What is the FODMAP Diet?

Give your gut a break with the FODMAP diet! By cutting back on certain foods, your stomach might be happier and healthier.

Do you ever eat a meal and not too long after, your stomach starts to feel bloated? It’s possible that your gut is disagreeing with what you ate, causing all sorts of internal problems. That’s no good! Fortunately, the FODMAP diet was developed (by a university research team) to help settle your stomach’s dispute with dinner. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the FODMAP Diet?

It cuts carbs that cause stomach pain: fermented (F) oligosaccharides (O), disaccharides (D), monosaccharides (M) and polyols (P). These types of carbohydrates are harder to digest because they’re fermented by your gut’s bacteria. That fermentation is what gives you all sorts of cramps, bloating and other stomach troubles. The diet starts with an “elimination phase,” where you avoid FODMAP carbs for four to six weeks. That means you’ll need to skip:

Oligosaccharides: high-fiber grains like wheat and rye and vegetables such as onions, garlic, broccoli and Brussels sprouts

Disaccharides: mostly dairy products since lactose is the main carb; avoid milk, yogurt and soft cheeses

Monosaccharides: sweet fruits and sweeteners like mangoes, watermelon, high fructose corn syrup, honey and agave

Polyols: fruit and vegetables like apples, pears, mushrooms and cauliflower

Then, you’ll reintroduce a FODMAP food each day or so to determine if it’s safe to eat. It’s important to note that there isn’t a set timeline as to when you see results with the FODMAP diet, because it depends on what type of stomach issue you have. (You’ll definitely want to discuss with your doctor before you get started.)

FODMAP Diet Pros & Cons

Following a low-FODMAP diet can help you avoid the stomach pain that’s part of your cramping and bloating. The diet will also help you identify any food allergies or intolerances, such as dairy or gluten. Bonus: Since the diet limits high consumption of carbohydrates, it can even reduce and prevent high cholesterol and weight gain!

The downside of following a low-FODMAP diet is that it does not directly determine the root cause of your stomach woes. With any elimination diet, you’re cutting back on the amount of healthy foods that you’re eating, along with the bad stuff. Fermentable fiber falls into the “healthy food” category, and it’s responsible for creating the healthy bacteria in your gut, too. You’ll want to supplement with a probiotic.

How to Start the Diet

It’s overwhelming to make any major change, especially one that transforms the way you shop, cook and eat! Starting the FODMAP diet can be challenging, but these four tricks will help take some stress away:

  1. Make sure you know what foods are and are not low-FODMAP. Keep your notes posted on the refrigerator!
  2. Clear your fridge and pantry of any foods that aren’t on the low-FODMAP list.
  3. Prepare a low-FODMAP menu for each week. (Here’s a crash course on meal planning.)
  4. Make a low-FODMAP shopping list. It will help you know what foods to choose before heading to the store.

Our Takeaways

Before going full-FODMAP, it might be best to cut back on a handful of unhealthy foods. We’re talking about things like added sugar (here’s where to find it) and processed or packaged food. It might do the trick to get your gut back on track—and if not, it’s time for a talk with your doc. Good luck!

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Courtney Anaya
Courtney Anaya is a nutritionist and a certified personal trainer through ACE. She holds a BS in dietetics from James Madison Univeristy, and has an MS in human nutrition and functional medicine through the University of Western States. She has written nutrition content for Muscle & Fitness/Hers, Vitamin Retailer, and Natural Practitioner magazines. Her counseling experience entails sports nutrition, weight management, pre- and postnatal nutrition, and pediatric nutrition.