Hands reaching for foods on charcuterie board

FODMAP Foods to Avoid for a Happier Gut

In the intricate ecosystem of our bodies, the gut plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health. Digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, etc are all signs that your gut health needs some help. If you’re on a mission to improve your gut health, you’ve likely come across lots of pills and diets and “fixes” that claim to be the solution you’re looking for. Before you spend lots of money and invest precious time and energy, give my simple approach a try. As a registered dietitian specializing in gut health, I prefer to keep the focus on food and the approach simple. In this article, we will explore what FODMAPs are, which foods to avoid for a happier gut, the gut issues that can benefit from a low-FODMAP diet, how to maintain a well-rounded diet while avoiding FODMAPs, and strategies to improve your tolerance over time. Sound complicated? It certainly can be. Let’s take it one step at a time.

What Are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. As a result, they reach the colon where they are fermented by gut bacteria, leading to the production of gas and other byproducts. This fermentation process can cause discomfort and digestive symptoms in susceptible individuals.

There are four categories of FODMAPs:

Fermentable Oligosaccharides (fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides): Found in wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes, and certain fruits.

Disaccharides (lactose): Present in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Monosaccharides (fructose): Found in honey, certain fruits, and high-fructose corn syrup.

Polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and others): Present in some fruits and vegetables, as well as sugar-free gum and candies.

The Argument for a Gentle Approach to FODMAP Restriction

The traditional approach to improving gut symptoms related to FODMAPs is a low FODMAP diet, which has been shown to be effective for the majority of people with IBS and related digestive conditions. However, this diet is complicated and restrictive, which means that it’s not the right fit for everyone. In general, children and teens should avoid restrictive diets. Even for adults, restrictive diets may not be the right answer. Anyone with a history of disordered eating should steer clear of highly restrictive diets. Picky eaters would also do well to avoid restrictions, as well as high level athletes, or others who have increased nutritional needs, such as those who are sick or recovering from illness. 

This is where a gentle approach to the low FODMAP diet comes into play. A gentler approach involves identifying high FODMAP foods that are staples of the person’s diet and eliminating or reducing those, and monitoring the response. With a clear plan in place, individuals can attempt this independently. However, working with an experienced dietitian will make the process easier, and likely more effective. 

Who Should Try Adjusting Their FODMAP Intake

Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders often experience relief by reducing their FODMAP intake. IBS is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits. Research indicates that a significant number of IBS sufferers find relief from symptoms by reducing their intake of high-FODMAP foods.

Additionally, individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, may also experience benefits from limiting certain FODMAPs, particularly during flare-ups when the gut is more sensitive.

So where should someone who wants to adjust their FODMAP intake start? Review the list of common high FODMAP foods below and see what stands out as foods that you frequently eat.

Foods to Avoid for a Happier Gut

High-FODMAP Fruits

Certain fruits are high in fructose and polyols, making them potential triggers for digestive discomfort. Apples, pears, cherries, and watermelon fall into this category. Opt for low-FODMAP alternatives like berries, kiwi, and citrus fruits.

Cruciferous Vegetables

While vegetables are essential for a balanced diet, some can be high in FODMAPs. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are known culprits. Instead, choose low-FODMAP options like spinach, zucchini, and bell peppers.


Beans, lentils, and chickpeas contain high levels of oligosaccharides, contributing to gas and bloating. Substituting them with low-FODMAP alternatives like canned lentils or chickpeas in small portions can be a more gut-friendly option.

Dairy Products

Lactose-containing foods can be problematic for those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. Opt for lactose-free or low-lactose alternatives like lactose-free milk or hard cheeses. Additionally, lactose-free yogurt may be well-tolerated.

Wheat and Rye Products

Foods containing wheat and rye, such as bread, pasta, and cereals, are high in fructans. Consider gluten-free options made from rice or corn, or choose products with lower fructan content.

Did you find some potential offers from the list? Now, it’s time to decide how to replace them with low FODMAP alternatives. Below are some tips that should help. 

Achieving a Well-Rounded Diet While Avoiding FODMAPs

Adopting a low-FODMAP diet doesn’t mean sacrificing nutrition or variety. Here are some strategies to maintain a well-rounded diet:

Include Low-FODMAP Alternatives

 Instead of completely eliminating food groups, replace high-FODMAP foods with suitable alternatives. Your can use my low FODMAP shopping list for inspiration. My top recommendation is swap regular onions and garlic with their green parts or use garlic-infused oil for flavor.

Embrace Protein and Healthy Fats

Focus on protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, and tofu, and incorporate healthy fats from avocados, olive oil, and nuts. These choices offer essential nutrients without triggering digestive discomfort.

Choose Whole Grains

Opt for gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, rice, and oats, which are lower in FODMAPs. Ensure portion control to maintain a balanced intake.

Explore Low-FODMAP Vegetables

While some vegetables are high in FODMAPs, others are low and can be enjoyed freely. These include spinach, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Diversify your plate with colorful, nutrient-rich options.

Experiment with Alternative Milks

If lactose is an issue, try lactose-free milk, almond milk, or coconut milk as dairy substitutes. Ensure they are fortified with essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Improving Tolerance of FODMAPs

For many, the goal is not to permanently eliminate high-FODMAP foods but to improve tolerance over time. Check out my article on the foundations of gut health and consider the following strategies:

Gradual Reintroduction

 Once initial symptoms have subsided, slowly reintroduce high-FODMAP foods one at a time to identify specific triggers. This process should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian.


Probiotics can help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, potentially improving tolerance to FODMAPs. Yogurts containing probiotics or probiotic supplements can be beneficial, but individual responses may vary.

Mindful Eating

Pay attention to portion sizes and eating habits. Large meals or eating too quickly can contribute to digestive discomfort. Chew food thoroughly and savor the flavors to aid digestion. Head over the The Center for Mindful Eating’s site for helpful resources.

Stress Management

Stress can exacerbate digestive symptoms. Incorporate stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to support overall gut health.

Consult a Professional

If symptoms persist or worsen, seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian specializing in digestive health. They can provide personalized advice and create a plan tailored to your specific needs.


Understanding the impact of FODMAPs on gut health empowers individuals to make informed choices for a happier digestive system. While a low-FODMAP diet may offer relief for those with specific gastrointestinal conditions, it is essential to maintain a balanced and nutritious eating plan. By incorporating low-FODMAP alternatives, embracing a variety of nutrient-dense foods, and gradually reintroducing higher-FODMAP options, individuals can achieve a well-rounded diet while improving their tolerance over time. Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance, ensuring that your journey to a happier gut is both effective and sustainable.

Scroll to Top