I used to suffer from daily bloating and abdominal pain, which was quite severe and debilitating. I’m very slim built, and the bloating was so prominent I often looked like I was heavily pregnant. And there was no ‘sucking it in’ because of the pain.
That was before my nutritionist days, and when someone recommended the Low FODMAPs diet as a miracle cure, I jumped on it. I researched it, made a list of banned foods and started eliminating them.
Because I’m naturally very disciplined, I did not find sticking to the plan too hard. My stomach pain and bloating reduced but did not go away entirely, and I eliminated more and more foods until I ate just low starch vegetables, fish and chicken.
I gave up on some of my favourites, such as avocado, cashews, yoghurt, mango, edamame beans, sauerkraut, mushrooms, garlic and onions. My life was bland as much as my food due to avoiding dinners out and picnics.
When I occasionally accepted a dinner invite, I’d eat at home first and then sit and watch the others eat. I felt constantly cold and weak.
I consulted with a dietician who told me that I stayed on the Low FODMAPs diet way too long and suffered self-inflicted nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.
What are FODMAPs and Low FODMAPs diets?
FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, And Polyols, short-chain carbohydrates poorly absorbed in the small intestine. FODMAPs can be found in a range of common foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, honey, milk and dairy products, and sweeteners. Although many of these are healthy foods, they can become triggers of abdominal pain and other nasty symptoms if you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut issues. (1, 2, 5)
FODMAPs increase small bowel water content and cause excessive short-chain fatty acids and gas production, which can provoke abdominal pain, bloating flatulence, and alterations in bowel habits.
The low-FODMAPs diet is used as a treatment and diagnostic tool in IBS patients to reduce symptoms and test the tolerance to certain foods. It’s a short-term solution and should not be followed for months on end.
The typical procedure is to identify symptom-triggering foods, eliminate or restrict them for four to eight weeks and then reintroduce them gradually. (2) The Low FODMAPs diet efficiently reduces the IBS symptoms, thus providing relief to the sufferers but does not treat the condition. It is recommended to follow a gut healing protocol while on the diet and supplement with prebiotics and probiotics to avoid unfavourable changes to the gut microbiota (5). Most science-based gut healing protocols also recommend daily intake of collagen to help improve gut lining.
What are the risks of a Low FODMAPs diet?
A Low FODMAPs diet is very restrictive, and if implemented incorrectly or long-term, it can result in nutrient deficiencies, gut dysbiosis, and constipation leading to more severe health issues. (1) This eliminates or restricts foods high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. (2) According to scientific research, adhering to this diet short-term should not cause any severe deficiencies. Retesting is recommended after two to six weeks to find out which foods can be reintroduced. Restricting a wide range of whole foods for over eight weeks is not advised, especially if you are experimenting yourself. (5)
Foods and habits to avoid before resorting to a Low FODMAPs diet
If you suffer from recurrent abdominal pain, bloating and gas but haven’t been diagnosed with IBS, try to avoid these stomach-upsetting foods and habits before you start restricting whole foods:
- Chewing too much gum
- Drinking through a straw
- Fizzy drinks (especially around mealtime)
- Eating too fast and not chewing properly
- Eating too large meals
- Consuming artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols daily
- Snacking on highly processed protein bars (they often contain sugar alcohols, cheap protein powders, fillers and emulsifiers)
Top foods to eliminate on Low FODMAPs diet
- Legumes and pulses
- Certain fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, figs, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and watermelon)
- Wheat containing foods (especially bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and pastries)
For a complete list of foods to eat and foods to avoid, go to https://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/
Please note: if you are trying a Low FODMAPs diet, our collagen bars contain cashews (which are not considered Low FODMAP) and our beef bars contain onion and garlic powder. Our biltong is your best bet as it's onion and garlic free.
Knowledge is power! Even if you see a dietitian or nutritionist, we suggest you do your research and learning. Monash University has excellent user-friendly resources on its website https://www.monashfodmap.com
But just be aware that Low FODMAP is a short-term solution and NOT designed to be followed for months at a time.
1. Altobelli, E., Del Negro, V., Angeletti, P. M., & Latella, G. (2017). Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 9(9), 940. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9090940 2. Bellini, M., Tonarelli, S., Nagy, A. G., Pancetti, A., Costa, F., Ricchiuti, A., de Bortoli, N., Mosca, M., Marchi, S., & Rossi, A. (2020). Low FODMAP Diet: Evidence, Doubts, and Hopes. Nutrients, 12(1), 148. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010148 3. IBS Diets: FODMAP Dieting Guide: FODMAP food list (2021) 4. https://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/ 5. Monash University: The Low Fodmap Diet (2021) https://www.monashfodmap.com/ 6. Syed, K., & Iswara, K. (2021). Low-FODMAP Diet. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.