Updated: Feb 28
A key step to living your best life consists of eating a diet that works best for you. That diet should entail foods that your body and gut can easily digest so that you can actually go out and live your best life instead of running to the bathroom! Finding foods that work well with your body starts with building awareness around what your body doesn’t like.
To do so it is important to start connecting the dots between what you are eating and how those foods are making your body feel. In this case, we are looking for any negative reactions. As you get more experience with this practice and get more in-tune with your body, you’ll realize there could be very specific foods that your body doesn’t tolerate well and could possibly give you symptoms varying from gas and bloating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) responses of diarrhea, constipation, or even a combination of the two. (IBS is, in fact, present in 10-20% of Americans.) These foods with negative reactions are called food intolerances.
A common example of finding a food intolerance is realizing that you are left feeling bloated and uncomfortable every time you consume milk. This could mean you cannot digest the lactose found in milk thus giving your body a negative reaction. These reactions are different from food allergies. A food intolerance does not involve the immune system at all and unfortunately, there is no test to get a definite diagnosis (although some companies are trying).
One way to start building awareness around your own food intolerances is to first know which foods are common offenders. FODMAPs are a great group of foods to look at, after gluten of course (which might be due to FODMAPs too).
FODMAPs are a class of fermentable fibers that can increase the probability of IBS and IBS-like symptoms. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols and unlike other food intolerances, FODMAPs result from incomplete digestion usually within the small intestine. When you can’t break down or absorb a FODMAP in your small or large intestine, water will come into the gut and then get fermented by the bacteria in the colon. This produces hydrogen over methane which ultimately causes a cascade of undesirable and negative reactions. As a result, FODMAP containing foods become irritating for a couple of reasons:
- Dysbiosis, or in other words, microbial/bacterial imbalance of the wrong type of bacteria in the system.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), microbial/bacterial imbalance in the wrong part of the digestive system—in this case the small intestine.
- Low stomach acid production and/or secretion.
- A gut pathogen, possibly infection, often obtained via travel abroad.
With all that being said, FODMAP containing foods is a good place to start connecting the dots between foods and their possible negative reactions. I put a comprehensive list of FODMAP foods below for you to take a look at.
However, some (and even most) people can tolerate FODMAPs just fine. As you can see from the FODMAP list below, there are probably tons of foods you are currently eating and seeing no negative effects from. These foods shouldn’t be eliminated just because they tend to be high in FODMAPs. Almost all of these foods listed also tend to be very nutrient-dense and removing them from your diet could leave you low on some important and essential nutrients. In addition, some oligosaccharides, mainly in legumes and whole grains, appear to be beneficial for gut health.
If you find that you react to only some of these foods, I suggest to start taking them out of your diet for 7-10 days. Then reintroduce them and see how you feel.
If you find that you react to a majority of these foods, I recommend working with a qualified professional (one trained with MNT) who can submit stool tests to a lab for analysis in order to determine the underlying cause of the intolerance.
Sorted by Oligosaccharides (fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides):
Globe artichokes, jerusalem artichokes, large amounts of garlic, leeks, onions, large amounts of wheat, large amounts of rye, large amounts of barley, inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas.
Sorted by Disaccharides (lactose):
Milk, ice cream, custard, yogurt, soft unripened cheese.
Sorted by Monosaccharides (excess fructose):
Honey, apples, mango, pears, watermelon, high fructose corn syrup, agave.
Sorted by Polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, isomalt):
Apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, nectarines, pears, plums, prunes, mushrooms, sugar-free candy.
Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, dandelion greens, eggplant, fennel, garlic, green onions, jicama, leeks, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, peppers, shallots, sunchokes.
Apples, apricots, avocados, blackberries, cherries, figs, lychees, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon.
Chicory, fennel, horseradish, onion powder, onion powder, wasabi.
Canned and Jarred:
Applesauce, Coconut milk.
Nuts, Seeds & Dried Fruit:
Coconut butter, shredded/flaked coconut, dried apples, dried apricots, dried figs, dried mango, pistachios.
Coconut aminos, Apple Cider Vinegar.
1. Berardi, John: Precision Nutrition: The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 3rd Edition. (2019).
2. Sanfilippo, Diane: Practical Paleo. (2012).