Last Update: May 15, 2023
For Dr. Amy Myers, food is medicine. As a medical doctor and a functional medicine physician, Dr. Myers has seen firsthand how nutritious foods like grass-fed meats and organic fruits and vegetables can support gut health. And because 80 percent of your immune system and 95 percent of your serotonin—the happy hormone—live in your gut, it’s the key to optimal health and wellbeing.
We polled our Thrive Market members and followers to see what questions they have about the Low FODMAP diet. Dr. Myers is answering them in today’s feature.
I’m always so happy when I find that people are educating themselves and taking back control of their health. I’m glad I can help by addressing the questions you sent in over the last few weeks about the low-FODMAP diet and how it can help with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
You may not know that IBS affects an estimated 25 to 40 million people in the U.S. alone. Women make up roughly two-thirds of all IBS patients. IBS accounts for up to 12 percent of primary care visits — that’s up to 3.5 million visits every year! Yet, because IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, there is a 50 percent chance that you actually have a gut infection called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). That’s a condition in which your gut flora becomes unbalanced. Bacteria in the large intestine overgrow into your small intestine where they don’t belong. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including diets high in sugar, alcohol, and carbs that feed the bacteria; hypothyroidism which slows your metabolism; low stomach acid; and certain medications, among other issues. Please take this free quiz I developed after working with thousands of patients to find out right now if SIBO might be the root cause of your health challenges.
A low-FODMAP diet temporarily restricts five categories of food that can irritate your digestive system. Each of the categories is a different type of short-chain carbohydrate. What these foods have in common is that they all pass undigested into your lower intestine where they can ferment, producing gasses including hydrogen and methane.
They can also draw additional water into the bowel. While avoiding FODMAPs may not treat the underlying cause, it has been very effective in eliminating painful and distressing symptoms.
The diet was specifically developed to lessen the pain of IBS symptoms. These include abdominal cramping or pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both. As I found in my clinic, if you have an underlying condition such as SIBO, you may need to take additional steps to get to the root of the problem. In the meantime, this diet may make you feel a whole lot better.
FODMAP is an acronym for the five groups to avoid. Each is a different short-chain carb. Those names are tough to remember (and pretty hard to say!) so the researchers who identified the food groups made an acronym for them. Here’s what each means:
Fermentable: The process in which gut bacteria ferment undigested carbs, producing gases.
Oligosaccharides: Sugars including fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in wheat, barley, onions, garlic, and legumes.
Disaccharides: Lactose, found in dairy products such as milk, soft cheeses, and yogurt.
Monosaccharides: Fructose, a simple sugar found in honey, apples, high-fructose corn syrup, and agave.
Polyols: Includes sorbitol and mannitol, which are found in some fruit and vegetables and are used in artificial sweeteners.
This diet has many benefits for those dealing with painful symptoms. The five main ones are:
This can be a little confusing, so let me explain. Anything that is a short-chain carb is a high-FODMAP food and everything else is a low FODMAP. So all foods that are not short-chain carbohydrates work on this plan.
That means proteins including meat, fish, and poultry. Most nuts and seeds are also permitted, as are many fats. Some fruits like blueberries are low FODMAPs. Many vegetables such as carrots, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, and tomatoes are low FODMAPS as well. Finally, some grains and pseudograins such as oats, quinoa, and rice are also low FODMAP. You can find a complete list on the low-FODMAP app, created at Monash University.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS, or have symptoms of abdominal cramping or pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both, and have ruled out SIBO, then a low-FODMAP diet may be just what you need. Check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new dietary regimen. Working with a nutritionist may be especially helpful if you are a vegetarian, have food intolerances, or dietary restrictions due to another condition such as diabetes.
I don’t like to lay down rules, so let’s call these steps. They’re pretty straightforward and easy to follow.
Here are a few tips that I’ve found really helpful in successfully following the diet.
One of the best parts about the low-FODMAP diet is that you’ll feel the effects pretty quickly if it’s working for you. Many people feel their symptoms ease right away after starting a low-FODMAP diet.
The elimination part of the diet should not take more than two to three weeks. It is not a long-term eating plan because it is too restrictive in terms of nutritional intake. The reintroduction phase depends on how many foods you are reintroducing and how well you tolerate each one. The ultimate solution, of course, is to get to the root cause of your symptoms.
You can find many products at Thrive Market for a low-FODMAP diet. One of the best parts about this eating plan is that it’s rich in all types of protein, including the fish, poultry, beef, and pork that Thrive is known for. Healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado oil are also important on this diet. You can find great options at Thrive for all steps of the low-FODMAP diet.
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