Curious about the low FODMAP diet and what it means for you? Keep reading to learn more from the digestive health experts here at Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness!
If you’re here, you’ve likely heard of the low FODMAP diet. Best known for improving digestive symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the low FODMAP diet has received quite a bit of buzz in the health and nutrition world. But, with all that buzz inevitably comes some confusion and, unfortunately, misinformation. At Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness, we’re digestive health experts and we specialize in the low FODMAP diet - and today, we’re setting the record straight by dispelling its most common myths!
Myth #1: All high FODMAP foods should be eliminated long-term
One of the biggest misconceptions around the low FODMAP diet is that its elimination phase is intended to be followed long-term. In actuality, the elimination phase is only the first phase of the three-phase low FODMAP diet and is intended to be followed for just 2-6 weeks. In this phase, high FODMAP foods are eliminated from the diet. While many individuals with IBS feel relief from their GI symptoms during the elimination phase, avoiding all high FODMAP foods in the long-term is not only unnecessarily restrictive, but may also lead to microbiome changes. Ideally, we want to feed our microbiome with the most diverse diet that we can tolerate! The low FODMAP diet provides a framework to identify dietary triggers so that we can enjoy the most liberalized diet while still managing symptoms.
After the elimination phase is completed, the reintroduction phase (also known as the challenge phase) should be initiated if you find significant symptom relief – this indicates that you are likely sensitive to FODMAPs (although you likely will not be sensitive to every FODMAP category). The reintroduction phase typically lasts around 8 weeks, although it can vary depending on the individual, and involves re-introducing high FODMAP foods back into the diet in a methodical way that determines which foods and/or FODMAPs trigger your IBS symptoms.
The final phase of the diet, referred to as the personalization or maintenance phase, establishes your longer term, personalized FODMAP eating plan. This involves only limiting the foods and/or FODMAP groups that the reintroduction phase proved to be your personal IBS triggers, and bringing all tolerated high FODMAP foods back in. The goal is to leave you with feeling in control of your IBS while liberalizing your diet as much as possible. Also, we like to remind people that you have full autonomy over your food choices! Once you identify your dietary triggers, it is your choice whether or not you would like to include these foods or not – and your choice will likely change depending on the situation! This is different than eliminating a food due to a life-threatening allergy – the low FODMAP diet provides you with the knowledge of your dietary triggers and you can use this in order to manage your symptoms and improve the quality of your life – but you call the shots!
Myth #2: Low-to-moderate FODMAP foods can be eaten in unlimited quantities
Before you embark on your low FODMAP journey, it may be tempting to stock your fridge with endless amounts of low-to-moderate FODMAP foods that are “allowed” during the elimination phase. But before you do, it’s important to know that many of these foods can quickly become high in FODMAPs if more than the recommended amount is consumed in one sitting – or in a short time period (often referred to as FODMAP stacking). Foods like pineapple, blueberries, honeydew, and red cabbage all fall into this category. This is one of the nuances of the low FODMAP diet that makes working with a GI specialized registered dietitian so important!
The list below provides examples of low-moderate FODMAP foods and their recommended quantities:
· Blueberries – limit to ¼ cup
· Cantaloupe – limit to ¾ cup
· Honeydew – limit to ½ cup
· Strawberries – limit to 5 medium sized berries
· Broccoli florets– limit to 1 cup
· Red cabbage – limit to ¾ cup
· Almonds – limit to 10 nuts
· Edamame – limit to ½ cup
· Bok choy – limit to 1 cup
Myth #3: The low FODMAP diet is low in fiber
As many high FODMAP foods are also high in fiber (such as wheat, apples and many varieties of beans), a common misconception is that the low FODMAP diet is also a low in this essential nutrient. However, with the right strategy, a low FODMAP diet can still provide adequate fiber to meet your dietary needs. The key is to incorporate low FODMAP foods that are also good sources of fiber into each of your meals and distribute these fiber sources throughout the day.
The list below provides some examples of low FODMAP foods that are also rich in fiber:
· 2 tablespoons of chia seeds – 10g fiber
· ½ cup edamame – 9g fiber
· ½ cup canned lentils – 8g fiber
· 1 cup oats – 8g fiber
· 1 cup cooked quinoa – 5g fiber
· 2 peeled green kiwi – 4g fiber
· 1 medium potato with skin – 4g fiber
Myth #4: The low FODMAP diet should be a first-line approach to management for all individuals with IBS
Yes, the low FODMAP diet has shown to be helpful for many individuals with IBS. However, there are many individuals who are not appropriate candidate to follow the low FODMAP diet. In some cases, the best first-line approach to management is developing personal strategies for stress reduction as stress and anxiety can aggravate IBS symptoms – after all, IBS is classified as a disorder of the gut-brain interaction. In other cases, improving meal hygiene by carving out time for meals, ditching distractions while eating, chewing food more thoroughly, and/or bringing in breath work is the best initial plan of action. Additionally, one of the simplest first steps to managing IBS can be modifying the texture of certain foods to make them more easily digestible—i.e., blending fruits into smoothies, cooking vegetables to a fork-tender consistency, or bringing in more soups and stews or adjusting simple daily habits related to meals, hydration, toileting and movement. Working with a GI specialized registered dietitian can ensure that you are being screened for appropriateness and provided with IBS management strategies that are best for your individual situation.
Myth #5: Being on a low FODMAP diet automatically means months of boring meals
While you may not be able to enjoy all your favorite foods on a low FODMAP diet, that certainly doesn’t mean your meals need to be bland or flavorless. One of our favorite ways to add flavor to meals is by using an onion- or garlic-infused olive oil. The FODMAPs in onion and garlic are water-soluble, not fat-soluble, which prevents them from seeping into the oil and therefore triggering IBS symptoms. Check out our blog post here all about simple swaps while following the low FODMAP diet! There are also many low FODMAP cookbooks, meal delivery services and specialized food brands that make the diet much easier, tastier, and more enjoyable! At Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness, we aim to take the stress out of the low FODMAP diet and provide you with grocery shopping guides, meal planning guides, product recommendations and personalized meal/snack ideas and recipes based on your food preferences, so you can enjoy the process while feeling your best!
This blog post was written with the help of Lauren Pappalardo, a dietetic intern completing her MS/DI at Pace University.