The Low FODMAP Diet 101

Cruciferous veggies

By Danielle Dessayer, Dietetic Intern

Are you enduring abdominal pain, bloating that makes you look like you’re five months pregnant, constipation that hurts when you lay down at night, or discomfort from holding in uncontrollable gas during your long work shifts? 

Then this article is for you. 

Sometimes, our bodies get out of rhythm and don’t digest foods as they should. This can be  from many different causes including stress, gut imbalances, or even IBS. There can be a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, but a common theme is abdominal discomfort, bloating, and changes in bowel habits (ie constipation or diarrhea).

The Low FODMAP diet was developed to help address many of these issues. What is the Low FODMAP diet and would it help you? Read on for a deep dive into the diet and how you might benefit from trying this type of approach. 

What is the Low FODMAP Diet?

 “FODMAP” stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. These are nondigestible carbohydrates that push water into your digestive tract. Because your gut may not digest them well, your gut bacteria starts to ferment them, thus producing gas. 

Eating a diet high in FODMAP foods can essentially trigger those uncomfortable symptoms of bloating, gas, bowel distress, diarrhea, constipation, or some combination of all. 

What are High FODMAP foods?

Oligosaccharides are commonly found in wheat, garlic, onions, legumes, beans, and lentils. Disaccharides are primarily in foods with sugar, milk, and dairy products. Bread, pasta, and many vegetables contain monosaccharides. Polyols are found in many fruits and vegetables and are even found in low-calorie sweeteners. 

For detailed  lists that outline what foods are high FODMAP vs low FODMAP, visit

How do I use the Low FODMAP Diet?

Resetting your gut can be a vital step in discovering the cause(s) of your discomfort. You need to learn what food(s) and FODMAPs you tolerate that might trigger these uncomfortable symptoms. In doing so, it will help you follow a less restrictive and nutritionally balanced diet for the long-term. 

The low FODMAP diet is a three-step diet that can help you calm the gut by reducing high FODMAP foods. High FODMAP foods, AKA fermentable carbohydrates, impact the gut as they are your gut’s favorite energy source. Reducing these temporarily, will give your gut the opportunity to perk up again and function normally, as your gut isn’t feeding off their favorite energy source and causing you discomfort. 

Basics of the Low FODMAP diet: 

To start, you’ll need to enter the elimination phase and remove high FODMAP foods from your diet for two-to-six weeks. Speak with a healthcare professional before starting this phase to help you manage this process. 

The elimination phase will ensure that your gut has time to relieve itself and reduce your symptoms. It can take some time for this process to work. Some people feel better immediately after starting, and some may feel worse before they can feel better. 

Even if you feel wonderful in the elimination phase, this diet is not permanent. The reintroduction phase will help your gut divulge into important micronutrients that you’ve been eliminating. Keeping a log or a journal of your symptoms can be helpful to pinpoint your trigger foods. 

When ready to start introducing foods back into your diet, pick one category to start. Missing dairy? Add one dairy food, like yogurt back into your diet and track the results. Give yourself a few days before introducing the next food. If everything feels fine, then you can continue to incorporate those foods back into your diet. 

Remember, this is an experiment. It may take awhile for your body to adhere to these foods so cut yourself some slack if you’re not tolerating foods from the get-go. Talk to your dietitian or healthcare provider about which foods to incorporate next. 

You’ll continue this diet until you’ve found what foods prompt your discomfort. Once you’ve identified your trigger foods, you can create a diet free of those foods and best support your gut otherwise. This can help you in the long-run as you can work with a dietitian to support your gut and nutrition health goals. 

What if the diet doesn’t work for me?

There is a possibility that there was nothing wrong with your diet, but rather your lifestyle! This may be frustrating to hear if you’ve already tried the diet and are still enduring these symptoms. The gut is a complicated organ and requires some maintenance if feeling distraught. 

Fueling your body with exercise can be another way to heal this pain. I know no one wants to go on a run while their bowels are shaky and growling -I get it. But, joyful and peaceful movement may be one way to relax the gut. 

Trying out new exercises like yoga, pilates, water aerobics, or even seated exercises may be your new best friend. Taking it slow and letting your gut rest in this way may help settle your uneasy gut stress.

Also, keeping in mind your hormones and stress response do impact gut health. If you are feeling particularly stressed, anxious, or depressed, your gut will know. Please speak with a healthcare specialist to help you reduce these symptoms that can best support you. 

How do I maintain my diet long-term?

Once you’ve found what foods trigger a negative body response, you can eliminate them from your diet. Were you surprised at what foods trigger a negative response? Were those foods some of your favorites? 

Though these foods may not work best for you, you can still love and enjoy them. Just remember that they may have consequences for you. Eating them in moderation or with the awareness that they lead you to discomfort is the first step. 

We want you to enjoy food and your diet. 

Create balanced meals with good carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous foods. This will help your gut work smoother and ensure that you are positively fueling yourself. Incorporate variety into your diet and try out new recipes to get you excited and prepped for the reintroduction phase. 

Final Thoughts

Now you have all of the basics for starting a low-FODMAP diet! It is essential to seek out support before going about this as it ensures safety during these first few phases. A dietitian will be able to track your body’s needs and figure out the best plan of action for you. 

It is also necessary to keep in mind that this diet is temporary! Once you find out what works for you and your body, feel free to keep eating those foods –  you and your body will love them. 

Lastly, this diet is not a cure-all for all GI discomfort. Sometimes this diet works as a reset, and sometimes it does not help. Speak with a healthcare professional about your options and how to support your body even if this diet does not work for you.