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Low Fodmaps Diet 101

Yet another diet?! Well, this one is meant to be used in a therapeutic manner to decrease the symptoms of digestive issues, rather than how you might think of a typical “diet” where weight loss or body composition changes are the desired outcome.

 Let’s take a closer look at why someone might consider following a Low FODMAP Diet, the potential benefits that have been studied, and what foods are allowed.

What are FODMAPs?

There are some common short-chain carbohydrate-containing foods that cause the bowel (intestines) to expand due to the fact these particular foods attract fluid and produce gas when they come in contact with bacteria in the gut.

 These fermentable, poorly absorbed carbohydrates (sugars) are ones that your body can’t digest and end up as a nice meal for bacteria!

 These sugars are known as “FODMAPs” — a term created by researchers at Australia’s Monash University after the discovery that certain short-chain carbohydrates can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. [1] 

  • Fermentable = gut bacteria break down undigested carbohydrates and produce gases (hydrogen, methane & carbon dioxide) 
  • Oligosaccharides = two main types: 1) fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS or fructans) in foods like wheat, rye, onions, garlic, stone fruit, and watermelon; 2) galacto- oligosaccharides (GOS) found in beans and other legumes. 
  • Disaccharides = the only disaccharide that is officially classified as a FODMAP is lactose, which contains two sugars that must be separated by the enzyme lactase. If you don’t have enough lactase, you can’t absorb lactose properly – which is found in most dairy products like milk, yogurt & soft cheeses. 
  • Monosaccharides = fructose is a monosaccharide, and it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people don’t absorb excess fructose well enough. Examples are: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, agave nectar and apples. 
  • And Polyols = polyols are sugar alcohols that are found naturally in some fruit and vegetables as well as used as artificial sweeteners. These sugar alcohols (e.g. mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, xylitol) aren’t completely absorbed by the small intestine – why they often cause gastrointestinal symptoms.

What are the reasons why a FODMAP Diet would be recommended for some people?

The therapeutic use of a low FODMAP diet has been researched primarily in those suffering with IBS – irritable bowel syndrome. [2][3] 

With respect to this, research on the low FODMAP diet indicates that it could be helpful for up to 75% of IBS sufferers [4]. That’s a serious game-changer as it would allow someone to gain control over their symptoms, and get back to enjoying the things they used to! 

You may want to consider following a Low FODMAP Diet, under the supervision of a knowledgeable health & nutrition professional, if you’re suffering with symptoms of IBS, such as: 

  • Abdominal pain & cramps
  • Gas & flatulence
  • Bloating, especially in the upper abdomen
  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation (and changes in bowel movements)
  • Food intolerances

Besides in the case of IBS, a low-FODMAP diet can also be helpful in a variety of gut conditions including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). [4]

What can I eat on a Low FODMAP Diet?

If you’ve ever checked out a list of “high FODMAP foods to avoid”, you’ll know that it’s a lengthy one filled with otherwise healthful foods!

Rather than focusing on that list, here are some Low FODMAP foods you can enjoy:

→ GRAINS & STARCHES: Gluten-free whole grains like teff, quinoa, rice, gluten-free oats, potatoes & sweet potatoes. 

→ FRUIT: Bananas, grapes, berries, and citrus fruit. 

→ VEGETABLES: Leafy greens, peppers, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, green beans, tomato, zucchini, squash and herbs. 

→ HERBS & SPICES: as chili powder, curry powder, fenugreek, ginger, lemongrass, mustard seeds, pepper, turmeric, saffron, chives & spring onions (green parts only). 

→ DAIRY PRODUCTS: Aged cheese or hard cheese (e.g. brie, cheddar, parmesan), and organic lactose-free milk yogurt (in small amounts). 

→ SEEDS & NUTS: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, walnuts 

→ ALTERNATIVE/NUT MILKS – almond, hemp, quinoa, rice — and coconut milk in amounts smaller than ⅓ cup. 

** Be aware that many milk alternatives have high FODMAP ingredients added like inulin, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, or honey. Read the label! 

→ SWEETENERS: maple syrup and coconut palm sugar 

How to stick it out on a Low FODMAP Diet – because it’s kinda hard!

Ok, I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “no way, it’s going to be too hard to stick to such a restrictive diet plan!” 

However, if you experience frequent digestive problems that you feel lowers your quality of life, then perhaps FODMAPs should be at the top of your suspect list. 

And although a Low FODMAP Diet may not eliminate all of your digestive woes, there’s a good chance that it may offer some improvements in your symptoms. But that means that you actually have to follow it and give it the ‘ol college try – which may be easier said than done. 

For example, vegetarians & vegans may find it more difficult to follow this type of protocol due to the restrictions in beans and legumes – excellent sources of plant protein. 

Here are some quick tips for how to stick with it: 

  1. Find some great Low FODMAP recipes – check out the one we’ve included.
  2. Meal planning, shopping & prepping ahead of time – this one can be critical!
  3. Seek support and get help from a qualified health pro who’s in the know.

Good news… we’re serving up a very easy and decidedly yummy recipe that is not only low FODMAP, but it’s gluten- and dairy-free! Definitely worth a try even if you’re not following a fodmap-friendly food plan 😉 

RECIPE 

Low Fodmap / High Protein Salmon Patties

Ingredients 

5 oz salmon (canned or finely diced cooked salmon, skin off)

1/3 cup sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin (cooked & pureed or mashed)

3-4 tbsp quinoa, buckwheat or millet flour (see notes in preparation)

1/4 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 rosemary sprig and/or 1 tsp dried dill

2 whole eggs, beaten

1 tbsp avocado oil, butter or ghee (for the skillet) 

Preparation 

Mash up the salmon – and if you’re using fresh rather than canned, remove the skin. 

Place your salmon in a bowl and then add in your mashed or pureed veggies. You can used canned pumpkin or sweet potato for extra fast prep. Mix well. 

Add in low FODMAP flour of choice 1 tablespoon at a time. You will need only 3-4 tbsp depending on the type of salmon you use. Then mix in herbs and seasonings. Mix well together. 

Add in the eggs, and mix well by hand until it’s thick enough to be able to form small patties. If it’s too mushy, add 1 more Tb flour. 

Form into 5 equal balls. 

Place on parchment paper, and press into 1-inch thick patties/cakes. 

Grease skillet with oil, butter or ghee and heat over medium-high heat.

Once heated, add patties and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until the salmon is cooked thoroughly (if using fresh ground fish). *If using canned salmon, only 2-3 per side is needed.

If desired, serve with your choice of low FODMAP condiment, but they really are delicious as is!

REFERENCES 

[1] Monash University: Discovering the Low Fodmap Diet 

[2] Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology Journal (July 2012): Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) and nonallergic food intolerance: FODMAPs or food chemicals? 

[3] Healthline: Fodmap 101 – A Detailed Beginner’s Guide  

[4] MindBodyGreen: Thinking About a Low Fodmap Diet? Here’s Everything You Need To Know