Stream this Podcast episode:

Summary:

  • Why a Low FODMAP diet is so popular right now for gut issues
  • How a Low FODMAP diet actually impacts the microbiome… NOT good
  • Why the Low FODMAP diet is more like a “band-aid” approach
  • What you can do INSTEAD of a low FODMAP diet for sustainable gut health
  • Free giveaway at the end!

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Full (Edited) Transcript:

In this article, we’re going to be discussing potential NEGATIVE effects of going on a Low FODMAP Diet.

If you haven’t heard of a Low FODMAP diet before, you can check out my other article where I explain the basics of it here. In general, you are restricting certain food components (that are similar to fiber) that feed gut bacteria. These food components are regular parts of even healthy diets. However, by restricting feeding the bacteria with these FODMAPS, then the side effects from the “fermentation process” (the bacteria eating the food) will lessen, and bloating, cramping, etc. can reduce.

A Low FODMAP diet is now being increasingly used for all sorts of gut issues such as IBS, bloating, cramping, intestinal pain, diarrhea, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, to name a few.

There are multiple clinical trials out now that confirms that Low FODMAP diets can help reduce intestinal symptoms.

While a Low FODMAP diet can reduce the symptoms of many of these conditions, it doesn’t come without side effects.

If done in a proper way (usually with the guidance of a health professional), then doing a “round” of a Low FODMAP diet can work out just fine and you can end up better than where you started.

The Problem

However, the problem occurs when it is not done “properly” or when it is done indefinitely. This is unfortunately happening more and more as people “self-prescribe” low FODMAP diets.

The issue with Low FODMAP diets is that it almost always worsens our gut microbiome over time!

In fact, when you take healthy people and put them on a low FODMAP diet, their microbiome actually becomes more similar to the microbiome of someone with Crohn’s Disease over time! (1, 2)

This is obviously not a beneficial thing.

Even more importantly, though, is that this same effect occurs in those who tend to ALREADY have a issues with their microbiome – those with IBS / Crohn’s / Ulcerative Colitis! (1, 3)

“In general, similar to healthy subjects, restricting non-digestible carbohydrate [i.e. FODMAP’s] intake in patients with intestinal diseases has opposite effects compared to prebiotic supplementation, causing a reduction in bifidobacteria and an increase in bacteria associated with dysbiosis.

Vandeputte Et. Al., 2020 (3) [emphasis mine]

What We Need To Recognize

Thus, we need to realize that the low FODMAP diet is not a “cure” for intestinal issues. It doesn’t actually “fix” the problem.

What it CAN do is temporarily restrict food components that contribute to inflammation, which can give the gut a “break” for a period of time, allowing it to better heal up whatever needs to be healed.

Yet, if this isn’t the way that it is used – if it’s being used to actually fix your intestinal issues long term, then it can certainly lead to problems.

What is actually going to happen is that you will likely find at least some short term symptom relief while you are on the diet… but the longer you stay on it, the worse you could be making your microbiome.

Therefore, when you finally get off the diet, your microbiome is likely going to be at a worse place than where it started. It will feel like you are now “hooked” to the diet, and whenever you try to come off of it, your symptoms flair up like crazy.

Remember, I’m not telling you to never go on a low FODMAP diet.

But a proper low FODMAP diet always has a “re-introduction phase”, where problematic FODMAPs are slowly re-introduced into the diet in an attempt to get back to normalcy. (You can learn more about the ins and outs of a low FODMAP diet in my other article.)

What If A Low FODMAP Diet Isn’t Even Necessary?

With the popularity of the low FODMAP right now for all-things-IBS, most patients aren’t even given other options that could be JUST AS BENEFICIAL for symptom reduction, but without the long-term side effects of a worsened microbiome.

This is where we really get to the crux of the issue.

See, most people go on a low FODMAP diet because they are trying to help their gut. They likely were never even told that it could actually make their microbiome worse over time (even though they are getting short term symptom improvement).

In this way, the low FODMAP diet is like a “Band-Aid approach”: it is “covering up” symptoms, but not fixing any underlying issue.

Yet, there are other options.

Put To The Test

For example, in terms of “popular diets that have been extensively researched for health benefits”, the Mediterranean Diet comes scores very high.

In particular, researchers actually put the Mediterranean Diet to the test against a Low FODMAP diet and a gluten free diet in patients with IBS (specifically Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis). Each patient was put on each diet for 1 month.

These diets where are strictly controlled by dieticians.

What the researchers found is that all three diets reduced the severity of the IBS by virtually the same amount!

However, considering that it is very difficult to adhere to and sustain a low FODMAP diet, the patients OVERWHELMINGLY preferred the Mediterranean Diet:
3% of patients preferred the low-FODMAP diet, 11% preferred the gluten-free, and 86% preferred the Mediterranean diet.

It is important to remember that while all three diets reduced intestinal symptoms, the Mediterranean Diet is actually sustainable over the long term and is healthy.

Completely opposite to the low FODMAP diet, the Mediterranean Diet actually improves the microbiome over time! (4, 5)

Thus, opposite to the low FODMAP diet, if you ever decide to get “off” the Mediterranean Diet, your microbiome will very likely be in a better place than where it started!

(One of the HUGE reasons for this is due to the abundance of polyphenols in the Mediterranean Diet – learn more about polyphenols here.)

The Mediterranean Diet is also MUCH easier to sustain over the long term.

Let’s not focus on Band-Aid or short-term solutions, but sustainable long-term solutions.

Bonus Free Give-Away!

Right now I am giving away a FREE 3-PART VIDEO SERIES where I go over 3 natural, research-based strategies that have been shown to drastically improve the quality of life in those with Crohn’s and U.C.!

To get this free video series now, just click here.

References:

  1. Halmos EP. A low FODMAP diet in patients with Crohn’s disease. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016;31 Suppl 1:14-5.
  2. Sloan TJ, Jalanka J, Major GAD, et al. A low FODMAP diet is associated with changes in the microbiota and reduction in breath hydrogen but not colonic volume in healthy subjects. PLoS One. 2018;13(7):e0201410. Published 2018 Jul 26. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201410
  3. Vandeputte D, Joossens M. Effects of Low and High FODMAP Diets on Human Gastrointestinal Microbiota Composition in Adults with Intestinal Diseases: A Systematic Review. Microorganisms. 2020;8(11):1638. Published 2020 Oct 23. doi:10.3390/microorganisms8111638
  4. Nagpal R, Shively CA, Register TC, Craft S, Yadav H. Gut microbiome-Mediterranean diet interactions in improving host health. F1000Res. 2019;8:699. Published 2019 May 21. doi:10.12688/f1000research.18992.1
  5. Merra G, Noce A, Marrone G, Cintoni M, Tarsitano MG, Capacci A, De Lorenzo A. Influence of Mediterranean Diet on Human Gut Microbiota. Nutrients. 2020 Dec 22;13(1):7. doi: 10.3390/nu13010007. PMID: 33375042; PMCID: PMC7822000.

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