The Low FODMAP Diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia after they identified which foods are most likely to trigger IBS symptoms. To date, it is the most evidenced-based dietary approach for managing bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements in people with IBS. Unfortunately, there are a few myths and misconceptions about the Low FODMAP diet that could lead you to over-restricting your diet and need to be debunked.
5 Myths about the Low FODMAP Diet…Debunked!
1. It’s a life-long diet
This is perhaps the most common misconception. This is the idea that you should follow a low FODMAP diet for the rest of your life. In fact, this is just a temporary, learning diet and the “low FODMAP” part refers to the first phase of the diet when you eliminate or reduce all high FODMAP foods. As soon as you feel better, you need to reintroduce those foods gradually and systematically to find out your personal triggers and can craft your personalized FODMAP diet.
2. It’s the same for everyone
This is another FODMAP myth we need to debunk. I often hear people tell me their doctor gave them a handout and told them to follow the low FODMAP diet. Period. It’s not that simple! In fact, this is not just a list of foods to include or exclude. Undoubtedly, there are high-FODMAP foods that you will limit or exclude temporarily. And foods with negligible or no FODMAPs you will include liberally. However, so many foods are either low or high depending on their portion size. And the degree of restriction can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms, your IBS type, other intolerances or allergies, and other factors.
Most importantly, every person reacts differently to different high-FODMAP foods, and they will end up eating a modified FODMAP diet that is unique to them.
3. It’s a gluten-free diet
This is arguably one of the most common of the low FODMAP diet myths to be debunked. Gluten is not a FODMAP. FODMAPs are carbohydrates and gluten is a protein. However, gluten and fructans (a certain class of FODMAPs) coexist in wheat, barley, and rye. And this is where the confusion comes in. Certainly, you will need to exclude most wheat, barley, rye, and products made with these grains during the elimination phase, in order to eliminate fructans. But you can include some low-FODMAP foods that contain gluten, such as soy sauce.
On the other hand, not all gluten-free products are low in FODMAP. Many types of gluten-free bread and other baked products often contain high-FODMAP ingredients. Some examples are honey, agave, pear or apple juice, or inulin/chicory. Products that contain these ingredients are not suited for a low FODMAP diet.
4. It’s a dairy-free diet
This is perhaps an equally common misconception about the low FODMAP diet that needs to be discredited! The low FODMAP Diet is a low-lactose diet, not a dairy-free diet. Unless you have a dairy allergy, you don’t need to avoid dairy altogether. Indeed, you can include lactose-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream. In addition, you can have dairy products that naturally have minimal or no lactose. For example, hard cheeses like parmesan or cheddar, butter, and small amounts of cream and half-and-half.
5. It’s a low-fiber diet
Finally, a big misconception is that you need to avoid all high-fiber foods. This is not true and can be counterproductive for those suffering from constipation. Depending on which kind of motility issue you may have and your symptoms, you will need to individualize the type and amount of fiber in your diet.
Unlike popular belief, there are many low FODMAP sources of fiber you can and should include. For example, canned chickpeas and lentils, low-FODMAP vegetables and fruits, low-FODMAP whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, etc.), and nuts and seeds. With the help of an expert dietitian (like me), you can find the right amount and type of fiber for you and enjoy all its benefits.
In summary, the low FODMAP diet is not a life-long diet and is less restrictive than most people think, as it doesn’t necessarily restrict gluten or dairy. Most importantly, it won’t look the same for everyone, as it needs to be individualized to meet the needs and symptom profile of each individual person.
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Published November 12, 2018. Updated, April 18, 2023.