Tips to Increase Prebiotic-rich Foods on a low FODMAP Diet

Prebiotics by definition are food for our health-promoting gut microbes. Learn more about prebiotics and IBS in my earlier post here.

A great resource for prebiotic fibers is the International Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics website, found here.

The low FODMAP diet reduces intake of key prebiotic fibers, fructans (found in onion, garlic, and wheat) and galacto-oligosaccharides (found in beans, cashews and pistachio nuts), also known as the “O” group in FODMAPs or oligosaccharides.  A reduction in these fibers appears linked to a reduction in probiotic microbes in the gut of individuals following the low FODMAP diet. The long-term impact on health from this change in the gut microbiome is unknown. The goal of the low FODMAP diet is not to follow it a strictly as you can but rather use it as a framework to identify your personal triggers and then add back as many foods that are not problematic for your sensitive gut.

Less is NOT more!  Unnecessary food rules can lead to food fears, as well as inadequate nutrition for you and your gut bacteria.

When I work with an individual that is sensitive to FODMAP carbohydrates (note: 30-50% of individuals with IBS do not to benefit from modifying FODMAPs), my goal is to remind people not to try to eliminate every trace of fermentable carbs, but rather restrict as needed to help control their symptoms. Symptoms, I will remind you, that can be quite debilitating for some people living with IBS.

Although prebiotics often fit the chemical definition of a fiber, it is important to note, that not all fiber rich foods are prebiotics. This is because not all fiber is metabolized by beneficial gut microbes. Plant-foods often contain a variety of fibers–some of which can have prebiotic activity.

As a GI dietitian, most of the work I do with my clients with IBS is to attempt to calm their gut and then expand their diet as much as possible allowing for a wide range of foods and nutrition. I hope that my clients can enjoy as many foods as possible while managing pain, digestive distress and overall health. Adequate fiber and prebiotics are important for gut health and I try my best to help my clients spread out these components in their diet to their individual tolerance. Of course, I am also a firm believer that food should be tasty and enjoyable. I believe, we all  should all try to eat foods we love.

The joy in eating delicious foods is also very important, in my humble opinion,

for overall wellness-for your gut and mind.

Can you consume adequate prebiotics while on the low FODMAP diet? You may have a reduction in key oligosaccharides, during the elimination phase but there are some other prebiotic rich foods that many individuals with IBS can enjoy. Remember, the low FODMAP diet is not FREE of oligosaccharide prebiotics (fructans and GOS) but rather reduced in these prebiotic fibers.

Here are 5 tips to boost prebiotic fibers while on the low FODMAP diet that have worked well for most of my clients:

  • Consume suitable (or as tolerated) portions of low FODMAP nuts and seeds (walnuts, pecans, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, to name a few) in at least 2 meals per day.  There will be small amounts of prebiotics in nuts and seeds to feed your microbes.  (Example: add a tablespoon of chia to your morning oats, top your salad with pumpkin seeds, add chopped walnuts to your lactose free yogurt!)
  • Don’t swear off all legumes.  Add canned chickpeas (1/4 cup) or canned lentils (1/2 cup) to 1 or 2 meals per day. You can add these legumes to salads or stir into rice to boost your prebiotic fiber.  Portion size matters!
  • Boost your resistant starch intake. Unlike small chain carbohydrates FODMAPs, resistant starch is long chain carbohydrate.  Resistant starch (RS) is fermentable and a prebiotic fiber. RS is found in cooked and cooled rice and potatoes (think rice or potato salad), unripe bananas, and uncooked oats (add a couple tablespoons of uncooked oats to your smoothie or whip up this energy bite recipe found here).
  • Eat 2 servings of fruit per day with in the FODMAP framework OR per your personal intolerance. Hint: 2 kiwifruit=1 serving and been shown to ease constipation and is a source of prebiotics too.
  • Incorporate oats in your regular menu rotation.  Oats are low FODMAP but contain prebiotic fiber, beta glucan, a long chain carbohydrate.

Tolerance to prebiotic fibers is very individuals as is their impact on our gut microbiota. This is because we all have our very own gut and our very own gut flora.  You may find oat fibers would great for you–but may not be tolerated by someone else. It’s all about trial and error.  Add prebiotics slowly to test your tolerance. And remember, tolerance to prebiotics can change over time!

6 replies on “Tips to Increase Prebiotic-rich Foods on a low FODMAP Diet

  • Jenn

    Great article Kate – thanks! One question – would cooked & cooled rice/potato that is then reheated again still be considered a resistant starch and a prebiotic source? Could cooked & cooled pasta (wheat or gluten free) be included with this as well? Thanks!

    Reply
    • katescarlata

      Reheating from what I understand can partially reduce the amount of resistant starch. I imagine the GF pasta would have some RS if cooled, but I would need to read a bit more of the science to say that for sure.

      Reply
  • Emily

    Hi Kate,
    When you say incorporate oats into your menu rotation, are they beneficial in both cooked and uncooked? Or do at least both ways help your guts in different ways?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • katescarlata

      Both cooked and uncooked oats offer different prebiotics–so have the potential to feed different probiotic microbes. A diverse number of gut microbes is associated with a healthier gut microbiome. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  • Amanda Miller

    Thank you for sharing. I find that I can tolerate oats in small amounts.

    Question: I’ve had allergy testing for eggs and do NOT have an egg allergy. However, I seem to have an egg intolerance- whenever I eat eggs (scrambled, hardboiled, etc) I experience bloating and gas. Could eggs in breads or the egg in mayonnaise be an issue too? I’m wondering if anyone has experienced this type of egg intolerance.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *