The Dangers Of A Low FODMAP Diet

The low FODMAP diet can help manage symptoms of IBS and SIBO

Have you heard of the low FODMAP diet? I first saw articles about it years ago. However, being the person I am, I don’t explore niche diets very deeply. Until today! The low FODMAP diet, or LFD, is a diet that restricts certain foods in order to manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. It has some pretty specific characteristics, so keep reading to learn more!

Low FODMAP Diet Checklist

LFD is designed to restrict our consumption of certain sugars that some dieticians think cause stress in the intestines. Moreover, it is:

  • Short-term (2-6 weeks)
  • A process that involves the re-introduction of different foods
  • And guided by a doctor or nutritionist

The idea is that the sugars in question are responsible for constipation, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and gas! Wouldn’t it be nice if one diet could eliminate all of these problems?

It would be if it were proven.

Note: scientists have not researched many “fad diets”, especially not for their long-term impacts. Generally speaking, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the few researched diets out there. Overall, dieticians advocate for diets high in fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and protein.

Luckily for those suffering from IBS and SIBO, there is a significant amount of research on this diet.

In fact, a whopping 86% of individuals with these symptoms saw a reduction in symptoms from LFD.

So theoretically, if you were to try this diet, how would you do it?

First, you have to cut out all high FODMAP foods and eliminate those pesky sugars. Then, over time, you get to reintroduce foods to determine what is “troublesome” and what doesn’t seem to bother you at all.

High FODMAP foods include things like garlic, onions, beans, sugary fruits (like peaches), sausages, wheat products, dairy, fruit juice, and alcohol.

On the flip side, a low FODMAP diet can include leafy greens, tomatoes, squash, berries, most meats, gluten-free grains, decaffeinated coffee, cheeses, and many other spices.

Luckily, berries are a common part of the low FODMAP diet
Photo by Cecilia Par

For a comprehensive food list, you can visit this link here.

Why You Should “Hold You Horses” On This Diet

The low FODMAP diet sounds pretty great. I’ll be honest, when I first started reading about it, I got excited about how I could apply it in my own life.

Now, for reference, I consider myself a pretty healthy individual. And my gut doesn’t give me too many problems. But I had heard of an acquaintance who was using a low FODMAP diet to help manage her chronic migraines, and oh boy did that sound promising.

This is why I sat down and did the research.

Unfortunately, our society (myself included) has a tendency to hear one benefit of one thing, and then try to apply those benefits to everything else. This has happened with magnesium supplements, cutting out dairy, and so much more.

The reality is there is so much variation between individuals, that one thing is rarely (read never) a cure-all.

The same is true for pharmaceuticals. It is definitely true for diet. However, many of these trends can become “cult-like”, and somehow if you’re not a part of it then you are in the wrong.

This is why scientific studies are SO IMPORTANT. Not only do they do their best to actually measure the effect of one variable, but scientists measure treatments in huge samples. By increasing the number of people they test a treatment on, they can determine whether something is beneficial for a minority few, or for the greater majority.

It is also helpful when it comes to determining major and minor side effects.

So, before jumping headfirst into the low FODMAP diet, let’s explore what the science has to say.

Low FODMAP Diet & Inflamed Bowls

There are many different bowel diseases out there.

Irritated Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and more. Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, and ulcers are other conditions that impact one’s digestive system.

Naturally, this is where the bulk of LFD research has been done. And with promising results!

Low FODMAP diets are shown to benefit a variety of diseases, including Celiac, Crohn’s, and ulcers. In all cases, participants reported a decrease in symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea. However, in this particular study, constipation was neither relieved nor worsened.

Various researchers in various studies have reaffirmed these findings. It is always exciting when scientists are agreeing with one another!

Implications of the Low FODMAP Diet Beyond Out Digestive System

So can LFD help those with other problems? Does it help chronic migraines? Does it decrease inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis? Should the LFD be something that everyone does at some point in their lives?

Based on my research, no.

Why? Primarily because there IS NO RESEARCH on these various topics yet. I could not even find one small study about the impact of LFD on migraines or chronic pain.

In one study, which analyzed the impact of LFD on participants with fibromyalgia, the primary focus was still on gastrointestinal issues. True, the participants reported a decrease in GI symptoms and a parallel increase in body pain. But, it is entirely possible that the decrease in body pain was a placebo effect of being less distressed.

While I have no doubts that our digestive system is highly linked to our brain and mental health, the low FODMAP diet has not been explored in this capacity. Therefore, while IBS and other inflammatory bowel diseases are stressful and should be treated in whatever way possible, I cannot back LFD as a cure-all diet.

This isn’t to say that it is impossible that the LFD can help those with a variety of conditions or symptoms.

But there is more to it than a lack of evidence.

The Dangers of Restrictive Diets

When we restrict our diets, we risk shorting ourselves on key nutrients.

For example, many individuals who have tried the keto diet did not eat enough fiber because they assumed that vegetables (and not just the starchy ones) were optional.

The low FODMAP diet is highly restrictive and is abnormal for most people. You can put yourself at risk if you tried to tackle this diet without the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist!

One of the most important nutrients that you can lose out on during an LFD is vitamin B2, which promotes cellular function and energy levels!

Additionally, FODMAPs, those sugars that you are cutting out, are not evil. Many are prebiotics, which is key to promoting healthy gut microbiota.

Ultimately, a low FODMAP diet is not something you should try just because you “think” it might help you. If you are curious about its benefits to your health, speak to a doctor or a nutritionist. Learn the science behind the diet, and how it may (or may not) be relevant to your health.

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