Top Ten Questions You Should Know About a Low FODMAP Diet
Curious about the low FODMAP diet and its benefits for IBS? Dive into our comprehensive guide as we sit down with our in-house expert, Marcie Vaske (MS, LN, CNS). We've answered the essential questions you should be asking a dietitian or nutritionist about IBS and the low FODMAP approach.
1) What exactly are FODMAPs, and why might some people be sensitive to them?
FODMAPs are a group of sugars that are not completely digested or absorbed in our intestines. People with IBS/IBD have a highly sensitive gut. 'Stretching' the intestinal wall causes exaggerated sensations of pain and discomfort. This occurs because as food moves through the intestinal tract, it attracts water. Once in the large intestine, the FODMAPs are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas. The extra gas and water cause the intestinal wall to stretch and expand.
2) How does a low FODMAP diet benefit individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive disorders?
Research from Monash University showed that IBS symptoms improve in 3 out of 4 people who follow a low FODMAP diet. Other research groups worldwide have reported similar results. The low FODMAP diet eliminates the short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that ferment in the intestinal tract, thereby reducing symptoms such as gas, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, and constipation/diarrhea.
3) Are there any studies or research that support the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet in managing digestive symptoms?
- Efficacy of a low-FODMAP diet in adult IBS
- Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating IBS
- Low FODMAP diet reduces GI symptoms in IBSHow long does it typically take for someone to notice improvements in their symptoms after starting a low FODMAP diet? Most individuals may feel benefits within 2-6 weeks of following a low FODMAP diet. However, research shows that 1 out of 4 people with IBS will not experience improved symptoms.
4) How long does it typically take for someone to notice improvements in their symptoms after starting a low FODMAP diet?
Most individuals may feel benefits within 2-6 weeks of following a low FODMAP diet. However, research shows that 1 out of 4 people with IBS will not experience improved symptoms.
5) Are there any potential risks or downsides to following a low FODMAP diet long-term?
The main reason the low-FODMAP diet isn't recommended for the long term is its restrictiveness. There are concerns about individuals meeting all their nutritional requirements due to this restrictive nature. A strict low FODMAP diet also tends to be low in prebiotic fiber intake. This is concerning long-term, as the healthy bacteria in our large intestine rely on prebiotic fiber as a food source.
6) How does the reintroduction phase work, and why is it important in a low FODMAP diet?
Low FODMAP Reintroduction:
- Wait until symptoms are reduced or eliminated before beginning reintroduction.
- Remain on the low FODMAP diet while completing each food challenge.
- Challenge each FODMAP separately.
- Complete each challenge over a 3-day period.
- Break each reintroduction up in the following way:
- Day 1: Include the challenge food in a moderate (amber) serving.
- Day 2: Include the challenge food in a high (red) serving.
- Day 3: Include the challenge food in an even higher red serve or your usual serving.
- Record challenge foods eaten and symptom responses.
- Take a 2-3 day break between challenges, or until symptoms settle.
- The entire reintroduction process takes around 6-8 weeks to complete.
7) Can a low FODMAP diet provide all the essential nutrients, or are there any supplements you recommend while on this diet?
The low FODMAP diet is very low in fiber, which is an essential part of a healthy diet.
8) How can someone ensure they're getting a balanced diet while avoiding high FODMAP foods?
To ensure a balanced diet, it's recommended to work with a dietitian or nutritionist. If this isn't an option, it's important for each meal to consist of high-quality protein, a variety of "safe" vegetables, and plenty of healthy fats.
9) Are there any particular foods or ingredients that are commonly mistaken as low FODMAP but should be avoided?
Due to the extensive lab work by Monash University identifying low FODMAP foods, there's a low chance of mistakenly consuming non-low FODMAP foods. The key is understanding that portion size and preparation are crucial to success. For example, consider the differences between canned beans and cooked beans, whole soybeans and soy protein, and onions versus leeks/green onions.
10) How do you recommend someone start a low FODMAP diet, and are there any resources or tools you suggest for tracking and managing food intake?
Working with a skilled dietitian or nutritionist knowledgeable about the low FODMAP diet and gut health will ensure the best success. If someone wants to begin on their own, using the advice and app from Monash University is recommended.