Digestive Disorders Can Be Addressed with Low FODMAP Diets
Are you one of the unfortunate ones who suffers from chronic digestive disorders? Do you experience symptoms like bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation? There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that this could be related to your diet, and in particular, to something call FODMAPs. Furthermore, many people have dramatically improved or even eliminated their chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptons by following a short-term “low FODMAP” diet. Although this can be very challenging for a vegan, this article will show you how a vegan FODMAP can be done and provide a few recipes for your to try.
Quite simply, FODMAPs are carbohydrates and sugar alcohols naturally found in many foods we eat. For those with an intolerance to these sugars, digestive distress can be severe. Some people don’t absorb the FODMAPS in the intestine. The undigested carbohydrates act like a sponge, causing bloating and discomfort. Fortunately, FODMAP sensitivity is not allergic in nature. It is different from celiac disease and lactose intolerance but it does relate to how food is digested. The FODMAP diet is an offshoot of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet which was created to address “leaky gut” by healing the gut microbiome and preventing a toxic overload caused by substances that do not belong entering your bloodstream (then causing a myriad of health challenges).
FODMAP is an acronym basically meaning short carbon chain sugars. These sugars are what your stomach absorbs and your body uses for fuel. For most people, digesting these compounds is not a problem but for those with sensitivity, these compounds are poorly absorbed and can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. If you are such a person, this can be tested by cut out all high FODMAP foods from your diet to get things under control. And it is also possible to undertake a vegan FODMAP diet.
Galactans: oligosaccharides (short chains of sugars) that are abundant in beans.
Fructans: A type of oligosaccharide which are chains of fructose in artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, wheat, rye, and barley.
Lactose: A disaccharide (two simple sugars linked together) which is found in milk and other dairy foods (generally not an issue for vegans).
Fructose: A simple sugar (monosaccharide) found in sugars and fruits. The ratio of fructose to the sugar glucose is more important than the total amount of fructose in the diet since this ratio affects absorption. Some fruits that are high in fructose, like apples, pears, watermelon, and mango, can be worse for you than table sugar which has both fructose and glucose when in comes to GI symptoms. Issue can be reduced by limiting fruits to one serving of a low-FODMAP fruit per meal. Sensitive people would choose well-ripened fruit since it’s lower in fructose than unripe fruit.
Polyols: Sugar alcohols which include sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol. These compounds used in some sugar substitutes but also occur naturally in some fruits like apples, apricots, avocado, cherries, nectarines, pears, plums, prunes, and mushrooms.
To address your GI issues, many people have great success temporarily limiting high FODMAP foods for a short period of time. It is important to clarify that following a low FODMAP diet is very restrictive and cuts out many common foods and food groups. However, this is not permanent – you will reintroduce foods you’ve eliminated again. But in the short term, when you eliminate or drastically reduce FODMAPs from of your diet, it gives your gut bacteria a chance to correct any imbalances, and your gut some time to heal.
Many people following the low FODMAPs diet for a period of 3-8 weeks. The duration will depends on how you respond when the eliminated foods are reduced. Plant-based eaters may also need to restore their guts. However for vegans, the low FODMAP can particularly be a challenge because most of the foods high in FODMAPs are plant-based. But do not despair, a vegan FODMAP diet can be done.
Foods High in FODMAPS:
Food high in FODMAPS include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coleslaw, sauerkraut. artichoke, brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, asparagus, baked beans, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans, wheat, barley, apples and pears, watermelon, concentrated fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice and sugar substitutes. (This is not a comprehensive list – this can be found elsewhere online.)
Vegan FODMAP Diets Are Possible
Many of the high FODMAP foods are also the same everyday staples that vegans enjoy in their diets. When eliminating FODMAPS, vegans can have a hard time getting adequate protein without consuming too many oligosaccharides which are found in beans, nuts, and seeds. Foods with no FODMAPS are generally animal products such as eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and fish which are not included in a vegan (or vegan FODMAP) diet.
Plant-Based Foods Lower in FODMAPs:
Plant-based eaters can have small portions (1/2 cup) chickpeas or lentils, tempeh, or tofu made of soybeans. It is advisable to avoid whole soybeans but vegans can have small portions (2 tbs) of nuts (with the exception of pistachios and cashews), small portions of chia seeds, wheat-free grains, quinoa, and corn.
Other low FODMAP foods for vegans include vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers eggplant, kale, sweet potato, and squash. Fruit to eat include avocados, bananas, grapes, and tomatoes (non-sun dried). Other foods include brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, chickpeas, and tahini. It is not impossible for plant-based eaters to follow a short-term, low FODMAP diet. There are plenty of delicious, low FODMAP vegan foods to sustain you. And now here are some easy and delicious recipes that will help you get started on a low vegan FODMAP diet.
Low Vegan FODMAP Recipes
(Click the Recipe Title to be taken to the full recipe and instructions.)
Remember, reversing your GI issues with a low vegan FODMAPs diet does not last forever! Commit to a few weeks of restrictive eating. Your gut will heal and you will be able to eat most of your favorite foods again soon. See if you can tolerate any of your favorite foods by introducing them into your diet one at a time. If you don’t have a reaction slowly include that food again in moderation. It is a good idea to work with your doctor whenever changing your diet and we also recommend consulting a nutritionist or health coach who is familiar with the FODMAP diet to make sure you are getting the nutrition your body needs to stay healthy.
If you do have GI challenges, you could very well benefit from a period of healing with a low vegan FODMAP diet. It is possible you would experience a major decrease in digestive challenges as well as increases your energy throughout the day. The short term low FODMAP diet has even has proven to be stress reducer for many people. Thankfully some of the best low FODMAP foods out there also happen to taste delicious and are suitable for plant-based eaters! We wish you great GI health!
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