As someone who has suffered from IBS for the last 10 years I have learned to adjust my eating style and was prescribed a low fodmap diet to reduce symptoms and move through the day normally. Those with IBS often suffer from abdominal bloating, pain, amongst other digestive issues. While there is no cure for IBS and many other digestive issues, medication and a low fodmap diet is often the best course of treatment.
A low fodmap diet eliminates food that the body has difficulty digesting. Specifically, referring to short-chain non digestible carbs. Since these foods are classified as “non-digestible” the body will ferment those foods instead of digesting them, and the process of fermenting causes excess of gas in the body leading to bloating and many other complications.
Specifically high fodmap foods include:
High fructose fruits (apples, peaches, pears, mangos, watermelons)
Other high fructose products like honey
Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol found in many fruits and packaged foods classified as “sugar-free”
This can be a pretty overwhelming list of foods to eliminate and can lead a lot of people to just live with their day-to-day IBS systems vs. trying a complicated dietary plan. So what can you eat? The low fodmap diet still includes a variety of foods, such as:
Protein (meats and tofu)
Whole grains and starches (rice, potato, corn, quinoa, cassava)
Low sugar fruits like berries
Easily digestible vegetables (peppers, carrots, celery, tomato, spinach, cucumber, zucchini)
Small amounts of nuts
Dairy free milk alternatives
While neither of these lists are comprehensive, this is a basic summary of foods that you would have to avoid or focus on in a low fodmap diet. While this diet plan is the primary recommendation for those with IBS, scientists are now looking more into the long-term impact of being on this kind of diet. The main question being, “Will eliminating this many foods cause issues with the natural gut bacteria that could cause worsening health long-term?”
One of the main concerns with a heavily restrictive diet is that you are risking not eating a balanced nutrient intake and this could lead to long-term complications. It’s important to note that research on not only IBS but long-term low fodmap diets is still in its infancy, we do have some preliminary information to keep in mind. Some of the impacts of long-term adherence include a risk of not getting enough prebiotics in your diet, which are necessary for healthy gut bacteria. Those prebiotics are often consumed in wheat and rye. You may also struggle to get enough fiber and find yourself low in many vitamins and nutrients such as:
Knowing the risk of vitamin and nutrient deficiency, does that mean I should avoid the low fodmap diet altogether? No. The low fodmap diet is still currently the best option for those wanting to find relief from daily digestive issues. The key is this diet is meant to be prescribed by a doctor/registered dietician. It is not meant to be followed as strictly as it sounds. Those on a long-term low fodmap diet are on a modified version. This includes reintroducing foods to find the ones that are inflammatory for your specific body and only reducing the intake of foods that are problematic for you.
To avoid any deficiencies, a varied diet is still needed. That’s why this should only be done with the guidance of a doctor who can ensure your diet is safe and balanced. The key is to find a plan for eating that is varied but avoids your major food triggers to reduce inflammation. In the meantime, continue to educate yourself on long-term impacts and regularly visit your doctor. Make sure to note any changes in your body and focus on eating as varied of a diet as you can!
Until next time… and remember nutrition is for all!