Why Eat a Low FODMAP Diet?

This diet can help you manage your IBS symptoms better.

Designed for IBS Patients

The low FODMAP diet was developed by a team of researchers from the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. They wanted to find out if this diet can help individuals diagnosed with IBS to experience symptomatic relief from their condition. In the course of their research, the team also developed the very process of how this diet should be followed.

Introducing IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, lifelong gut health condition that affects your large intestine (also referred to as your colon). It is estimated that one out of five Australians will develop IBS or experience its symptoms at one point in their lives. The symptoms of IBS include:

If not managed well, these symptoms of IBS will negatively affect your quality of life. The good news is, despite the fact that it is incurable, IBS does not cause severe damage to your colon or other internal organs. There is also no link between IBS and more serious or life-threatening diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and colon cancer.

Introducing FODMAPs

FODMAPS is a catchy acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. Examples of these short-chain carbohydrates are:

  • Fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) for oligosaccharides
  • Lactose for disaccharides
  • Fructose for monosaccharides
  • Sorbitol and mannitol for polyols

Researchers found that short-chain carbohydrates – particularly those with chains up to ten sugars – have different digestibility and absorption rates. FODMAPs that your small intestine finds difficult to absorb increase the fluid and gas in your intestines, which can exacerbate your IBS symptoms.

Not a Universal Solution

There is a growing number of studies that point to the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet in improving IBS symptoms. However, it has been found that not all IBS patients will benefit from trying this diet. While around 75% of IBS patients will experience symptomatic relief, one-quarter won’t. The 25% of IBS patients whose IBS symptoms do not improve need to look for other ways to manage their condition.

How a Low FODMAP Diet Works

The low FODMAP diet is divided into three phases.

The first phase, which Monash researchers recommend should last between two to six weeks, involves the temporary removal of high-FODMAP foods from your diet and replacing them with low-FODMAP foods instead. Observe if your IBS symptoms improve once you have removed the high-FODMAP foods from your diet. Once your IBS symptoms have reduced in terms of their frequency or severity, then you can move on to the second phase.

The second phase involves a systematic, one-by-one reintroduction of high-FODMAP foods back into your diet. Lasting for eight to 12 weeks, this phase requires patience and discipline if you want to get accurate results. You need to reintroduce one FODMAP group (choose from oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides or polyols) at a time, one type of food at a time, for three days, before reintroducing a new FODMAP or type of food. Similar to the first phase, you also need to observe and take note which FODMAP group and type of food you are reintroducing and how your body reacts to it. This will help you to identify the particular FODMAPs and food types that you can tolerate, and those you cannot. After you have finished reintroducing all the FODMAP groups and types of food and observing how your body reacts to them, you can move on to the third phase.

The last phase is the personalisation of your FODMAP diet. Work with your dietitian or nutritionist and refer to your observations during the second phase to come up with a unique and personalised dietary plan. Formulating your dietary plan is just one step, however; following it in the long-term is the more important step.

Low FODMAP Foods

These low FODMAP foods can help improve your IBS symptoms. During the first phase of your low-FODMAP diet, your dietitian or nutritionist may recommend you to increase your consumption of the following foods in exchange for the high-FODMAP foods:

  • Berry fruits such as blueberries and strawberries
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemon and lime
  • Melons such as cantaloupes and honeydew
  • Non-citrus fruits such as bananas and kiwi
  • Lactose-free milk such as almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk
  • Hard cheese such as brie and feta
  • Healthy nuts and seeds such as walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and almonds, but limit your consumption to a maximum of 15 pieces at a time.
  • Grains such as corn, quinoa, gluten-free pasta, oats, oat bran and rice bran
  • Protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, eggs, fish, pork and tofu
  • Vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, olives, lettuce, carrots and bean sprouts

One Diet, Two Goals

Ultimately, the low FODMAP diet is a learning diet. If you follow the process developed by the Monash researchers, you stand a higher chance of successfully achieving its two goals. The first goal is to discover which FODMAPs and food types are triggering your IBS symptoms. The second goal is to find out if you are part of the 75% of individuals with IBS who will benefit from this diet, or the 25% who need to look for other symptom management options.

We advise that you work closely with a FODMAP-trained dietitian or nutritionist from the start until the end of your low FODMAP diet. Aside from ensuring your nutritional requirements are met throughout the whole process, they will also provide you with the support to adjust and commit to your new diet in the long run.

Need Our Help?

Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, discover how our FODMAP dietitians can help you improve your quality of life.