The Low FODMAP Diet Explained: A Q&A With Dr. Robert Graham

Our Brand Ambassador Chef Dr. Robert Graham is a Harvard-trained, board-certified medical doctor, a trained chef, and has a Master’s degree in public health. His private practice FRESH Medicine is an integrative health practice that focuses on a “FRESH” approach to address the root cause of disease: Food, Relaxation, Exercise, Sleep, and Happiness. Dr. Graham believes sound nutrition is the most important solution to good health, and he often prescribes the low FODMAP diet. Today, he sat down to talk with us about the low FODMAP diet so that we can get a better understanding of what it is and how it might help.

What is a low FODMAP diet?

A low FODMAP diet limits various carbohydrates to help relieve certain symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates—including lactose, fructose, fructans, and galactans found in some grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products—that are difficult for some people to digest and absorb. 

Restricting high-FODMAP foods and following a low FODMAP diet can provide remarkable relief of gut symptoms, particularly in people with IBS. 

Tell us about FODMAPs. What are they and what does that stand for?

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all diet to help treat IBS, the low-FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols) diet has been studied in recent years as an “initial” approach to manage symptoms. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates found in some grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products that are difficult for some people to digest and absorb.

Who should follow a low FODMAP diet? What symptoms would they exhibit?

Although I recommend speaking with your doctor or health professional before following any new health regime, many people with IBS can try following a low FODMAP diet. This includes anyone with symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence. 

For someone with some of these symptoms, how would you help them begin on a low FODMAP diet? 

First, the diet begins with an elimination period in which FODMAP-containing foods are strictly limited. This includes sugars like lactose, fructose, fructans, and galactans. All of which are found in certain grains, fruits, vegetables (like onions and garlic), legumes, and dairy products. 

This diet can be challenging, so for starters, I often recommend people to eliminate garlic, onions and wheat and to evaluate how they feel within three days of elimination. It can also be challenging for patients to cook these meals from scratch, so I often recommend they explore prepared or frozen meals.

Once patients have restricted the other remaining foods for four to six weeks, foods are gradually reintroduced to determine which foods trigger IBS symptoms. Once trigger foods are identified, patients can work with dietitians to find meals that suit the patient’s needs. You can book a free consultation with our Performance Kitchen team of Registered Dietitians here.

What foods should someone on a low FODMAP diet avoid?

Some foods to avoid include:

  • Wheat and rye products like bread, crackers, pasta, and pizza
  • Certain vegetables like onions, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more
  • Certain fruits, particularly stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and mangoes. Other fruits to avoid include apples, pears, watermelon, and blackberries 
  • Dairy products that contain lactose such as milk, yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream
  • Sweeteners

What foods would you encourage someone on a low FODMAP diet to eat? Give us your suggested sample shopping list.

There are still many foods patients on a low FODMAP diet can enjoy.

Vegetables:

  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Ginger
  • Olives
  • Potatoes
  • Turnips

Fresh Fruits:

  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Banana
  • Blueberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
Low FODMAP diet friendly fresh fruits.

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