Why eating a low-FODMAP diet is not good for your gut

Yes, a low-FODMAP diet can help you manage your symptoms.

The studies show the effectiveness of low-FODMAP diets to reduce
bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort, diarrhea and constipation.

And so do both my clinical experience as a registered dietitian and
my personal experience as a past IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferer.

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But you might need to go beyond the typical low-FODMAP diet to heal your gut… unless you want to eat low-FODMAP for the rest of your life and deprive yourself of many of the delicious and healthy high-FODMAP foods, such as onions, garlic, avocado, sweet potatoes,  cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, beets, pears, apples, peaches, watermelon and nuts like cashews, pistachios and almonds just to name a few.

Especially that we now know that FODMAPs play an important in keeping your gut flora balanced and healthy (read my previous post on the safety of low-FODMAP diet for your gut flora in the long-term). And more and more studies are showing that the health of your gut flora is important for just about EVERYTHING, including your digestion, immune health, weight regulation, hormonal balance, mental health, and so much more.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that a low-FODMAP diet can’t help you feel better in the short-term. What I’m saying though is that the conventional low-FODMAP diet is not necessarily the healthy, anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense diet you need to truly heal your gut and live the healthy life you deserve.

Managing your gut symptoms is not the same as healing your gut

I definitely applaud you for taking your health in your own hands and using
food as medicine to control your digestive issues naturally.

However,  symptom management is not synonymous with healing.
It’s time to differentiate these terms.

Symptom management is just like putting a band-aid on a wound. It might help you feel better
and prevent it form hurting as much but it won’t necessarily help it heal.

Not unless you address the root cause.

What caused the wound in the first place? Is it infected? Is there a splinter? What factors are contributing to the cascade of inflammation now causing you to feel pain and no be able to use your wounded finger (as an example) normally? What does your body need to heal this wound? And what can you do to prevent another similar wound in the future?

These are the hard questions you need to address and find the right answers to
if you want to take your health to the next level.

Going to the root of your FODMAP intolerance

From both my personal and clinical experience, I don’t believe FODMAP intolerance
is a permanent problem
. Not like a peanut or egg allergy.

This is why it is important to identify the root cause of your FODMAP intolerance. Do you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)? Or another form of gut dybsiosis (imbalance in your gut flora)? Do you have a problem with the transit speed and motility of your gut? A lack of digestive enzymes or inadequate stomach acid? Is your past / current diet contributing to gut inflammation, leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability) or an imbalance in the types of bacteria, yeasts or other microorganisms living in your gut?

The answers to these questions can vary between different people,
even though you might all have FODMAP intolerance in common.

Did you know? Did you know that the word Radicata (the name of my website) means root in latin? I love this word because I understand the importance of going to the root cause of any health issues and using the root of medicine (nutrition) to heal ourselves.

The typical low-FODMAP diet is  NOT healthy

Have  a look at this typical low-FODMAP menu:

Low-FODMAP Breakfast

  • a couple of gluten-free or spelt toasts with margarine and strawberry jam, or
  • a bowl of corn flakes with  lactose-free milk and a serving of low-FODMAP fruit (orange or kiwi)

Low-FODMAP Lunch

  • ham or tuna sandwich on gluten-free or spelt bread, or
  • gluten-free pasta with margarine and tomato

Low-FODMAP Dinner

  • tofu with  quinoa and low-FODMAP vegetables, or
  • lean meat or poultry with potato or rice and low-FODMAP vegetables

Low-FODMAP Snacks

  • lactose-free yogurt and gluten-free muffin, or
  • rice cakes with peanut butter,
  • a serving of low-FODMAP fruit (banana or cantaloup), or
  • gluten-free pretzels

Unfortunately, the typical low-FODMAP diet is high in processed carbs and low in nutrients.

Although avoiding FODMAPs is helpful in controlling the excess intestinal fermentation responsible for your bloating, pain and abnormal bowel movements,
it is not a diet I would recommend to anyone, let alone those with digestive issues.

Is it wise for people with digestive issues to consume grains, even gluten-free ones?
And dairy? And soy? And vegetable oils? And sugar?

Where are the healthy fats? Where are he anti-inflammatory foods?  And where are the gut-healing superfoods like homemade bone broth,  fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut), fermented cod liver oil and nutrient-dense liver from pastured animals?

Combine your gut healing tools!

The low-FODMAP diet is a powerful and effective tool you can use to identify what is going wrong with your digestion and finally start keeping your symptoms under control. But if your goal is to go beyond basic symptom management and truly heal your gut, you will definitely need to go beyond the typical low-FODMAP diet.

While addressing the root cause of your FODMAP intolerance, you will need to prioritize anti-inflammatory foods to allow the lining of your gut to heal and regain the ability to produce and secrete the digestive enzymes you need to better digest and absorb your food.

You will also need to pack as much nutrition as you can (within the limits of a low-FODMAP diet) to correct the nutritional deficiencies often associated with a FODMAP intolerance and digestive issues and give your body all the building blocks it needs for the healing process.

And you’ll need to take the right steps to balance your gut flora if you want to eat onions, apples and avocados again, like me and many of the people I worked with in the past have been able to do.

The solution =

low-FODMAP + anti-inflammatory + nutrient-dense + gut healing

There’s hope.

But don’t settle for a conventional low-FODMAP diet if you want your gut to heal.

Health starts in the gut and gut health starts with REAL food.

8 thoughts on “Why eating a low-FODMAP diet is not good for your gut

  • As someone who is looking into trying a low FODMAP diet, your article concerns me. It was my understanding that the point of the low FODMAP diet is to help discover which sugar or sugars in certain carbohydrates could be contributing to IBS. And that once the specific sugar or sugars are identified, through further testing I can determine my tolerance level for that particular sugar and may be able to reintroduce the sugar at a lesser level. It was also my understanding that most people don’t need to completely eliminate all sugar groups forever but rather, only during the initial elimination phase which should last no longer that 2-8 weeks. For example, someone may eliminate all the FODMAPS for a few weeks and then reintroduce each group and discover that they have problems with the lactose but can tolerate all other sugars. So there would be no need for this person to completely eliminate any fruits, vegetables, beans or wheat after the initial testing. Only milk products would have to be managed and this person may be able to tolerate some milk products that are lower in lactose like certain cheeses.

  • Hi Aglaee,

    Can you refer me to a solid low fodmaps food list that you would consider reliable and effective to follow? Its just their are so many and a few have some differences between whats allowed and what is not.

    Thanks!

    J

  • Hi there,

    Thank you for your article – I’ve been trying to tackle some gut problems for as long as I can remember. I have read alot about leaky gut and the diet you speak of to improve your gut flora. It has been difficult with the restricted foods but I have done it for 3 weeks and starting to feel slightly better.
    However, a new doctor has insisted I do the fodmap diet – I am trying to find somewhere a merge of the two of these diets as it seems there is so much information everywhere with lots of different advice.

    Is there a list a foods to avoid and foods to eat that you can suggest which is a merge of these two that you talk of above?

    Any help would be amazing.

    Thank you x

  • I really appreciated your article as well. I started out with AIP, but this actually aggravated many of my symptoms. Now I am eating an AIP and low fodmap program which seems to have alleviated many of my digestive symptoms, decreased allergy reactions I was having due to some foods, as well as got rid of many other symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, brain fog. Though I am getting good results, I know this current diet is not sustainable. How do I transition into something more sustainable. I have listened to your BFF program, appreciated the resources and have enjoyed some of the recipes but again I am limited due to AIP. I am considering re-introducing some of the things you use in your recipes, but that will take time. Do you have any other recommendations? Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel, you are very wise! 🙂 I’m glad you’re feeling better. I would try slowly reintroducing in very small amounts and gradually to see what happens (when you’re ready). If it doesn’t work well, I would suggest getting tested (and treated) for SIBO which would be the most likely reason why you’re sensitive to FOMDAPs (and it’s highly prevalent in people with autoimmunity). All the best and keep me posted!

      Aglaee

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