When you are struggling with digestive issues, such as IBS, SIBO or IBD, an elimination diet is one of our best tools for providing symptomatic relief, identifying triggers of symptoms and giving your gut a break from hard to digest food.
We may use the low-FODMAP diet since it’s one of the most researched diets for IBS. Or we may use one of the variants such as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the SIBO Bi-Phasic Diet or the Fast Tract Diet. And while each approach may differ somewhat, they all reduce the amount of fermentable carbohydrates in the diet, which can be hard to digest.
The Paleo diet may also be used as a means to lower the carbohydrate load because it eliminates entire categories of fermentable carbohydrates including grains, legumes and dairy. If your stomach is still feeling cranky while on a Paleo diet, we may want to consider reducing the amount of FODMAP foods, as well.
Guys… as important as it is to eliminate foods that can cause digestive distress, it’s just as important to provide your body with a bounty of nutrient dense foods that will provide what your body needs to heal, fuel energy, boost metabolism and rebalance hormones. These foods provide tons of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and healthy fats.
I’m not going to bore you with which nutrient does what. That would be a tedious and very long read. The net net is that micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) work together with your macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) to repair cells, to provide energy, and to support your immune system. Basically, these guys are building blocks to good health. Without them we feel like crap.
It’s also important to include as much variety of food as possible in order to meet your nutritional needs.
So with all of this being said, and knowing each client has different food preferences and food intolerances I am including the most important categories with a variety of options.
Leafy greens boast high amounts of vitamins A & K, and offers folate, B vitamins, vitamin C, and a nice assortment of minerals. Leafy greens can also support your body’s detoxification process. Opt for:
Arugula – good source of calcium
Bok choy – excellent source of vitamin C
Cabbage and Napa cabbage – yep, another excellent source of vitamin C
Swiss chard – move over kale, Swiss chard has way more vitamin A and K
Pick a green, any green. But don’t just stick to one, rotate a new one in each week.
1 serving = 1 cup raw. Aim for 2 cups per day.
Keep in mind that cooked vegetables may be easier to digest than raw. So if you have been avoiding salads because they cause bloating, gas or diarrhea, I encourage you to try steamed or sautéed greens.
The brighter the color, the better!
Not only do vegetables include numerous vitamins and minerals but colorful plant foods also include phytonutrients, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. You may have heard of beta-carotene, the phytonutrient found in carrots and other orange fruits and vegetables or perhaps you have heard of lycopene found in tomatoes.
So if you regularly eat red bell peppers, then try orange peppers one week and yellow peppers the next. You’ll provide your body with a wider array of phytonutrients.
These veggies are not just colorful but they are also nutrition superstars because they offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. And these are the low-FODMAP vegetables that you can eat more than 1 bite of (I’m looking at you avocado).
Bell Peppers – tons of vitamin C
Broccoli - provides over 100% of your vitamin C needs
Carrots – go for rainbow carrots so you get a variety of phytonutrients
Oyster mushrooms – the only low-FODMAP mushroom, which is packed with B vitamins and an array of minerals
1 serving = ½ cup raw
Pick 2 servings of different colored veggies per day
Low-FODMAP Starchy Vegetables
Too much starch can be hard to digest so these vegetables are low-FODMAP in smaller quantities. Even with smaller serving sizes, they are abundant in numerous vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Choose:
Sweet potato – even with a ½ cup serving size, sweet potatoes offers more vitamin A than any other veggie on this list and it has more potassium than a banana
There aren’t as many low-FODMAP fruits as there are vegetables because many fruits are high in fructose and polyols. Sigh. But don’t worry; we can still have 2 servings per day while in the elimination phase.
As you can see from the list of leafy greens and colorful vegetables, you don’t need fruit to meet your vitamin C needs. But colorful fruit is bursting with those anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Go for:
Guava – sorry oranges, 2 medium guavas have more vitamin C than all of these fruits plus they have more potassium a banana
1 serving = ½ cup
Low-FODMAP Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds offer healthy plant-based fats and a plethora of vitamins & minerals. Get crackin’ with these:
Chia seeds – high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids
Flax seeds – super high in omega-3 fatty acids
Walnuts – also high in omega-3 fatty acids
Low-FODMAP Whole Grains
For some clients, grains can be hard to digest. That’s why they are limited in the initial phases of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the SIBO Bi-Phasic Diet. And the Paleo diet completely eliminates grains. If you can tolerate grains, go for these since they provide tons of B vitamins and minerals.
Brown rice – a more nutritious option than basmati
Millet – similar in texture and flavor to quinoa
Quinoa – also a good source of iron (many women with IBS & SIBO are deficient in iron)
Some clients don’t tolerate dairy or they may have a milk allergy. The Paleo diet eliminates dairy completely. So those who aren’t eating dairy need to get their calcium from non-dairy sources like arugula or from sardines (their soft bones are edible). For those who do dairy, opt for the following to get calcium and B vitamins:
Organic or grass-fed low-lactose dairy such as cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan, feta, etc.
Lactose-free yogurt or cottage cheese
THE NET NET
To summarize, each day aim to eat:
· 2 cups leafy greens
· 1 cup colorful veggies
· 1 cup colorful fruits or an additional cup of colorful veggies
· At least 1 serving of nuts or seeds
· 1 - 3 serving of whole grains
· 2 servings of dairy, if you can tolerate
By including as many of these foods in your low-FODMAP elimination diet as possible, you will give your body the nutrients it needs to feel better and have longer lasting results. Don’t forget, the low-FODMAP diet and other elimination diets are not forever diets. After a short time, we reintroduce food to determine the triggers of symptoms and then we expand the diet to include those foods you can safely eat. Ultimately, you are on the broadest diet possible with the fewest symptoms.
Need help selecting the right elimination diet for your digestive issues? You are welcome to schedule a free 15-minute strategy session so I can learn more and share my approach to your case.