Get Your FODMAP Elimination Diet off to a Great Start!

If you have IBS, that sound you hear may be the growing buzz about the latest diet for IBS: FODMAPs. If you’re not familiar with FODMAPs, you might like to read last month’s article for more information about what they are and how they affect people with IBS.

A trial FODMAP elimination diet may be recommended by your doctor or dietitian. An elimination diet is a “learning diet” with a strategy and a plan; close monitoring of your symptoms will help you learn how the food you eat affects you. At the beginning, you may limit all of the FODMAPs in your diet. Soon, it will be time to reintroduce FODMAPs one type at a time. You may find that only one or two FODMAPs are responsible for most of your symptoms.

There are a few things you can do to get low-FODMAP diet trial off to a good start:

  • Consult your doctor to rule out other causes of your symptoms; celiac disease in particular should be ruled out before trying this wheat-free diet, since going wheat-free will interfere with the accuracy of future celiac testing.
  • Choose a trial period when you have a little extra time for label reading and home food preparation.
  • Eat mostly whole foods, simply prepared, during the low-FODMAP trial. No labels, no label reading—easy!
  • If eating out, choose simply prepared foods with easily recognizable ingredients, such as grilled steak or fish, a baked potato and a green salad (hold the onions) with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Get some guidance from a registered dietitian, especially if you have other health conditions that affect your diet. Word is now getting out in the health care community about FODMAPs, but some doctors and dietitians may not yet be “in the know”. Mention your interest in FODMAPs as you schedule your appointment, so that your dietitian can be well-prepared for your visit. I’ve compiled a list of dietitians who are knowledgeable about FODMAPs on www.ibsfree.net, and the list is growing weekly!

In the end, most people find they can still have their favorite high-FODMAP foods in moderation. For example, if you discover high-FODMAP grains like wheat are a problem area but pizza is your favorite food, your new knowledge can help you to decide how to handle it: choose pizza with a thinner crust; have fewer pieces; use a wheat-free crust; eat less other FODMAPs at that meal, eat it less often, or go for the gusto and endure the resulting belly-ache. The ultimate goal is for you to eat the most varied diet you can tolerate, not to restrict your diet with one-size-fits-all rules. Don’t just learn to live with your IBS symptoms. Instead, learn about FODMAPs! Try an elimination diet, and find out if a low FODMAP diet is right for you! Here are some highlights of the low FODMAP diet:

Common high FODMAP foods or ingredients Low FODMAP alternatives
Soy milk; cow’s or goat’s milk, yogurt, ice cream Lactose-free cow’s milk, yogurt, ice cream; rice, coconut or almond milk
Beverages, syrups or condiments sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave Beverages, syrups or condiments sweetened with granulated sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, 100% pure maple syrup
Dried fruit, fruit juice, trail mix, fruit bars Fresh or frozen fruit
Apples, pears, stone fruits (cherries, peaches, plums/prunes, apricots, avocados, mango), watermelon, blackberries Small portions (1/2 cup) of strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, kiwi, ripe bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit
Garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, sweet corn Garlic-infused oil, chives, spinach, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, white potatoes, small portions (1/2 cup) of green beans, peas, sweet potato
Wheat, barley or rye; breads, cereals, pastas or baked goods made of wheat, barley or rye; high-fiber bars or cereals Oats, rice, cornmeal or quinoa; breads, cereals, pastas or baked goods made of oats, rice, cornmeal or quinoa
Sugar-free candy sweetened with sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol Small portions (1-2 ounces) of sugar-sweetened candy
Beans, baked or refried beans, hummus Firm tofu
Pistachios, cashews Small portions (1 handful) of other nuts, nut butters or seeds

© 2012 Patsy Catsos, adapted from IBS—Free at Last! Second Edition, Change Your Carbs, Change Your Life, www.ibsfree.net

By Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, LD

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