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“I look like I’m pregnant and I’m not.” That’s the most common complaint heard by dietitian Danielle Capalino, RD, author of Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach: The Fast and Easy Low-FODMAP Diet Plan. Bloating, gas, and other digestive problems can be resolved with a low-FODMAP plan, she says, but it needs to be tailored to you.
What is FODMAP?
More than a decade ago, scientists at Monash University in Australia discovered that certain types of carbohydrates are hard to digest, and coined the term FODMAP, an acronym for technical names of the offending ingredients (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols). FODMAPs are present in many foods and food additives (including sugar-free sweeteners ending in “-ol”), but levels and individual reactions vary. Digestive issues can be resolved by finding which high-FODMAP foods offend your body and avoiding them.
“These foods don’t look alike or taste alike,” says Capalino. “They don’t have anything visible in common.” Only lab tests can determine FODMAP levels. For example, apples and cauliflower are high-FODMAP, but oranges and tomatoes are low-FODMAP.
How the FODMAP Plan Works
“A mistake a lot of people make is to try it indefinitely,” says Capalino, “but it has three phases.”
- Elimination phase: Avoid all high-FODMAP foods until symptoms resolve, most often in two to six weeks, but sometimes more quickly.
- Testing phase: Gradually reintroduce high-FODMAP foods, one at a time, to identify problematic ones.
- New eating pattern: Once you’ve identified your personal trigger foods, work to avoid them on an ongoing basis.
“For me, it might mean not eating onions and garlic, and for you, it might mean not eating milk and beans, so it’s very personalized,” says Capalino. The key is to find what works for you.
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