Diet 101: The Low FODMAP Diet



Photo by: Jan-Otto ©Jan-Otto

Jan-Otto, Jan-Otto

A few months ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held its annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo, at which it shared the latest nutrition research and hottest new products with thousands of dietitians. One of the most-popular trends to emerge was the focus on gut health and low-FODMAP food products.

What Is a FODMAP?

Coined by researchers at Monash University in Australia, the term FODMAP refers to different types of carbohydrates in foods. With a “short-chain” chemical structure, these carbohydrates are not absorbed in people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

FODMAP is an acronym for:

Fermentable, or carbs that are quickly broken down by bacteria to produce gas

Oligosaccharides. Humans do not have enzymes to break down and absorb these types of carbohydrates, leading to fermentation and gas.

Disaccharides, specifically lactose. Many IBS sufferers cannot digest lactose, which causes gastrointestinal discomfort.

Monosaccharides, or fructose, which is not well-absorbed if there is excess glucose present.


Polyols, or sugar alcohols. These are not completely digested by humans, and they are sometimes marketed as a laxative.

The Low-FODMAP Diet

Because foods that contain FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, eating them can cause distention, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss and anemia in a person with IBS. Some sufferers follow a low-FODMAP diet in an attempt to alleviate these symptoms and identify and eliminate trigger foods.

The plan is extremely strategic and begins with a two-to-six-week elimination phase, in which all high-FODMAP foods are removed from the diet. Following this diet is no small task, because FODMAPs are prevalent in many foods, including:

Fruits: apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, plums, prunes, avocados, watermelon, pears, peaches, mangoes, sugar snap peas, dried fruit, fruit juice, persimmons

Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots

Grains: wheat, rye

Beans and Legumes: peas, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, baked beans

Dairy: ice cream, soft cheeses

Sugar and Sugar Alcohols: agave or honey, high-fructose corn syrup products like ketchup, BBQ sauce and syrup, artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol

During the elimination phase, a registered dietitian provides guidance and encourages the use of a food journal to track food intake and correlating symptoms. Based on these results, the dietitian will create an individualized, well-balanced meal plan that allows the reintroduction of certain foods and the eventual easing of IBS symptoms.


The low-FODMAP diet offers relief from the constant gastrointestinal issues related to IBS. Plus, this diet is not a fad or a trend; it is based in scientific evidence and research. In other words, it has been tested and proven safe and effective. The low-FODMAP diet also offers peace of mind, eases anxiety and expands food choices for IBS sufferers who were once scared to eat many types of foods.


Obviously, the low-FODMAP diet is extremely restrictive, and it’s not easy for people to remember the long list of foods that contain FODMAPs. Also, with the limited nature of the diet comes the risk of compromising overall nutrition.

For example, limiting fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds can also lead to a less-than-ideal intake of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Avoiding dairy reduces calcium and vitamin D intake, which can affect bone health. Without proper guidance from a registered dietitian, the low-FODMAP diet can definitely cause nutritional deficiencies.

Bottom Line

Anyone considering a low-FODMAP diet should consult a medical professional first. If suitable, a low-FODMAP diet can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Related Links:

Superfoods: Antioxidant-Rich Berries Beyond Blueberries

Should You Be Drinking Vinegar?

8 Healthy Food Trends to Watch Out For

Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., is a media dietitian, food and nutrition writer, spokesperson and blogger at Nutrition a la Natalie.

Next Up

Diet 101: Low-FODMAP Diet

Here's what to know about the new diet.

Diet 101: the Sirtfood Diet

Is the Sirtfood Diet the next must-do weight loss plan?

Diet 101: The Mediterranean Diet

Salmon, olive oil, red wine and almonds top the list of preferred foods for this eating plan. They're all healthy picks, but read on to learn if the Mediterranean diet is the right choice for you.

Diet 101: The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (a.k.a. the Hunter-Gatherer or Caveman diet) has been around for 40 years and has recently resurfaced with a vengeance. But should we be reverting back to what caveman ate thousands of years ago? Here’s the need-to-know about the oldest diet around.

Diet 101: The Military Diet

A nutrition expert weighs in on the Military Diet.

Diet 101: The Bulletproof Diet

Are butter and coffee the answer to weight loss? According to Dave Asprey, the creator of the Bulletproof Diet, these two foods along with a laundry list of “bulletproof” foods are how you can shed pounds and reclaim your energy.

Diet 101: The Ketogenic Diet

Should you follow the ketogenic diet?

Diet 101: The Fast Diet

This diet became all the rage after it aired on BBC during the 2012 London Olympics. But is fasting the healthiest way to lose weight, stay healthy and live longer?

Diet 101: The 5-Factor Diet

Celebrities like Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian have been following Harley Pasternak's 5-Factor Diet. Get an RD's take on the details of the plan.

Diet 101: The Biggest Loser Diet

The hit television show helped many contestants lose tons of weight. We’ll tell how to do it at home and how you can get the full experience without going on TV.