulty breaking them down, leading to digestive problems and symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. 

FODMAPs draw water into our small intestine, causing distention and gurgling in our belly, and all FODMAPs are rapidly fermented in our large intestine, which can cause bloating and gas. 

For those struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the action of fluids and gas moving around our gut can also cause diarrhea and constipation. This can be an indication of carbohydrate intolerance

This is why following a low FODMAP diet can be beneficial in managing symptoms for people with certain digestive disorders, such as IBS or carbohydrate intolerance. In this post, we will explore what a low FODMAP diet entails, who can benefit from it, and how to get started.

Infographic showing that 70-80% of IBS patients are able to identify their food triggers with a low FODMAP diet

What Is A Low FODMAP Diet?

A low FODMAP diet is an eating plan that involves reducing or eliminating foods that are high in FODMAPs. Unlike a low-carb diet that focuses on restricting carbohydrates in general, a low FODMAP diet specifically targets the types of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in our gut.

The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia. It works for about 70-80% of IBS patients to identify their food triggers (i.e., the specific group or groups of FODMAPs that trigger symptoms in an individual). 

How Does a Low FODMAP Diet Work?

The main goal of a low FODMAP diet is to identify and eliminate specific FODMAP triggers that can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Infographic showing the three phases of a low FODMAP diet, including Elimination, reintroduction, and personalization

Research has shown that a low FODMAP diet can significantly reduce symptoms in individuals with IBS. The diet is typically divided into three phases:
1. Elimination
2. Reintroduction
3. Personalization

What is a Low FODMAP Diet Used For?

The Low FODMAP diet is a dietary approach commonly used to manage symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The Low FODMAP diet involves temporarily eliminating high-FODMAP foods from the diet and then gradually reintroducing them in a controlled manner to identify specific triggers that may worsen symptoms.

It is important to note that the Low FODMAP diet is not intended to be a long-term diet but rather a diagnostic tool and short-term intervention. It aims to identify and customize the diet according to individual tolerances and sensitivities.

Once trigger foods are identified, a more personalized and balanced diet can be developed, minimizing the intake of individual FODMAP triggers while still ensuring adequate nutrition. Working with a trained registered dietitian is crucial during this process to ensure proper guidance and support in implementing and transitioning out of the low FODMAP diet effectively.

Infographic showing how someone's personal diet might include varying amounts of FODMAPs

The 3 Phases Of The Low FODMAP Diet

The low FODMAP diet is structured into three distinct phases, each serving a specific purpose in managing IBS symptoms.

These phases involve a short-term elimination of high-FODMAP foods, followed by a reintroduction phase to identify personal triggers, and finally, a long-term maintenance phase that allows for a more flexible diet while managing individual sensitivities. Each phase is crucial in understanding and customizing the diet according to the individual’s specific needs.

Phase 1. The Elimination Phase

During the elimination phase of a low FODMAP diet, high FODMAP foods are temporarily removed from the person’s diet for a certain period, usually 2-6 weeks. This phase helps alleviate symptoms and provides a baseline for future testing.

Foods that are commonly restricted during this phase include onions, garlic, wheat, legumes, some fruits (apple, pear, watermelon, mangos, avocado, etc), some vegetables (cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery, etc), and lactose containing dairy products.

High FODMAP foods to eliminate in the elimination phase

Phase 2. The Reintroduction Phase

After the elimination phase, individual FODMAP groups are reintroduced one at a time to identify specific triggers. This phase involves systematically testing each FODMAP group and observing any symptoms that may arise.

The reintroduction phase is crucial for personalizing the diet and identifying individual trigger foods.

Example chart showing how to reintroduce FODMAP food group Excess Fructose

Phase 3. Personalization (Expansion)

In this phase, individuals have a better understanding of their personal food triggers or tolerance to different FODMAPs. With the help of a trained registered dietitian, they can create a customized diet plan that suits their specific needs while maximizing variety and symptom control.

Example of personalization of some foods going on a plate and others sitting off to the side

Who Can Benefit From A Low FODMAP Diet?

Infographic showing who can benefit from a Low FODMAP Diet

A low FODMAP diet has been found to be particularly helpful for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Additionally, individuals with other gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease, Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), may also benefit from a low FODMAP diet.

What Does A Low FODMAP Diet Consist Of?

During the elimination phase, the low FODMAP diet includes low FODMAP foods, such as specific vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, dairy alternatives, fats, and condiments.

The reintroduction phase involves gradually reintroducing high FODMAP groups one at a time, while the personalization phase focuses on customizing the diet based on individual triggers and tolerances.

Phase 1 – The Elimination Phase

Here’s a list of foods to consider eating during the elimination phase of the Low FODMAP diet:

Elimination safe vegetables

Vegetables:
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers
  • Lettuce (e.g., romaine, spinach)
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
Elimination safe fruits

Fruits:
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas (unripe, limited portion)
  • Lemons and limes (for flavoring)
Elimination safe grains

Grains:
  • Gluten-free bread (made from rice, corn, quinoa, or potato)
  • Gluten-free pasta (made from rice, corn, quinoa, or potato)
  • Quinoa
  • Oats (certified gluten-free and limited portion)
  • Rice (white, brown, or basmati)
  • Corn tortillas
Elimination safe proteins

Proteins:

Meat is low FODMAP in general since it’s a protein, not a carbohydrate. The following are recommended:

  • Chicken (skinless)
  • Turkey (skinless)
  • Fish (e.g., salmon, cod, haddock)
  • Eggs
  • Firm tofu (limited portion)
Elimination safe lactose-free dairy

Lactose-Free Dairy:
  • Lactose-free milk or almond milk (check for additives)
  • Lactose-free yogurt or coconut yogurt (low FODMAP varieties)
  • Hard cheeses (e.g., cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan) in limited amounts
Elimination safe fats

Fats:

Fat is not a carbohydrate, hence it will always be low FODMAP. Here are my recommendations to include healthy fats:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Butter (lactose-free, if needed)
Examples of condiments that don't need to be eliminated on a Low FODMAP diet

Condiments:
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vinegars (e.g., white, red wine, balsamic)
  • Mustard (check for additives)
  • Mayonnaise (check for additives)
  • Low FODMAP spices and herbs (e.g., cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano)

It’s important to note that individual tolerances may vary, so it’s advisable to work with a trained registered dietitian who specializes in the Low FODMAP diet to ensure accuracy and proper guidance during the elimination phase.

Download my free low FODMAP grocery list to support you in the elimination phase of a low FODMAP diet.

Low FODMAP grocery list show case from the IBS Dietitian, including intro, meal planning templates, grocery lists and nutrition suggestions

Phase 2 – FODMAP Reintroduction

After the elimination phase, individual FODMAP groups are reintroduced one at a time to identify specific triggers. It’s essential to reintroduce one FODMAP group at a time in controlled amounts and observe any symptom reactions. (Watch this free IBS & FODMAP webinar to learn more about what to do – and what to avoid – on a low FODMAP diet.)

Chart showing FODMAP food groups and an example of how to reintroduce these foods

Here’s a list of FODMAPs commonly tested during the reintroduction phase of the Low FODMAP diet. (Refer to the graphic above for how this is done.)

Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, vegetables

Vegetables:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Mushrooms
Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, fruits

Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Mangoes
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, grains

Grains:

  • Wheat-based bread and pasta
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Wheat-based cereals
Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, proteins

Proteins:

  • Legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)
  • Soy products (e.g., tofu, tempeh)
  • Processed meats (e.g., sausages, deli meats)
Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, dairy

Dairy:

  • Milk (lactose-containing)
  • Soft cheeses (e.g., cottage cheese, ricotta)
  • Yogurt (containing lactose or high-FODMAP additives)
Graphic showing FODMAP challenge foods to slowly reintroduce, condiments

Condiments:

  • High-FODMAP sauces (e.g., barbecue sauce, soy sauce)
  • High-FODMAP marinades and seasonings
  • High-FODMAP sweeteners (e.g., honey, agave syrup)

The reintroduction phase is crucial in identifying your personal FODMAP triggers, but it must be done properly. It’s essential to reintroduce one FODMAP group at a time in controlled amounts and observe any symptom reactions.

Here’s an example of a reintroduction schedule for Excess Fructose foods:

Chart showing how to slowly reintroduce Excess Fructose FODMAP foods

Note: It’s recommended to work with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional to structure the re-introduction process effectively and accurately assess your individual tolerances and sensitivities.

Watch this free IBS webinar to learn more about properly reintroducing FODMAP groups to identify your personal food triggers.

3 mistakes to avoid on the low fodmap diet for IBS freedom

During the re-introduction phase of the Low FODMAP diet, it can be helpful to have a few items on hand to track your progress and make informed decisions about your diet. Here are some items that may be useful during this phase.

Notepad or journal:

Use a dedicated notepad or journal to record your daily meals, including the foods you reintroduce, portion sizes, and any symptoms you experience. This will help you identify patterns and make adjustments accordingly.

Symptom tracker:

Create a symptom tracker or use a mobile app to monitor your symptoms throughout the personalization phase. Note the type and severity of symptoms you experience after reintroducing specific FODMAP groups. This information will assist you in identifying your individual triggers and level of tolerance.

Food labels and ingredient lists:

Familiarize yourself with reading food labels and ingredient lists. Pay attention to potential high-FODMAP ingredients or additives that may be present in packaged or processed foods. Having this knowledge will help you make informed choices while personalizing your diet.

Recipe resources:

Explore recipe books, websites, or apps that offer Low FODMAP recipes. This will provide you with a variety of meal ideas and inspiration during the personalization phase, making it easier to adhere to the diet while still enjoying delicious and satisfying meals. Watch my Free FODMAP webinar to download my 7 Day low FODMAP meal plan with over 20+ recipes!

Shopping list:

Create a shopping list of Low FODMAP ingredients and staple foods to have on hand. This will ensure that you always have suitable options available when planning your meals and snacks. You can download my low FODMAP grocery list for free here.

Support resources:

Consider joining online communities, forums, or support groups focused on the Low FODMAP diet. These platforms can provide valuable advice, tips, and a sense of community as you navigate through the personalization phase.

A dietitian-led program that includes all of the above information can be extremely helpful when working through the FODMAP re-introduce group by group.

A person draws out their weekly meal plan in a journal

Phase 3 – Personalization (Expansion)

Once you have tested all FODMAP group and knows the level of tolerance you have to each group, you can safely add food back to your life while monitoring symptoms.

Remember, the personalization phase is about finding the right balance and expanding your diet based on your individual tolerance to FODMAPs. These items can assist you in tracking your progress, managing your diet, and making the most informed decisions along the way.

Low FODMAP Grocery List

To assist in navigating the low FODMAP diet, you can downloadable our FREE Low FODMAP grocery list in PDF format to make shopping for low FODMAP food a breeze! 

This chart provides a comprehensive list of foods categorized according to their food groups, making it easier to plan meals and snacks.

Low FODMAP grocery list show case from the IBS Dietitian

Download our FREE low FODMAP Grocery List to help you find foods that are safe to eat

What To Expect When Starting A Low FODMAP Diet

Embarking on a low FODMAP diet can bring about several positive changes and experiences:

Improvement in symptoms:

One of the primary motivations for adopting a low FODMAP diet is to alleviate symptoms commonly associated with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). By following the diet’s guidelines and eliminating high-FODMAP foods, many individuals experience a reduction in troublesome symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. This relief can significantly enhance overall comfort and quality of life.

Heightened awareness of the diet-symptom connection:

Adopting a low FODMAP diet necessitates a deeper understanding of the relationship between what you eat and how it affects your body. This increased awareness encourages individuals to pay closer attention to their dietary choices and identify specific triggers that contribute to their symptoms. By making this connection, they become empowered to make more informed decisions about their food intake, leading to greater symptom control and overall well-being.

A family laughs together joyfully in an outdoor setting

Possible improvement in gut health:

While symptom management is the primary goal of the low FODMAP diet, some individuals may experience additional benefits beyond the alleviation of digestive symptoms. The diet’s focus on eliminating certain carbohydrates can lead to a reduction in inflammation and rebalancing of gut bacteria, potentially improving overall gut health. These additional positive effects can provide individuals with further motivation and satisfaction as they progress on their low FODMAP journey.

Overall, starting a low FODMAP diet holds the promise of symptom improvement, heightened awareness of the diet-symptom connection, and the potential for additional benefits beyond symptom management. It offers a pathway for individuals to take control of their digestive health, improve their overall well-being, and develop a better understanding of how their diet impacts their bodies.

How To Start A Low FODMAP Diet For IBS

Here are some suggestions for starting a low FODMAP diet for IBS. 

A view from across the desk of a dietitian who is filling out a chart and holding a grapefruit

Consult a healthcare professional.

Consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian specializing in the low FODMAP diet to guide you through the process.

Keep a food diary.

Begin by keeping a food diary to track your symptoms and identify potential trigger foods.

Gather resources.

Gather resources, such as cookbooks and online guides, to familiarize yourself with low FODMAP recipes and meal planning strategies. (Download my free low FODMAP grocery list here.)

Be strict during the temporary elimination phase.

Follow the elimination phase strictly, avoiding high FODMAP foods for a specific duration. Watch this free IBS webinar to learn more about properly following a low FODMAP diet.

Reintroduce FODMAPs one at a time.

Systematically reintroduce FODMAP groups one at a time during the reintroduction phase, carefully monitoring any symptoms to identify your personal trigger and level of tolerance.

Three various plates of food, each with different elements on them, such as varying vegetables, proteins, and grains

Personalize and expand your diet based on tolerance.

Collaborate with your healthcare professional or dietitian to personalize your diet based on specific triggers and tolerances.

Now that you know your food triggers and level of tolerance, you can safely expand your diet to include more foods that you know you tolerate.

Maintain symptom control.

Regularly reassess and adjust your diet as needed to maintain symptom control and optimize your quality of life.

Challenges Of The Low FODMAP Diet

The low FODMAP diet can present several common challenges for individuals, underscoring the importance of a dietitian-led program for successful implementation.

Complexity of the low FODMAP diet.

The complexity of the diet itself is a primary issue faced by many. To effectively follow the low FODMAP diet, individuals need a comprehensive understanding of FODMAPs, food composition, and the ability to decipher ingredient labels. Without proper guidance, individuals may struggle to navigate the diet correctly, unintentionally consuming high FODMAP foods that hinder symptom improvement. Join our dietitian-led program, IBS Freedom, to get step-by-step guidance through the FODMAP diet.

Inadequate fiber consumption.

Not consuming enough fiber to support proper gut function is one prominent challenge individuals encounter on the low FODMAP diet. Certain high FODMAP foods that are restricted on the diet also happen to be excellent sources of fiber, such as whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables. Consequently, individuals may inadvertently reduce their fiber intake, compromising digestive health.

Incorporating low FODMAP fiber sources, such as gluten-free grains, specific fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries, spinach), and seeds, is essential. A dietitian experienced in the low FODMAP diet can guide individuals in maintaining adequate fiber intake while managing digestive symptoms.

Graphic example of Low FODMAP high-fiber foods

Here are some low FODMAP high fiber foods to make sure to include when following a low FODMAP diet.
  • Oats (gluten-free)
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Corn
  • Gluten-free bread or pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Bell peppers (red, yellow, or green)
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Bok choy
  • Tomatoes (in moderation)
  • Oranges (in moderation)
  • Blueberries (in moderation)
  • Strawberries (in moderation)
  • Grapes (in moderation)
Low FODMAP grocery list show case from the IBS Dietitian, including intro, meal planning templates, grocery lists and nutrition suggestions

Download our low FODMAP Grocery List to go shopping with to help you include more high fiber low FODMAP foods in your diet.

Nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies are another concern arising from the diet’s restrictive nature. The exclusion of high FODMAP fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes may lead to inadequate intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A dietitian can provide personalized guidance to ensure that nutritional needs are met, offering suitable alternatives and portion sizes to maintain a balanced diet.

Unnecessary long-term restriction

The goal of low FODMAP is to find your food triggers and personal tolerance levels, which you can only do by eliminating and then reintroducing FODMAPs.

Without properly reintroducing and pinpointing trigger foods, you may give yourself unnecessary food restrictions. Newer research suggests that prolonged elimination of FODMAPs can decrease your good gut microbes. This may make your symptoms worse, and you may become more sensitive to FODMAPs over time.

A woman takes a bite of food while simultaneously clutching at her stomach

One of our clients, Jennifer, suffered from chronic constipation. She had a lot of bloating, pain, and trapped gas, from significant constipation.

She was recommended by her GI to try the low FODMAP diet. She bought cookbooks, and followed the diet strictly for a whole year because no one told her it was temporary. Because she had severe constipation, and she wasn’t doing the low FODMAP diet properly, she actually didn’t have much relief from the diet and could not reintroduce any FODMAP foods. Every time she tries, her symptoms came right back.

Once we started working together, the first thing we did was to regulate her bowel movements. She quickly started having full evacuations daily. Then we also worked on lifestyle strategies to identify her non-food IBS triggers.

After her bowel movements were regular and her symptoms down to baseline, then we started reintroducing FODMAPs. After all the FODMAP group reintroductions, we realized she only had 1 group of FODMAP intolerance, and that was GOS (beans & legumes). Now she can eat everything else – croissants, pasta, donut, pie, brussel sprouts, garlic/onion, ice cream, – without worrying about how her body will react!

I’m sharing her story to highlight the importance working with a registered dietitian to avoid unnecessary long-term restriction by working through the FOMDAP protocol correctly.

Need for personalization

The low FODMAP diet does not follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Each person may have different trigger foods and tolerances, requiring an individualized approach during the reintroduction phase. A dietitian can guide individuals through this process, helping them identify specific FODMAP triggers and determine their personal tolerance levels. This tailored approach is vital for long-term symptom management.

Across the desk view of a doctor or dietitian filling out a chart, various fruits sit on the desk

In a dietitian-led program, individuals receive ongoing support and accountability. Dietitians address questions, concerns, and difficulties that may arise during the trial period, offering practical strategies, recipe ideas, and personalized meal plans. This comprehensive support system significantly increases the likelihood of successful adherence to the low FODMAP diet and empowers individuals to navigate potential challenges more effectively.

Click here to learn more about IBS Freedom, a dietitian-led holistic program to help you properly adopt a low FODMAP diet to identify IBS triggers, manage flares, and get relief from symptoms like gas, bloating, pain, reflux, and irregular bowel habits once and for all.

Watch our FREE low FODMAP webinar to learn more about how to implement the low FODMAP diet properly.

Conclusion:

The low FODMAP diet is a valuable tool for individuals with digestive disorders such as IBS. By eliminating and reintroducing FODMAPs in a structured manner, individuals can identify their trigger foods and manage their symptoms effectively. 

Summary:

  1. FODMAPs are carbohydrates and sugars found in certain foods that can trigger symptoms in individuals with digestive problems or carbohydrate intolerance.
  2. A low FODMAP diet is an eating plan that aims to reduce or eliminate high FODMAP foods to alleviate symptoms.
  3. The low FODMAP diet differs from a low-carb diet and was developed by researchers at the Monash University.
  4. It consists of three phases: elimination, reintroduction, and personalization.
  5. The elimination phase involves removing high FODMAP foods from the diet, such as onions, garlic, wheat, legumes, and dairy products.
  6. The reintroduction phase helps identify specific FODMAP triggers by systematically testing each FODMAP group.
  7. The personalization phase allows individuals to customize their diet based on their trigger foods and tolerances.
  8. A low FODMAP food chart & grocery list in PDF can assist in meal planning and understanding FODMAP content.
  9. Starting a low FODMAP diet can lead to symptom improvement, heightened awareness of the diet-symptom relationship, and potential benefits beyond symptom management.
  10. Tips for starting a low FODMAP diet include consulting a healthcare professional, keeping a food diary, gathering resources, and following the guidance of a trained professional.
  11. The low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term solution but rather a tool for identifying trigger foods.
  12. The low FODMAP diet poses common challenges that can be effectively addressed through a dietitian-led program. By providing education, personalized guidance, and ongoing support, dietitians help individuals overcome complexities, ensure adequate fiber and nutrient intake, and tailor the diet to individual needs. This collaborative approach enhances the effectiveness and sustainability of the low FODMAP diet for symptom management.

References:

American College of Gastroenterology. (2021). ACG clinical guideline: management of irritable bowel syndrome. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 116(1), 17-44. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001001

Gibson, P. R., Shepherd, S. J., & Muir, J. G. (2019). Personal view: food for thought—western lifestyle and susceptibility to Crohn’s disease. The FODMAP hypothesis. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 49(6), 723-736.

Halmos, E. P., Gibson, P. R., & Muir, J. G. (2018). Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 113(4), 519-528.

Staudacher, H. M., Whelan, K., Irving, P. M., & Lomer, M. C. (2020). Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 33(6), 912-922.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *