Low FODMAP plan for Digestive Health:
Digestive disorders can be extremely embarrassing and debilitating. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, small bacterial overgrowth and colitis are extremely common and can be hard to get under control. Many of these individuals struggle even with the healthiest of diets. FODMAP is a program that works quite well for individuals struggling with digestive issues (1).
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo, Di- and Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are all types of sugar based carbohydrates that are found in certain foods and are challenging on the bowel. These sugars include glucose, fructose, galactans, polyols and lactose among others.
The Symptoms of FODMAP Problems:
Individuals who struggle to digest these carbohydrates typically experience symptoms that include abdominal discomfort, bloating, cramping, nausea and/or pain after eating foods with these FODMAPS (2). These sugars are osmotic and pull water into the intestinal tract which accounts for the diarrhea. Most symptoms appear within 30 minutes to two hours after eating.
These individuals have a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in which their digestive system is loaded with pathogenic microbes (3). The FODMAP’s are a fuel source for these microbes who release toxic byproducts as they metabolize the sugars. The toxicity that the microbes release causes the digestive discomfort and overtime leads to many different health challenges.
The FODMAP Diet Restrictions:
The typical restrictions on a FODMAP diet include generally inflammatory foods such as gluten, unfermented soy, peanuts and often nightshade vegetables (4). The diet also removes foods high in fructose such as lots of fruit (often lemon/lime and small amounts of berries are tolerated), honey and agave nectar.
These individuals can only consume fermented dairy in the form of hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, blue cheese and feta. They do not do well with yogurts and kefir. They can very well tolerate pasture-fed butter and ghee. All the dairy should all be from grass-fed cows or goats. Some individuals have a dairy intolerance typically related to the protein casein, so I recommend avoiding all the cheeses for at least the first 30 days and then you can begin to add back small amounts and see how you tolerate them.
Fructans are also known by the prebiotic inulin. This is a non-digestible fiber that is healthy for those with normal bowel flora (5). Fructans are found in wheat, onions, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, sugar snap peas, cabbage, shallot, leeks, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin & green peppers are often not tolerated well.
Galactans are the primary carbohydrate found in beans, lentils and legumes. These are not tolerated well by individuals with digestive problems. Polyols include sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and erythritol. Other foods that have polyols include pitted fruits like avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums.
The Typical FODMAP Nutrition Plan:
The typical nutrition plan for someone struggling with digesting FODMAPs is somewhat restricted but not hard to figure out. Breakfast can include a protein shake with coconut milk, berries and collagen protein powder. One could also do pastured eggs cooked in coconut oil with kale or spinach, herbs, fresh squeezed lemon and herbs.
For lunch these individuals could do a big salad with olive oil and pasture-raised chicken or turkey. For dinner they could do a small salad with cucumbers and grass-fed beef or wild-Alaskan salmon or another quality animal protein with olive oil, fresh lemon and herbs. They could also do soups and stews with chicken, zucchini, carrots or squash and herbs.
More Digestive Health Strategies:
It is always a good idea for individuals with digestive issues to use organic bone broth and make soups and stews. The bone broth provides raw materials that help to repair the intestinal lining and does not contain any of the FODMAP sugars. Organ meats are also highly advisable because of their rich nutrient content.
Many individuals with digestive disorders find great success using intermittent fasting strategies such as eating one or two meals per day and doing lots of hydration during the non-eating periods. They also remark about the great relief they get from the nagging symptoms when they follow these nutrition principles.
Life After FODMAPs:
This nutrition plan does not have to be lifelong but should go on for at least 2 weeks and up to 3-6 months or so until the digestive system heals and repairs. The use of certain gut enhancing supplements that help to destroy pathogenic microbes and repair the gut lining will speed up the process.
Once you have done your time you can begin to add back one FODMAP category at a time to see what kind of issues you experience. It may only be a problem with one of the categories such as the galactans.
Many individuals with digestive problems at some point in their life notice they always function better by minimizing their exposure to FODMAPs. Many others find that the main culpurate is lactose or fructose. By staying on a low lactose or fructose diet they are able to keep their digestive system under control.
Sources For This Article Include:
- Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Feb;25(2):252-8. PMID: 20136989
- Carbohydrate Intolerance Link Here
- Medline Plus Small bowel bacterial overgrowth Link Here
- IBS Diets – FODMAP Food List Link Here
- Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.