My name is Gina and I am a dietitian from Columbus, Ohio. Ever since I was young I have dealt with a well-known condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In short, IBS is an intestinal disorder that causes pain, gas, and constipation, diarrhea or both. Unfortunately IBS affects about 11% of the American population, according to the National Institutes of Health. In the past several years there has been a lot of talk about a group of sugars known as FODMAPs, which are “Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols”. You got that? Put simply, they are sugars that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and end up being fermented in the gut, causing unpleasant symptoms, especially in those with IBS.
I consider myself a FODMAPs expert, but not because I’ve done the research (I leave that for the pioneers of the low FODMAPs diet; Monash University’s Department of Gastroenterology, where I receive the majority of my information on the diet) but because I’ve personally been following a diet that is “low FODMAPs” for seven years now. I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not easy, but the reduction in my side-effects has made it worth all the extra effort and time. Today I want to share with you some of the most difficult ingredients to avoid while following the diet, but how to avoid them successfully. To learn more please visit my blog; The Candid RD, or send me an e-mail.
Garlic and Onion, two spices that contain “Fructans”, a type of “Oligosaccharide” (the “O” in FODMAPs) are found in just about everything we eat. Or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re trying to avoid them! The good news is that garlic and onion have to be listed separately on an ingredient list, so you’ll always know whether they are found in a product. Fructans, like all FODMAPs, are water soluble but not fat soluble. Therefore Garlic or Tuscan-flavored olive oils are a great way to replace these flavors in recipes. In any recipe that calls for garlic and/or onion, I simply avoid using garlic and onion and replace their flavors with these oils. As far as favorite staple spices, sauces and dressings that don’t contain garlic and onion, I like Old Bay Seasoning, Rao’s Sensitive Formula Pasta Sauce, Hunt’s Tomato Sauce, and Progresso Tuscan Chicken Broth. When it comes to dressing I keep it simple; balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil.
Another common “Fructan” is Inulin (or you might see it written on labels as Chicory Root). Companies are adding this to products to boost the fiber. Look at any snack or nutrition bar in your cabinet and chances are they contain Inulin. It’s a shame, really, because it makes many snack bars off limits. Here are some of my favorite Inulin-free bars and snacks (and yes, they are all healthier choices too!); Go Macro Bars (Sunflower Butter and Chocolate flavors), Nature Valley Crunchy Peanut Butter Bars, KIND Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters, Cascadian Farms Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Chip Chewy Granola Bars.
Agave, Honey and High Fructose Corn Syrup are dispersed throughout our food supply. All are considered added sugars, and therefore need to be limited, but they also contain excess Fructose, which is the “M” in FODMAPs (fructose is a Monosaccharide). The good news is that regular sugar, Sucrose, does not contain excess fructose. Another great sweetener is maple syrup. It’s a staple in our home. If you’re looking for lower calorie or calorie free, try Stevia.
What about Lactose? Lactose is a “Disaccharide” (the “D” in FODMAPs). Most people who are sensitive to Lactose can handle up to twelve grams in a sitting (about the amount in one cup of milk). For those who are slightly more sensitive; Greek yogurt, regular yogurt, and hard cheeses might be ok, but milk might be off limits. Keep in mind that when whey or casein (milk proteins, not milk sugars) are found in products they typically add a negligible amount of lactose, if any, therefore you will only need to avoid these ingredients if you are actually allergic to milk. My favorite lower lactose products include; Greek yogurt, Lactaid milk, almond milk and mozzarella cheese.
While it takes work and dedication to follow a low FODMAPs diet in a way that is balanced and healthy, it can certainly be done. You’ll learn fast that many fruits and vegetables are not low FODMAPs, but by focusing on ones that are you’ll learn that you have many options. Some of my favorite fruits include bananas, clementine, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and kiwis. Some of my favorite vegetables include zucchini, tomato, spinach and kale. Learn more about how to eat well and balanced on a low FODMAPs diet by visiting www.CandidRD.com
You can also get a printable FODMAP diet chart here.