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What is the Low FODMAP Diet?

Examples of low FODMAP foods like salmon, eggs, kiwi fruit and lettuce

You may have heard of something called the FODMAP diet. This diet has been gaining popularity for helping people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Read on to find out what it is, what the diet is used for and tips on how to get started.

What does FODMAP stand for?

FODMAP stands for:

F – Fermentable
O – Oligosaccharides – Fructans (FOS) and Galactans (GOS)
D – Disaccharides - Lactose
M – Monosaccharides - Fructose
A – and
P – Polyols

FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that are found in some foods like wheat, milk, garlic and mangoes. Some foods are higher in FODMAPs and others are lower.

Examples of foods high in FODMAPs:

Onions, garlic, green peas, mushrooms, apples, cherries, peaches, pears, cow’s milk, yogurt, wheat, rye, barley, high fructose corn syrup and honey

Examples of foods low in FODMAPs:

Carrot, cucumber, potato, lettuce, grapes, orange, pineapple, hard cheese, tofu, eggs, meats, chicken, fish, corn, oats and rice

Note: this is not a complete list. Connect with a dietitian for more information.

What is the low FODMAP diet used for?

The low FODMAP diet is commonly used to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Foods that contain high amounts of FODMAPs may not be digested well by people with IBS causing uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating. Research has shown that the low FODMAP diet may help reduce symptoms of IBS such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Longer term studies are needed to show the long term effectiveness of this diet.

What should I know about starting a low FODMAP diet?

  • Not all foods high in FODMAPs cause symptoms in people with IBS. For example, someone may get symptoms from eating wheat but not from apples. This is why it is recommended to work with a dietitian when starting a low FODMAP diet. A dietitian can help you figure out which foods you are sensitive to and help monitor your progress. 
  • Sensitivity to FODMAPs is not the same as having allergies. When you have an allergy you must completely avoid the food you are allergic to. When you are sensitive to certain high FODMAP foods you can often still eat small amounts of the food and reduce symptoms.
  • Following a low FODMAP diet involves keeping track of symptoms and keeping a detailed food diary.
  • After following a low FODMAP diet for three to eight weeks, you will be asked to slowly reintroduce foods one at a time with help from a dietitian to see which foods you can tolerate.
  • Following a low FODMAP diet long term may reduce the healthy bacteria in your gut which is why it is recommended that you reintroduce foods one at a time to see which foods you can tolerate and add back into your diet.
  • FODMAPs are often not labeled on food products. When you start a low FODMAP diet, your dietitian will give you a list of foods to avoid.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Make sure to replace high FODMAP foods you normally eat with low FODMAP foods instead of cutting out entire categories of food. For example, if you normally eat apples, replace them with other low FODMAP fruits like grapes. If you normally eat pasta, choose other low FODMAP grains like rice or quinoa. 

What are some low FODMAP meal and snack ideas?

  • Tofu stir-fry with quinoa and Bok Choy
  • Try this one pan lemon pepper fish and veggies (skip the garlic). Serve with rice and grapes for dessert
  • Beef stew served with potatoes and carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Fresh fruit like strawberries with lactose-free yogurt
  • Handful of plain nuts or seeds like walnuts or pumpkin seeds

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can:
  • Help you identify the high FODMAP foods you are currently eating and give you suggestions for low FODMAP foods to replace them with
  • Work with you to come up with a low FODMAP diet plan that works for you and your unique needs and lifestyle
  • Make sure you are eating a balanced diet and getting enough nutrients like fibre, calcium and vitamin D
  • Give you a plan to reintroduce foods and help identify the specific foods that you are sensitive to
  • Help you feel better and reduce your IBS symptoms long-term
Connect with a dietitian today to get started!

Bottom line

FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate found in a variety of foods. If you suffer from IBS, a low FODMAP diet may help you reduce your symptoms and identify specific foods that could be making your symptoms worse. A low FODMAP diet can be restrictive so it is important to work with a dietitian who can help guide you through the process. 

You may also be interested in:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Food Allergies and Intolerances
Fibre and the Gluten-Free Diet
Managing Lactose Intolerance

This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada.

Last Update – November 19, 2021

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