Top 10 Things to Avoid on a Low-FODMAP diet

Carmen Roberts, MS, RD, LDN | Jan 21, 2016

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The low FODMAP diet is used to help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It can also help with symptoms of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease. It is not a cure for these diseases, but it may help to prevent bloating, cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, and other symptoms that are common for people who suffer from these conditions.

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What is FODMAP?

FODMAP is an abbreviation for the poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates that feed on naturally-occurring bacteria found primarily in the large bowel: Fermentable,  Oligosaccharides,  Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. For IBS sufferers, consumption of these sugars and sugar alcohols can cause digestive discomfort. The premise of this diet is that through avoidance of FODMAPs, symptoms of digestive discomfort may be eliminated.

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How to follow a low-FODMAP diet

The approach to this diet is to eliminate all foods containing FODMAPs for eight weeks.  After eight weeks, you slowly reintroduce FODMAPs one at a time. Using this technique, you may be able to find out which of the FODMAPs are contributing to increased gas production in the bowel. For many people, simple avoidance of 1-2 of these carbohydrates that are causing most of the gas production causes a dramatic decrease in their IBS symptoms.

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Onions

Onions appear to be one of the greatest contributors to IBS symptoms. All varieties of onions should be avoided on this diet, including leeks, scallions, and shallots. Make sure to look at the ingredient labels of packaged foods that contain onion ingredients, such as onion powder found in soups and stocks.

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Garlic

Garlic is found in many packaged foods, salad dressings, and condiments. Garlic contains fructans, so it should be avoided in large amounts.

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Beans

All beans and lentils should be avoided on the low FODMAP diet. Some nuts, including pistachios and cashews, should also be avoided.

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Wheat

Any product containing wheat should be avoided on this diet. Ingredients to look for on a food label include not only wheat, but also rye, bulgur, couscous, and barley. All wheat-based or mixed grain-cereals should also be eliminated.  Acceptable substitutions include gluten-free products, cornmeal, oat bran, oatmeal, rice, popcorn, and cereals made from corn, rice, or oats.

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Dairy products

All dairy products containing lactose should be avoided. This includes milk, yogurt, ice cream, and soft cheeses in amounts greater than ½ cup. Hard cheeses and other dairy products such as sour cream and cream cheese contain small amounts of lactose and are typically allowed on a low FODMAP diet in small amounts.

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Fruits

Not all fruits are high in FODMAPs.  The fruits you should avoid include apples, cherries, apricots, pears, watermelon, mangoes, peaches, plums, prunes, nectarines, blackberries, and figs.

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Vegetables

The vegetables highest in FODMAPs include broccoli, sugar snap peas, Brussels sprouts, snow peas, shallots, beets, cauliflower, asparagus, and artichokes.

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Processed meats

Some processed meats, such as sausage, contain gluten and have added ingredients for flavor, to include onion and garlic. Be sure to check the label to make sure the meat you consume does not contain these added products for flavor.

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Added sweeteners

Many sweeteners added to foods are high in poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates. Sweeteners to avoid include high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, and sugar alcohols, including sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and xylitol. Other forms of sugar can be consumed.

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Beverages

Chamomile and fennel tea, as well as chicory-based coffee substitutes, are high in FODMAPs and should be avoided. Alcohol can worsen IBS symptoms and should be limited while following this diet.