FODMAP Foods: What are They? Problems? Why Low-Carb Helps
Video | Definition & Problem | High-FODMAP Foods List | Low-FODMAP Foods
If you’ve ever felt bloated, gassy, or uncomfortable after eating foods that should be healthy, then FODMAPs are something to pay attention to. In this post, I’ll define FODMAPs, share which foods have them, and explain why a low carb diet is naturally lower in these foods that can cause digestive issues.
FODMAP foods At-A-Glance
- The term FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
- Consuming FODMAP foods causes digestive issues (i.e., pain, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea) in people with a sensitivity or who have IBS.
- High-FODMAP foods include certain fruits, vegetables, and dairy products; most beans and grains, sugar alcohols.
- High-FODMAP drinks include beer, certain wines, fruit juice, milk, soda sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
FODMAP Foods: What are They? Problems? Why Low-Carb Helps [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- What FODMAPs are and why they are a problem.
- Lists of both high and low FODMAP foods.
- The best kinds of a foods for a low FODMAP diet.
Why are FODMAPs a Problem?
Fruit, milk, soda, beans, and bread. What do these foods have in common? The answer is that they contain FODMAPs. The term FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
That is a mouthful, which makes it easy to see the need for the abbreviation. I’ll share specific foods to watch out for in a moment, but what is evident from the foods I just mentioned is that many of them contain healthy things like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
This is the challenge that a person with a sensitivity to high-FODMAP foods faces. They can think that they are eating a clean, healthy diet, yet feel bloated and gassy and be troubled by constipation and diarrhea when they eat.
What FODMAP foods share in common is that they are short-chain carbohydrates that do not get digested in your small intestine, but rather make their way down to the lower part of your digestive tract where certain gut bacteria ferment them.
This fermentation leads to the production of hydrogen gas, which in turn creates gas, bloating, pain, and constipation (1).
FODMAPs can also pull fluid into the intestines, which leads to diarrhea. Therefore, both conditions are possible.
FODMAPs and IBS
If you’ve heard of FODMAPs before, you may have associated them with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Not everyone sensitive to these foods has been diagnosed with this condition.
Still, because the symptoms that I just described are common to IBS sufferers and consuming these foods can trigger a flare-up, the two are linked, and IBS is often treated with a low-FODMAP diet.
FODMAPS vs. Fiber Foods
Also, one thing that you might have noticed is that FODMAPs avoid digestion until they encounter the gut bacteria. This resistance to digestion is how we think about fiber. However, when gut bacteria break down fiber, it leads to health benefits, not pain and discomfort.
The difference is that the bacteria that digest fiber produced more methane gas than hydrogen (1). This methane production may still leave you feeling a bit gassy, but it does not lead to the other symptoms.
High-FODMAP Foods to Avoid
Trying to avoid FODMAPs is a challenge because there can be acceptable and unacceptable foods within a food group. For instance, a person who is sensitive to FODMAPs might feel bloated or gassy after eating a pear but tolerate other fruits, like blueberries, without issues.
Likewise, they might be able to eat some dairy products, like hard cheese, but feel bad after drinking milk. This complexity is why, if you are feeling discomfort after eating that you might want to take a broader diet approach and follow a low-carb or keto diet. Because, as you’ll see in a moment, many of the foods to avoid are high-carb foods.
List of High-FODMAP Foods
- FRUITS: Apples, apricots, avocado (in large amounts), cherries, canned fruit, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon
- VEGETABLES: artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, leeks, okra, onions, mushrooms, peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas
- LEGUMES: Beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans
- WHEAT AND OTHER GRAINS: bread, breakfast products (i.e., cereals, pancakes, waffles, etc.), crackers, pasta, rye.
- DAIRY PRODUCTS: Low-fat or regular milk (from cows, goats, and sheep), ice cream, low-fat and regular yogurt, soft cheeses (ricotta, cottage, etc.)
- DRINKS: Beer, certain wines, fruit juice, milk, soda sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup
- SWEETENERS: fructose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar alcohols (i.e., maltitol, xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol) (2).
Side Note: Sugar Alcohols in Keto Snacks
We see sugar alcohols used in a lot of keto-friendly snacks because sugar alcohols can be subtracted from the total carbs to lower the net carb count of the snack.
Be aware that this is a tricky thing used by low-carb manufacturers and is something that I discussed in my blog post on Low-Carb Snacks that Actually Stop Cravings.
Low-FODMAP Foods are Naturally Low-Carb
When we look at foods that are high in FODMAPs, we see that, except for dairy products, they come from plants. We know that plants are the living organisms that make carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis, so it makes sense that a low-FODMAP diet would naturally be a low carb diet.
This is backed up by research that shows that a very low carb diet is effective for reducing symptoms of IBS, which is the condition we talked about earlier that is closely linked to these foods (3).
So lowering carbohydrates naturally lowers FODMAPs. However, when you cut the carbs, you replace many of them with dietary fats. So, how do fatty foods play into the equation?
It seems like high-fat foods could have the potential to worsen digestive symptoms. But, surprisingly, fats like butter and oils do not qualify as FODMAPs and can be consumed on a low-FODMAP diet.
Let’s put together a complete low carb, low FODMAP diet.
Low-FODMAP foods for Low Carb Dieters
Besides fats and oils, a low-carb dieter can enjoy meat, fish or seafood, poultry, eggs, seeds, and most nuts, with exceptions being cashews and pistachios.
Other low-FODMAP foods that fit into a low carb diet include low-carb fruits like blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew melon, lemons, limes, raspberries, and strawberries.
Many non-starchy vegetables can stay in your diet, including celery, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and certain varieties of lettuce (i.e., arugula, frisee lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and butter lettuce).
And, some low-carb dairy products that can be consumed include some varieties of cheese, such as hard cheeses (i.e., Cheddar, parmesan), feta, and brie. Because lactose is what you are trying to avoid, lactose-free dairy products are fine to consume as well as almond milk, which would be a dairy-free alternative (3) (4).
FODMAP is the name given to foods that pass through to the end of the digestive tract, where they are fermented by gut bacteria to produce hydrogen gas. For sensitive people, this causes pain, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel movements.
Because many FODMAP foods contain naturally-occurring carbs, a low-carb diet can be a good first step to avoiding digestive discomfort. I have a list of 100 low-carb foods that you can download here. While not all of them are low in FODMAPS, that list will serve as a good overview of low carb friendly foods.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Ong, Derrick K., et al. “Manipulation of dietary short chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of gas production and genesis of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 25.8 (2010): 1366-1373.
(2) Gibson, Peter R., and Susan J. Shepherd. “Evidence‐based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: the FODMAP approach.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 25.2 (2010): 252-258.
(3) Austin, Gregory L., et al. “A very low-carbohydrate diet improves symptoms and quality of life in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 7.6 (2009): 706-708.
(4) “High and Low FODMAP Foods.” FODMAP Food List | Monash FODMAP – Monash Fodmap, www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/high-and-low-fodmap-foods/.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.