Hoping to banish your bloat, eliminate your gas, and minimize abdominal pain? A low FODMAP diet may be just the solution! It may sound like another crazy diet fad, but a FODMAP diet is a medically-recommended temporary eating plan. It was designed to help reduce digestive problems by eliminating certain types of foods that your body may not easily absorb. It’s best to try this diet under medical supervision only.
The FODMAP diet can help determine which foods are most likely to bother your digestive tract. It is a form of testing and is not meant to be used long-term. While you’re on it, it’s important to ensure you get all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Read on to learn more about the low FODMAP diet, how to make sure you're eating a balanced diet, and what herbal supplements might help.
The Low FODMAP Diet Explained
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. You don’t need to learn those words. But it helps to know these are types of carbohydrates that exist in many foods and can be challenging for some people to digest.
The low FODMAP diet involves limiting or avoiding foods high in these carbohydrates for some time and reintroducing them, one at a time, to determine which ones trigger abdominal discomfort or pain.
By following a FODMAP diet, you may experience relief from your symptoms. However, it's important to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian when starting the diet since it can be complex. It may lead to nutrient deficiencies if not done correctly.
Who Should Go on a Low FODMAP Diet?
Anyone who suffers from ongoing digestive problems may benefit from a low FODMAP diet.* If you have one of the following conditions, your healthcare provider may recommend it before or in addition to any other treatments:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a chronic digestive disorder that can cause a variety of long-term symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Research has shown that a low FODMAP diet can be an effective treatment for reducing symptoms in people with IBS.REF#1304
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD is a group of chronic digestive disorders, including Crohn’s Disease, that can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding. While a low FODMAP diet is not a primary treatment for IBD, some people with IBD find it helps reduce symptoms during flare-ups.REF#1305 IBD can cause nutritional deficiencies, so work with a dietician to balance your nutrients if you have it.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): SIBO is a condition where there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that causes symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It’s more prevalent in people with IBS. A low FODMAP diet may be recommended as part of the treatment plan for SIBO but there is no scientific proof that it’s effective.
What Are Foods High in FODMAPs?
Certain carbohydrates in wheat, dairy, beans, and certain fruits and vegetables are high in FODMAPS. When you go on a low FODMAP diet, you’ll be eliminating some of the more popular foods, including:
- Fruits: Apples, pears, mangoes, peaches, watermelon, cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines, avocados, canned fruit.
- Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions, leeks, mushrooms, green bell peppers, snow peas, sugar snap peas.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, soft unripened cheese, ice cream.
- Sweeteners: Honey, agave nectar, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, sorbitol, xylitol.
- Grains: Wheat, rye, barley, and products made with these grains.
This is a partial list. You can find a full list of foods by searching online for a “FODMAP diet chart.”
You may not experience symptoms from all these foods, since different people tolerate different amounts of FODMAP foods. As you bring each food back into your diet, you may find you can tolerate small amounts or need to eliminate them for good. A registered dietitian can help you determine which foods to avoid or limit based on your tolerance levels.
What Are Foods Low in FODMAPs?
There are still many foods you can enjoy while on a low-FODMAP diet. You can also enjoy certain fruits, vegetables, starches, and dairy, including (but not limited to):
- Meat and Fish: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, white fish, salmon, shellfish (flavored only with herbs to avoid ingredients from high-FODMAP list).
- Other protein: Eggs, firm tofu, tempeh.
- Fruits: Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, pineapple, strawberries.
- Vegetables: Alfalfa, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, ginger, green beans, lettuces, olives, parsnips, potatoes, red bell peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini.
- Dairy alternatives: Lactose-free, almond, oat, rice or soy milk; hard cheese, brie cheese; lactose-free yogurt; lactose-free and soy-based ice cream.
- Sweeteners: Sucrose, glucose, small amounts of sugar, maple syrup.
- Starch: Gluten-free bread, rice, oats, polenta, quinoa, millet, tapioca.
As you plan your low FODMAP menus, balance nutrients by including as many colors in the meal as possible. Different colored foods offer different nutrients.
How to Minimize Nutrient Deficiency on a Low-FODMAP Diet
Ideally, you want to get all your nutrients from whole foods. However, that can be difficult when you’re on a low-FODMAP food plan. Therefore, consider taking supplements to ensure your diet is nutritionally balanced, especially during the elimination and reintroduction phases of the program.
These supplements are helpful when following a low-FODMAP diet:
- Probiotics: Probiotics are healthy live bacteria that help support digestive health. Since a low-FODMAP diet can restrict the intake of prebiotic fiber (which stimulates the growth of the good bacteria in your gut), taking a probiotic supplement may be helpful.REF#1306 You can take a probiotic as a bead, capsule, or powder. Make sure it doesn’t contain chicory root, which is high in FODMAPS. Check the expiration date before buying, since it’s critical probiotics remain live as they enter your digestive tract.
- Calcium: As dairy products are restricted on a low FODMAP diet, you may need to take a calcium supplement to meet your daily calcium needs.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for bone health and immune function. If you don’t eat foods high in vitamin D (such as salmon, oranges, eggs, and sardines), get your daily intake with a vitamin D supplement.
- B vitamins: Some sources of B vitamins, such as wheat-based products, are restricted on a low FODMAP diet, so a B-complex vitamin supplement will
It's important to talk to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before starting any new supplements to determine which ones are right for you.
10 Herbal Supplements Than Support Digestive Health Naturally
Herbs have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to help maintain good digestion and relieve occasional symptoms of discomfort and pain.
Gaia Herbs offers many gut health extracts and herbal blends to maintain good digestion. If your digestive problems aren’t serious and you have only occasional stomach discomfort, you might find that herbal supplements can help you without the need for a low FODMAP diet.*
If you’ve been diagnosed with a digestive condition and are on a FODMAP diet, consult your healthcare provider before adding herbal supplements to your daily health routine. They can help ensure proper dosages and confirm they won't affect the results of the FODMAP diet program or interact with any medications you may be taking.
6 Great Herbs for Occasional Digestive Relief
Different herbs target specific digestive complaints. If you experience occasional digestive discomfort or pain, consider one of the following:
- Oil of Oregano: Oil of oregano has been used traditionally to treat gastrointestinal issues. More recently, it’s been shown to have properties that may protect the gut against infections while promoting healthy microbial diversity and improving symptoms of diarrhea, pain, and gas.REF#1307
- Lemon Balm: This perennial herb is known for its calming and soothing effects and may calm the stress that can lead to stomach upset. Lemon balm may support a normal inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract and minimize occasional pain, bloating, cramps, gas, and heartburn.*
- Licorice Root: Licorice root is one of the most trusted herbs among traditional botanical practitioners. It has properties that may contribute to its ability to help with occasional digestive problems.REF#1308
- Peppermint Leaf: The oil extract from peppermint leaf has demonstrated a relaxing effect on the digestive system through several mechanisms, including smooth muscle relaxation and sensitivity and stress modulation. It is thought to support digestive health throughout the gastrointestinal tract.REF#1309
- Cinnamon Bark: Cinnamon has been used traditionally as a supplement for IBS and other gastrointestinal problems, but no research yet supports its effectiveness. There are nine varieties of cinnamon. The most common type in North America, Cassia Cinnamon, contains the chemical coumarin, which can harm the liver if taken in high quantities or for a long time. Gaia Herbs tests every batch to ensure the coumarin level falls within our acceptable ranges. We reject any batch that contains more than one percent coumarin, far below the safe daily exposure limit determined by the American Botanical Council, the nonprofit dedicated to the responsible use of herbs and medicinal plants.
- Wormwood Black Walnut Supreme: The active phytochemical, artemisinin, in Wormwood can help soothe irritation in the gut, which can, in turn, help promote smooth digestion.REF#1310This can also minimize symptoms of occasional l digestive discomfort like nausea, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
4 Herbal Blends to Support Healthy Digestion
Gaia Herbs developed several herbal blends to support better gastrointestinal health, including:
Microbiome Cleanse: Using a combination of individual herbs that are beneficial for digestive health — Black Walnut, Sweet Wormwood, Oregano, and Peppermint — this supplement may balance the GI tract and provide great support when traveling or dealing with major changes or stress in your routine.
Ginger Supreme: Numerous studies have shown ginger to be a safe option for those suffering from nausea, including pregnant people.REF#1311Clinical trials on Turmeric’s primary compound, curcumin, suggest that it may support digestive tract health.REF#1312This blend of ginger and turmeric was created to help support healthy digestion and relieve occasional nausea.
Gas & Bloating Capsules: This blend of Peppermint, Charcoal, Fennel, and Chamomile was formulated to help relieve occasional gas and bloating.
Turmeric Boost Restore: Gaia Herbs has blended the gut-healthy herbs Turmeric and Ginger with Holy Basil to support a healthy inflammatory response and help you maintain good digestive health.
In addition to the foods you eat and the supplements you take, it’s critical to watch your food portion size and ensure you stay hydrated since food is not the only thing affecting your digestion. Exercise and good sleep will also help improve your overall health.
While it may seem daunting to commit to a low FODMAP diet and maintain balanced nutrition, you can succeed with the help of a healthcare provider or registered dietitian and some of the above suggestions.
Remember, every person's journey with digestive issues is unique, and what works for one person may not work for you. But with patience, perseverance, and the right combination of dietary changes and supplements, you can be on the way to a life free of discomfort. So stay optimistic! Keep exploring and experimenting until you find the approach that works best for you.
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