You’ll probably agree that one of the primary reasons people choose to follow a diet is to lose weight, though often there’s also a secondary goal; to improve one’s overall health and wellness.
The Low FODMAP Diet is an therapeutic eating plan that is recommended to people who are suffering from functional gut disorders with symptoms like abdominal distention, bloating, excess wind, and/or constipation and diarrhea.
The Low FODMAP diet was developed by Monash University researchers. It aims to limit foods that are known to trigger the gut, and cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 
According to the researchers at Monash, a massive 15% of the world’s population are affected by IBS, and food is often a common trigger for various digestive issues; Restricting specific types of foods could significantly reduce the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.
What Are FODMAPs?
The foods most known to cause digestive issues are high in “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”, which is essentially just a group of sugars that’s referred to as “FODMAP”. These foods draw water into your digestive tract and can create symptoms like gas, bloating, and stomach pain.
FODMAPs are found naturally in many foods, with some foods containing more than one kind. They are also used as food additives in certain processed foods.
Below are the main sources of FODMAPs:
- Disaccharides: Milk, yogurt, and soft cheeses.
- Oligosaccharides: Wheat, legumes, rye, legumes/ pulses, onions, and garlic.
- Monosaccharides: Various fruits, including apples, grapes – and sweeteners like honey, cane sugar, and agave nectar.
- Polyols: Wide range of fruits and vegetables including blackberries, apricots, and avocados, as well as some sweeteners in processed foods, such as toffees, hard candies, jams, and preserves.
How Does It Work?
The idea behind the low FODMAP diet is that cutting out or reducing your intake of high FODMAP foods will decrease intestinal distention and digestive upset.
It is important to note that the program is intensive, and fairly restrictive – and should only be followed under the supervision of a registered dietitian.
The diet itself involves three stages: restriction, reintroduction, and personalization.
Stage 1: Restriction
During the first stage of the low FODMAP diet, you eliminate foods that are high in FODMAPs (such as wheat, onion, garlic, certain fruits and vegetables, sweeteners, legumes, pulses, and other).
This stage lasts about 2 to 6 weeks – because some FODMAPs promote gut health and will need to be reintroduced.
Some people may notice an improvement in their health as early as in the first week – but for some, it takes the full six weeks. The idea is that you move on to the second stage once your symptoms have resolved.
Stage 2: Reintroduction
The second stage aims to identify:
- Which types of FODMAPs your body is sensitive to, and which types it can tolerate;
- The amount of FODMAPs your body can tolerate, also known as your “threshold level.”
With the help of a qualified dietician, you will systematically reintroduce FODMAP foods into your diet, and observe the changes in your gut health. You will be testing specific foods one by one, for three days each. 
It is important to continue with the low FODMAP diet during this stage and restrict your consumption of high-FODMAP foods, even if you have identified that your body can tolerate some of them well.
Stage 3: Diet Personalization
During the final stage you will still limit your intake of some FODMAPs, but the amount and type of FODMAPs will be tailored to what you can personally tolerate. This will have been identified in the reintroduction stage.
Knowing which foods your body reacts sensitively to will allow you to make specific changes if need be. For example, you may want to avoid certain high FODMAP foods in large amounts, because you know your body reacts with IBS symptoms.
Who Should Follow The Low FODMAP Diet?
This is a diet for those suffering from from IBS. It will serve no benefit to anybody who is not suffering from gut disorders.
Speak To A Healthcare Professional Before Starting A FODMAP Restricted Diet
Diagnosing IBS with a positive diagnostic test isn’t possible, therefore, if you suspect that you have IBS, your doctor will first need to rule out other potential illnesses, like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and colon cancer. 
Once these illnesses have been ruled out, your doctor will be able to confirm that you have IBS using the following diagnostic criteria:
- A recurring stomach pain at least 1 day per week in the last 3 months;
- The pain to be associated with two or more of the following: related to defecation, associated with a change in frequency of stool, or associated with a change in the appearance of stool.
Even if you have been diagnosed with IBS, following this diet may not be the first potential treatment to opt for. Because the diet is intensive and quite restrictive, your doctor may first recommend other treatments, such as stress management strategies, or avoiding certain foods that are likely to trigger IBS symptoms (like caffeine, or alcohol). 
Will Removing FODMAPs Actually Work To Cure IBS?
Research has shown that the diet plan can help manage unpleasant abdominal symptoms in people with IBS. 
Some studies showed that, for those suffering from IBS, the chances of reducing stomach pains and bloating are 81% and 75% greater, respectively. 
In addition to that, there is even some research that shows that the diet can improve the quality of life of those suffering from IBS. 
The Pros and Cons of The Low FODMAP Diet
Below we’ve listed everything we like and dislike about this diet program:
- It can help alleviate uncomfortable digestive problems.
- It can significantly improve the quality of life of those with IBS.
- There is some speculation it may also help other digestive conditions.
- It can also be followed by vegetarians.
- The diet is quite restrictive.
- It can be expensive.
- It can be quite challenging to follow.
- It is less convenient than some of the other diets.
- It won’t help you lose weight.
The Low FODMAP diet is an effective way to help those suffering from IBS and experiencing symptoms like gas, bloating, and stomach pains. Research has shown that it can provide relief to those suffering from IBS, as well as significantly improve their overall life quality.
The diet is a temporary way to heal your gut, and once completed, most people will be able to return to their previous diet and only cut out a few high FODMAP foods.
The diet should be followed under the supervision of a qualified dietician, who can provide the needed help and guidance. One of the downsides is that hiring a dietician can be costlier than some of the other diets.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS, and haven’t responded to stress management strategies or first-line dietary advice, this diet could be something you consider as a treatment.