Low FODMAP Diet: Does The Elimination Diet Work For Everyone?

The FODMAP diet strategically manages the intake of carbohydrates to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improve digestive comfort.

By URLife Team
10 Dec 2023

Individuals grappling with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), often find themselves dealing with the challenges of digesting specific types of carbohydrates. This can show itself in a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation.


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Understanding FODMAPs

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAPs encompass a group of carbohydrate compounds notorious for inducing IBS-like symptoms. Notable examples include sugars such as fructose, lactose, and the sugar alcohol sorbitol. This dietary approach primarily revolves around reducing the intake of FODMAPs—specific sugars that have the potential to trigger digestive discomfort.


FODMAPs, or fermentable short-chain carbohydrates, are sugar molecules linked together and fermentable by gut bacteria. Typically, chained molecules need to break down into singles for absorption in the small intestine. However, FODMAPs resist this breakdown, staying unabsorbed and prompting the small intestine to draw in extra water to move them to the large intestine. In the colon, gut bacteria feast on these FODMAPs, causing fermentation, which results in the production of gases and fatty acids within your gut.


Related story: Fermented Foods To Improve Gut Health


How does the low-FODMAPs or elimination diet work?

A 2022 study published in Harvard Health Publishing states that a low-FODMAP diet restricts or, in certain instances, eliminates the consumption of foods rich in FODMAPs, while promoting the intake of those with low FODMAP content.

Phase 1: Elimination

The initial phase involves the temporary elimination of high FODMAP foods from the diet. Typically lasts for 2 to 6 weeks. Individuals strictly avoid foods known to be high in FODMAPs. This phase aims to provide relief from digestive symptoms by reducing potential triggers.


Phase 2: Reintroduction

Following the elimination phase, certain FODMAP groups are reintroduced systematically to identify specific triggers. Usually spans several weeks to months. FODMAP groups are reintroduced one at a time, in controlled quantities, to evaluate individual tolerance. Individuals carefully monitor their body's response to each reintroduced FODMAP group, noting any recurrence of symptoms.


Phase 3: Personalisation

Based on the results gathered from the reintroduction phase, a personalised and sustainable diet plan is developed. With the guidance of a healthcare professional or dietitian, individuals create a long-term eating plan that minimises FODMAP intake while ensuring a nutritionally balanced diet.


High-FODMAP foods comprise apples, dried fruit, asparagus, mushrooms, cow's milk, ice cream, legumes, wheat, honey, and pistachios. Conversely, low-FODMAP options include carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, oranges, blueberries, hard cheeses such as cheddar, Gouda, and Parmesan, eggs, oats, maple syrup, and peanuts.


Related story: Good Gut Food: Prebiotics And Probiotics


Is a low-FODMAPs diet plan for everyone?

FODMAPs aren't universally harmful. Our digestive systems are equipped to handle certain foods, like dietary fibre, which plays a vital role in digestive health. Feeding the gut bacteria is part of our natural relationship with these microbes.


  • Some individuals with sensitive digestive systems experience distressing symptoms from these foods, such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and distension due to the byproducts of fermentation.
  • The low-FODMAP diet is typically recommended for those diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). A 2022 study by Harvard Health Publishing indicates that 76 per cent of irritable bowel syndrome patients following the diet reported improvement with their symptoms.
  • It can also serve as a short-term elimination diet for anyone seeking to pinpoint specific food triggers for their digestive issues. Elimination diets involve temporarily removing common problematic foods and gradually reintroducing them to monitor the body's response. The low-FODMAP diet is just one of several elimination diets useful for identifying food sensitivities.


Related story: Healing Poor Gut Health


Eat more of these foods

  • Nut milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk
  • Lactose-free yoghurt, hard cheeses like feta and brie
  • Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew
  • Kiwi, lemon, lime, oranges, strawberries
  • Bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bok choy, carrots, chives
  • Cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, lettuce, olives, parsnips
  • Potatoes, spring onions, turnips
  • Beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
  • Almonds, macadamia, peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts
  • Oat, oat bran, rice bran
  • Gluten-free pasta (rice, corn, quinoa)
  • White rice, corn flour, quinoa


Related story: Signs of Unhealthy Gut


Eat less of these foods

  • Cow's milk, yoghurt, pudding, custard, ice cream
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, mascarpone
  • Fruits: apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, watermelon
  • Sweeteners: honey, agave nectar
  • Products with high fructose corn syrup
  • Vegetables: asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, garlic, onions
  • Grains: wheat, rye
  • Fruits: apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, plums, watermelon
  • Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas
  • Sweeteners: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, isomalt (found in sugar-free gum, mints, cough medicines)


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The goal of the low FODMAP diet isn't total elimination but rather reducing FODMAP intake to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms. The intention is to limit problematic foods within a category while acknowledging their health benefits. Everyone's tolerance for these foods varies.


Seek guidance from a registered dietitian before starting this diet. Ensuring the safety and healthiness of your eating plan is crucial. They'll guide you through eliminating FODMAPs from your diet and gradually reintroducing carbohydrates one by one while monitoring your symptoms.


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