Is the Low FODMAP Diet the Key to Weight Loss?


Ever Heard of the Low FODMAP Diet?

Following a low FODMAP diet means eliminating foods that are high in specific, fermentable carbohydrates.

FODMAPs stand for Fcan be fixed HIligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharides and Polyol. In some people, these types of carbohydrates can cause digestive upset such as bloating, gas, stomach pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea.

The concept of FODMAPs was first introduced as part of a hypothesis paper published in 2005 in the Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. In this paper, the authors propose that by reducing these carbohydrates, the aforementioned symptoms can be minimized. The low FODMAP diet was developed as part of a research study conducted by scientists at Monash University. Their research is ongoing.

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How Does This Diet Work?

The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet. There are three phases involved in the process:

1) Restriction Phase: Stop eating all high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks to allow your symptoms to improve.

2) The reintroduction phase: Reintroduce foods slowly (one new food in a category is recommended every 3 days), noting any changes in symptoms.

3) Personalization Phase: Once you know which foods are causing your symptoms to flare up or get worse, you know to avoid these foods (and only these foods) in the long term. It should be noted that the foods that trigger symptoms will likely differ from person to person.

So What Can You Eat?

Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist before starting a low-FODMAP diet, especially given the challenges faced as part of the restriction phase. A registered dietitian can help you figure out how to make certain dietary changes while maintaining proper nutrition throughout the process. Some common low FODMAP foods are listed below. See the Monash University FODMAP Diet App for a more complete list.

  • Grains: gluten-free grains (rice products, oat products, potato products, corn products)
  • Protein sources: unseasoned poultry, unseasoned fish, unseasoned beef, unseasoned pork, bacon, eggs, tofu
  • Dairy: lactose-free products, rice milk, soy milk, hard/aged/ripe cheeses (brie, Camembert, cheddar, feta)
  • Fruits: grapes, oranges, bananas, blueberries, pineapples, honeydew melons, kiwis, lemons, limes
  • Vegetables: cucumber, potato, tomato, eggplant, zucchini, squash, squash, green beans, lettuce, spinach
  • Other: most tea & coffee, basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, ginger, turmeric, most spices (except those with high fructose corn syrup), sweeteners that don’t end in “-ol”
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Are There Alternatives to Avoiding These Foods Completely?

Supplementing specific enzymes to help the body break down FODMAPs is a possible solution. Studies on this enzyme have so far been limited. For someone following a low FODMAP diet, eliminating trigger foods has been shown to reduce symptoms in up to 86% of people. In many cases, a combination of dietary changes (such as a low-FODMAP diet), medications, and stress management techniques is often the best approach.

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So Is the Low FODMAP Diet the Key to Weight Loss?

Simply put, no. While you may lose weight on a low-FODMAP diet because you’ve eliminated so many foods, it’s certainly not the key to weight loss. There is no need to restrict your diet in these particular ways if you are not experiencing symptoms of indigestion. If you follow this diet unnecessarily, it may do more harm than good. Many high-FODMAP foods are prebiotics that support gut health and offer a prime source of essential vitamins and minerals. If you believe that the low-FODMAP diet is right for you, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to determine if it is a good choice.

Madalyn Fiorillo is currently a first year student in the MA Nutrition Sciences program at Syracuse University. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. It is his goal to become a registered dietitian nutritionist in the future.