Updated: Nov 23, 2021
If you experience chronic or frequent bloat, belly cramps, fatigue after eating, diarrhea, or constipation, or if you suffer from IBS or another chronic digestive issue THIS IS FOR YOU. I have been very open with the fact that I personally have IBS, and have suffered symptoms my entire life, since I was a newborn. Part of why I got so passionate about nutrition and ingredients in food/food labels, is because I learned early on that inflammation is the basis of all chronic illnesses, including digestive ones like IBS.
GETTING TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF GUT ISSUES LIKE IBS
After years of suffering from IBS, I knew that I needed to get to the root cause of what was going on with me by taking a look at what I was eating. While I was eating a generally healthy diet, I did rely on some packaged and processed foods at the time. In addition, I was not super intuitive about how certain foods affected me. I did not know much about food sensitivities and that we could even be sensitive to healthy foods, like certain fruits and vegetables.
When my problems got so severe into adulthood that it was affecting my daily life, I went to see a gastroenterologist. At the age of 21 I was bringing stool samples to the lab and getting a colonoscopy. Sexy, I know. Everything came back inconclusive which resulted in a diagnosis of severe IBS.
HOW I DISCOVERED FODMAPs
Although my gastroenterologist was quick to prescribe me a medicine as a simple band-aid, it was intuitive for me to look at my diet. I was SHOCKED that she never even discussed that with me. At that point, I became my own advocate and started doing research, and it was then that I discovered the potential impact of high FODMAP foods for those with IBS and other chronic gut issues (we will get to what FODMAPs are in just a bit).
What we put into our bodies affects our gut, and our gut health is a mirror to all other areas of our health, from our skin to our immune system to our energy levels. There are so many potentially inflammatory things found in our food that could be negatively impacting us, such as chemical additives, preservatives, processed seed and vegetable oils, processed sugar, etc., but that's a post for another day.
Unfortunately, even "healthy" foods like certain fruits and vegetables can be highly inflammatory for those with digestive problems, particularly IBS. Other culprits could be dairy, some legumes, some nuts, some grains, sweeteners, and artificial sweeteners. I'm talking about foods that are high FODMAP. These can be totally harmless in many people's diet's, but can cause extreme bloat, stomach upset, pain, gas, diarrhea, or constipation in others.
WHAT THE HECK ARE FODMAPs
FODMAPs represents a group of carbohydrates that are not properly absorbed in the gut and stands for Fermented, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.
In the body, FODMAPs first move through the small intestine attracting water, then to the large intestines. There, your gut bacteria use the FODMAPs as food and break them down by fermenting them, which in turn produces gas. Now, if you have a normally functioning gut, this is fine, but if you have IBS, chronic digestive issues, or a sensitive gut, this can really exacerbate inflammation. The extra water pulled in and the gas created can become too much for someone with an already inflamed or sensitive gut, causing the symptoms of severe bloat, belly pain, excess gas, etc.
Many high FODMAP foods happen to be some fruits and vegetables but also include some nuts, legumes, lactose (dairy milk, cheese, & yogurt), some grains, sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners like those containing sorbital and mannitol.
HIGH FODMAP FOODS TO AVOID & EATING LOW FODMAP
If you were to look at a complete list of FODMAPs you would be overwhelmed, and you may not be affected by all of these foods. If you want to explore a low FODMAP diet because you frequently experience chronic bloat and other digestive issues, a great place to start is by eliminating the foods that are highest in FODMAPs.
The highest FODMAP foods are garlic and onion. Trust me, I am Italian, I know this news is not what you want to hear. I'm genetically programmed to love garlic and onion, but my intestines happen to be genetically programmed to hate it. I used to cook with them daily and every night I went to bed literally looking like I was 6 months pregnant. Somehow I thought that was normal, even though I sometimes was in pain and fatigued, too (all symptoms of my body struggling to break these foods down). Avoiding just these two things as much as possible, only eating small amounts on occasion, and taking a digestive enzyme and regular probiotic has CHANGED MY LIFE. Of course this is in addition to me minimizing as many other triggering and inflammatory foods and eating a mostly whole food plant diet.
Wheat, agave, ripe bananas, beer, whey protein, almonds, cheese, zero calorie sweeteners are some other examples of high FODMAP foods. You can explore this list of other high FODMAP foods here, but keep in mind many of these may be completely OK for you. Just start to tune in with your body. When you become bloated or experience any of the other symptoms, refer back to this list and see if you recently ate any of the high FODMAP foods on the list. Then experiment with eliminating those foods and see if you get relief.
Focus more on the low FODMAP foods you should incorporate, rather than all of the ones to avoid. That list can be found here when you scroll down to the green box.
OTHER THINGS THAT HELP & ALTERNATIVES TO HIGH FODMAP FOODS
Having a healthy gut is key to managing symptoms, and taking a daily probiotic is crucial to that. We wrote all about it here. Hint, hint, we think everyone should be taking one no matter what!
When eating a high FODMAP vegetable, avoid raw, and opt for steamed or roasted. In addition, the portion matters. In small amounts and on occasion, these foods can likely be tolerated, especially if you take a digestive enzyme like mentioned above.
Avoid packaged and processed foods, especially those with refined sugars and grains or artificial flavors, sweeteners, and chemical additives.
Use herbs and spices that actually help with digestion to flavor your food instead of onion and garlic (like ginger, chili flakes, cinnamon, cumin, basil, dill, parsley, mint).
In the end, it's all about listening to your body. As we always say, you have to do your own research, be your own advocate, experiment, and go with what works personally for you! We hope this information helps. If you have further questions, as always feel free to reach out to us.