Fooling Around With FODMAP for Better Digestion

Photo from
Photo from of High FODMAP  Foods

A 10-Day Experiment with Eliminating High FODMAP Foods

Have you heard of the FODMAP diet? This is a relatively new eating philosophy that is based on how sugars and carbohydrates are digested. All grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, breads proteins etc. are measured and rated either High or Low. The higher FODMAP foods seem to have an adverse effect on how the small and large intestines absorb and break down the sugars, causing irritation in the gut and contributing to bowel and digestive disorders, like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and Crohn’s disease.

The unusual acronym FODMAP stands for:  Fermented, Oligo- Di- and Monosaccharides and Polyols. – which are short chain carbohydrates, like fructose and lactose or the sugar substitutes as in sorbitol, maltitol, etc. that are linked to gastrointestinal distress   This helpful pdf has a more detailed explanation.  Monash University in Australia has been instrumental in testing these foods and reporting on the results.

Examples of High FODMAP foods are:  Onions, garlic, mushrooms,peas, apples, pears, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cashews, cauliflower, dried fruits, agave nectar, honey.  Here is a pdf from Dr. Oz’s show that lists the “forbidden foods” (Which, by the way, comprise a huge portion of what I consume on a daily basis!)

Lower FODMAP foods take less of a toll and do not contribute to discomfort for people suffering from IBS.  Examples are:  Bananas, cucumbers, blueberries, most greens and herbs ,some gluten-free grains, maple syrup, most animal protein (does not do me any good!), hard cheeses (nor do these)  This more detailed list also includes what you CAN eat, as well as some “proceed with caution” ones.

The food photo above is a pretty good representation of foods that are low FODMAP


Irritable Bowel Syndrome aka IBS is reported to affect as high as 15 % of the US population.
Symptoms include abdominal discomfort, distention, bloating, nausea,
abdominal pain, excessive gas,diarrhea alternating with constipation

This is more of an elimination diet than a lifestyle. For a set time –have seen recommendations from 10 days ( per Dr. Oz) to up to 2 months –one stays away from all the high FODMAP foods. After the initial elimination period, it is suggested that you add back one food at a time for a trial period of 48-72 hours to see if there are any negative reactions. Then the next one is tested for 2-3 days and so on. If any of the foods are found to be the culprit in digestive distress it is probably best to stay away from it indefinitely.

Because this is relatively new, it’s hard to find definitive information, other than the few lists that sometimes contradict one another.  One of our Natural Wellness Academy graduates and I have been doing a lot of cross referencing and sleuthing around the internet to find out about some foods that are not on either the “bad” or acceptable lists before I embark on a full-fledged FODMAP fast.   Ivy Ashley first brought this diet to my attention as part of her research for her bio-individuality study.  I found this intriguing as in spite of my full turnaround in eating sicne 2008, my IBS symptoms periodically flare up and cause a lot of discomfort and inconvenience.  I also love to do pioneering work and since there is still so little information out there, I will enjoy the quest.

Onions and Garlic and Mushrooms, Oh My!

I say “fooling around with FODMAP” because I am only just going to start a 10 day elimination tomorrow and then early next year try for 6-8 weeks, testing out different foods and developing recipes for vegans and vegetarians. The first three high FODMAP foods that show up on every resource I’ve seen are onions, garlic and mushrooms – the holy trinity of my culinary preferences!  But for the past week or so, I have not used any garlic (even the powder is not allowed), onions (other than the green part of scallions, which are) or mushrooms (boo-hoo!) and frankly my digestion has been at least 60% better.  So, I definitely see the value in eliminating the other potential offenders.

When I first went raw in 2008, I had been diagnosed with a “non-specific auto-immune disorder”. Something had gone so awry with my immune system that I was getting recurrences of shingles (ouch!) every 3-4 months. The terrifying prediction from my physician that I could wind up with permanent brain or neurological damage galvanized me into searching for a solution. I was also suffering from almost constant aching in my gut along with other not-pretty symptoms. I went to a gastro-enterologist, who didn’t offer me much of a diagnosis or solution and it was only when I wound up in the emergency room after a particularly horrible bout, did I hear my condition referred to as IBS.

A primarily raw food diet was something I kept coming across in my research, seeking relief from…. almost synchronistically and when I did take the plunge into this totally new lifestyle, the symptoms of IBS disappeared almost immediately, as well as the constant fatigue and other debilitating aspects of my 2 year decline.

But nothing is static. Eventually I  must have plateaued with the raw foods and maybe it was that I was eating too many nuts or fruits but while it was not an everyday battle as before, periodically I would have some really bad days around digestion.

Because I believe that our bodies are constantly changing, through seasons and cycles and different phases of life, I believe there is no static way to eat and that once we’ve made such a paradigm shift in our eating – why not keep searching?

I’ll be reporting on my experiences over the next couple of months I plan to keep detailed food journals and going to play around with low FODMAP recipes. Because there is so little out there right now, Ivy and I are planning on collaborating on a recipe book. I have to say that the options are much greater on low FODMAP for meat eaters and very limited for vegans.

I am now a contributor/blogger to the popular and worldwide news service, The Huffington Post.  You can see all my blogs on this page and even subscribe to my RSS feed.

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  1. This completely describes me and sounds like what I’ve been going through. I’ve been FODMAP free for 2.5 years and I too have good and bad days. I am hypothyroid on top of this so playing with my diet is never ending. Although it has left me creative 🙂

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