Is a Low FODMAP Diet for IBS the Best Way to Manage Your Symptoms?

Key Points:

  • Scientific research has identified a diet called the low FODMAP diet that may help people who suffer from IBS. FODMAPs are foods that ferment inside the gut — meaning, they are harder to digest and can cause cramps, bloating, and distress.

  • Since many high FODMAP foods are considered healthy, IBS sufferers don’t usually look to them as the cause of their symptoms.

  • Implementing the low FODMAP diet for IBS can be an essential part of protecting your intestinal barrier cells.

When you found out you had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you probably felt excited to have an official diagnosis. With knowledge of the problem comes the tools to fix it… right?

Dinner and drinks with friends aren’t the same when you know your next bite could trigger unwanted symptoms. Debilitating stomach aches and embarrassing gas have impacted your quality of life for too long. Knowing how to fix your gut will change everything!

Unfortunately, your diagnosis hasn’t brought the relief you hoped for. You’re still always aware of the nearest bathroom location — and prescription drugs just add to your laundry list of daily symptoms with unwanted side effects.

What can you do to actually heal your gut? 

Scientists and many integrative practitioners recommend a special diet for IBS called the low FODMAP diet. This diet helps you recognize trigger foods that increase your symptoms (and regulate your trips to the bathroom). 

Instead of shooting in the dark with the elimination of food groups (perhaps something you’ve already tried), the low FODMAP diet focuses on how your body breaks down food — particularly, short-chain carbohydrates. By temporarily eliminating these specific carbohydrates that may be difficult for your body to digest, you can alleviate symptoms and give your body space to heal.

What is IBS (AKA Irritable Bowel Syndrome)? 

IBS is diagnosed based on the presence of one or more symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, and so on. Like other digestive disorders, the symptoms may feel unpredictable and can flare up or disappear at random. Diet and stress play an important role in the overall health of someone with IBS.

What is the Low FODMAP Diet? 

According to many GI doctors and fad diet books, the answer to all your digestive difficulties is: fiber. But every time you devour a leafy salad you find yourself once again writhing in pain on the bathroom floor. Or at the very least, bloated and uncomfortable. 

If this is you, you may be experiencing FODMAP sensitivity. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. That’s a mouthful—so just think of FODMAPs as short-chain carbohydrates that ferment inside the gut, instead of breaking down.

Many FODMAP foods are considered to be healthy, which is why IBS sufferers don’t usually recognize these foods as the trigger for their symptoms.

High FODMAP Foods

Think of these foods as a little high maintenance for your digestive system. Since they ferment in the gut, your body has to work extra hard to digest them. 

People with IBS can particularly struggle since these foods produce gas and need to be broken down by a robust microbiome. A high FODMAP food typically contains fructose, fructans, sugar substitutes (polyols), and galactans. Again, these are all fancy ways to say short-chain carbohydrates, aka sugar for your gut bacteria, good and bad.

Low FODMAP Foods

While they often carry the same nutrients as high FODMAP foods, choosing these options may ease discomfort in the gut and calm your IBS symptoms. Low FODMAP foods contain less fructose, fructans, sugar substitutes, and galactans. They are more quickly broken down in the gut and flush through the intestines.

How to Manage IBS with the Low FODMAP Diet

The low FODMAP diet for IBS should be handled with care and monitored by a knowledgeable doctor or functional health practitioner. Anytime you’re experimenting with your gut, there are tons of variables. Everything should be considered from your past medical history to the current state of your microbiome.

We recommend breaking up your low FODMAP diet into three sections: elimination, reintroduction, and maintenance. 

Elimination

Remove most (or all) high FODMAP foods from your diet completely. Focus on this process over 2-3 weeks — and pay attention to how your digestion changes. Do you still have symptoms of IBS?

If you don’t experience any change in your symptoms, you can try another diet such as low histamine or Paleo. You may also want to look into digestive support supplements such as betaine HCl and digestive enzymes. 

Reintroduction

If you do experience a reduction in symptoms, you can move on to the reintroduction phase. 

Under the supervision of your doctor, begin to slowly reintroduce higher FODMAP foods. Try only one new food at a time for a few days, and curiously observe any changes in your body. Do you feel bloated, tired, or anxious? Are your trips to the bathroom becoming more regular?

Maintenance

Your body isn’t meant to stay on a Low FODMAP diet long-term — as this can negatively affect your microbiome. But when your symptoms have been reduced and you begin to feel better on low FODMAP, here is your chance to take a deep dive into the real root cause of your IBS symptoms — and slowly begin a lifestyle that supports your gut health.

Low FODMAP Foods

One huge benefit of the low FODMAP diet is that you don’t have to eliminate whole food groups. 

You’re free to go out to eat with friends and continue life fairly uninterrupted while making just a few basic changes to your plate. Here are some amazing low FODMAP food options, plus nutrition benefits that can help to heal your gut over time

Kiwi

Packed with delicious flavor and high in fiber, the kiwi is a safe food for anyone eliminating FODMAPs. Slice it up for a fruit salad or enjoy scooping it out with a spoon — it’s the perfect gut-healthy summertime treat. Because of its fiber content, kiwis can be quite helpful for constipation-dominant IBS as well. 

Hard Cheeses

While implementing a low FODMAP diet, it is recommended to reduce lactose intake. But hard cheeses don’t have much lactose in them. When you’re craving a grilled cheese sandwich, knock yourself out with options like cheddar, gruyere, or a dairy-free alternative. 

Cucumbers

Not only are they easy on your digestive tract, cucumbers are mostly water. Meaning, if you ever feel nauseous or bloated, cucumber is probably a safe food that you can consume, despite your symptoms. Despite its high H2O content, it still contains a plethora of vitamins like K, B, and C, along with healthy minerals like magnesium and potassium.

Beef and Chicken

You need protein — especially if your gut is making it difficult for you to consume enough calories. Options like beef, fish, and chicken are all considered low FODMAP and safe to consume. 

Make sure to balance out your typical plate of veggies and grains with an ample amount of protein so that you can offset the amount of fiber going to your sensitive gut. Protein is also essential to build muscle and heal tissues, including your gut lining. 

Quinoa

The new favorite grain of the Western world (and long-time staple in Mediterranean cuisine) is full of antioxidants and even connected to healthier blood sugar levels. It’s very filling, too. Some recommend soaking grains before eating them — to break down the phytic acid, enabling better digestion and mineral absorption.

FODMAP Food Triggers

The most popular high FODMAP foods are wheat, legumes (beans), and lactose (cheese, milk, yogurt). Although you will need to do more research on your own, it’s safe to say that you should avoid most of these foods during your IBS diet. If you accidentally eat one, it’s no big deal. Just pay attention to how your body reacts — that will give you clues into whether or not FODMAPs are your trigger.

By eliminating FODMAP triggers, you’re giving your body space to focus on the root problem of your IBS. You may start to notice: 

  • Less bloating
  • More energy
  • Decreased brain fog
  • Fewer trips to the bathroom (or more, if you’ve been constipated)
  • Less pain when eating or using the bathroom
  • Decreased stress
  • Better mood (thanks to the gut-brain axis!)

How Can the Low FODMAP Diet Impact My Cellular Health?

The intestinal barrier is one of the most important parts of human digestion. When it is weakened, the immune system can be triggered, increasing inflammation in the body. This can lead to disorders like leaky gut — and could even alter the nerve signaling between the brain and gut.

Protecting the cells in your intestinal barrier is incredibly important for long-term gut health, longevity, and disease prevention. Stop telling yourself you can “just power through” your digestive issues. Without treatment, IBS can significantly affect your long-term health.

Naturally Ease Your IBS Symptoms with BodyBio 

The low FODMAP diet can only do so much. It’s important to address the root cause behind your gut dybiosis — and begin to increase the nutrients needed for your body to begin rebuilding itself.

BodyBio PC provides aid to your cells using four key types of phospholipids, the building blocks of our cell membranes. PC is easy on the stomach (available in liquid form!) and can help send phospholipids to the mitochondria, gut lining, brain, and other areas of the body for much-needed support. This helps to strengthen your intestinal barrier and may reduce some IBS symptoms.

Try BodyBio PC

References

Rodiño-Janeiro, B. K., Vicario, M., Alonso-Cotoner, C., Pascua-García, R., & Santos, J. (2018). A Review of Microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Future in Therapies. Advances in therapy, 35(3), 289–310. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-018-0673-5


Martínez, C., González-Castro, A., Vicario, M., & Santos, J. (2012). Cellular and molecular basis of intestinal barrier dysfunction in the irritable bowel syndrome. Gut and liver, 6(3), 305–315. https://doi.org/10.5009/gnl.2012.6.3.305


Nanayakkara, W. S., Skidmore, P. M., O'Brien, L., Wilkinson, T. J., & Gearry, R. B. (2016). Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 9, 131–142. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S86798


Küllenberg, D., Taylor, L. A., Schneider, M., & Massing, U. (2012). Health effects of dietary phospholipids. Lipids in health and disease, 11, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-11-3


El-Salhy, M., Ystad, S. O., Mazzawi, T., & Gundersen, D. (2017). Dietary fiber in irritable bowel syndrome (Review). International journal of molecular medicine, 40(3), 607–613. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2017.3072

Featured Product

BodyBio PC (Phosphatidylcholine)

BodyBio PC combines four forms of pure phospholipids for targeted and effective brain support*.
Learn More