Written by Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN of ibsfree.net.
Patsy Catsos is a medical nutrition therapist, FODMAP expert, and author. The focus of her practice is digestive health, including irritable bowel syndrome, gluten-related disorders, and inflammatory bowel disease.
How to Follow the Low FODMAP Diet for Vegans
Vegan diets are becoming more popular every year. Vegans can have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), just like everyone else, and they are often advised to try a low FODMAP diet for IBS. Vegan diets are often extra high in FODMAPs, and planning a healthy low FODMAP diet for vegans is challenging.
The main problem is getting enough protein on a vegan low FODMAP meal plan. Most people on low FODMAP diets can get all the protein they need from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and lactose-free milk products. But vegans do not eat animal products. They rely on plant foods for all their nutrients, including protein. Plant-based protein foods like beans and lentils contain a lot of FODMAPs compared to meat, fish and poultry. Yet, it is not impossible to do a vegan low FODMAP diet! In this article we will share some tips on how to make the low FODMAP diet work for vegans with IBS.
What is a low FODMAP diet?
A low FODMAP diet is a way of eating that temporarily reduces your intake of FODMAPs. When you eat a low FODMAP diet you choose smaller serving sizes of FODMAP-rich foods. There are only a few foods that you must omit completely. It is usually just the first step of what is called a FODMAP Elimination Diet.
Low FODMAP diets are for people diagnosed with IBS, or for people who have IBS-like symptoms with other digestive health conditions.
The benefits of following a low FODMAP diet
A low FODMAP diet can help vegans with digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, excess gas, and bloating. People who follow a low FODMAP diet often feel better within just 2 weeks. We have found that eating the low FODMAP diet helps about 75% of our IBS patients get significant relief of their symptoms.
How to follow a FODMAP Elimination Diet as a vegan
The overall protocol for a vegan fodmap elimination diet is the same as it is for omnivores. But, there are some special considerations for low FODMAP vegans at each phase.
The Low FODMAP Diet (described above) is the first step of the FODMAP Elimination Diet. It is also called the Elimination Phase. The other two parts of the protocol are the Reintroduction Phase and the Personalization Phase. During the Elimination Phase, vegans with IBS should pay extra attention to getting enough protein.
The best low FODMAP protein sources are firm- or extra-firm tofu, and tempeh. Vegans who are unwilling to eat these traditional soy foods will have a very difficult time getting enough protein on a low FODMAP diet and should consider alternative vegan IBS diets. Low FODMAP servings of lentils, chickpeas, black beans, nuts and seeds should also be included in almost every meal or snack. Consult the Monash University App; low FODMAP servings sizes are shown with a green light.
During the Elimination Phase, most people with IBS should choose only servings marked with the green light, to keep meals low FODMAP. Vegans may have to push the limits a little and choose one moderate (yellow) serving of a good protein source as needed. For example, ½ cup of red lentils contains a moderate amount of FODMAPs, and twice as much protein as the ¼ cup low FODMAP serving. In our experience, moderate servings of legumes or pulses are often well tolerated by vegans who have been eating them in even larger amounts.
Most of the newer "alternative” or faux meat products on the market have not been tested for FODMAPs. So, we can’t recommend them for the protocol yet. The same goes for untested non-dairy “cheese” products. Several non-dairy milk alternatives (such as oat milk, almond milk, and rice milk) have been lab-tested. Milk alternatives fit into the Low-FODMAP diet, just don’t expect them to contribute much protein to your vegan low FODMAP diet, as dairy milk would. To keep them low FODMAP, consult the Monash app for the serving sizes.
A protein powder made of pea protein isolate, soy protein isolate, or rice protein might help vegans meet their protein needs.
Most people follow the Low FODMAP Diet (Elimination Phase) for 2-3 weeks. Vegans should make a real effort to avoid prolonging the Low FODMAP Diet beyond that. The sooner you can get through the Reintroduction Phase and into Personalization the better.
The Reintroduction Phase takes about 6-8 weeks to do. During the Reintroduction Phase you will learn more about your IBS food triggers. You will find out which specific types and amounts of FODMAPs are well or poorly tolerated. Fructans and GOS are the primary FODMAPs in vegan protein foods such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Be sure not to skip reintroducing them!
During the personalization phase, you will start getting your diet back to normal as much as possible, just as omnivores do. You’ll try to strike a balance between variety in your diet and keeping your IBS symptoms where you want them. As a vegan you will have to continue to prioritize good vegan sources of protein as part of every meal and snack. You may have to budget your intake of FODMAPs to keep your symptoms in check. This may mean choosing beans and nuts over sweets or larger servings of high FODMAP vegetables or fruits.
A One-day Sample Vegan Low FODMAP Meal Plan
Even a carefully planned low FODMAP vegan IBS diet comes up short on vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. So, pair the sample meal plan with a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
1 cup prepared oatmeal, with 10 walnut halves and 5 medium strawberries
2 slices sourdough toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 medium firm banana
Grain bowl, with brown rice, ¼ cup chick peas, leftover roasted carrots, 3 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, sliced black and green olives, garlic-infused olive oil, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
7 cups oil-popped popcorn, plain or salted
2 tablespoons pepitas
Tempeh taco salad, with 3.5 ounces tempeh sautéed in olive oil and sprinkled with plain ground chile pepper/salt/pepper, 2 cups romaine lettuce, scallion greens, ½ cup chopped green bell pepper, 3 cherry tomatoes, 12 crumbled plain tortilla chips, olive oil, lime juice; garnished with 2 tablespoons chopped avocado and ¼ cup vegan cheese (coconut oil based)
Water or 1 beer or glass of wine
2 squares dark chocolate
Recipes that are both vegan and low FODMAP
Click this link to check out some amazing Low FODMAP vegan recipes from our friends at FODMAP Everyday.
Getting enough nutrients on a vegan low FODMAP diet
All vegans must take Vitamin B-12 supplements. This has nothing to do with FODMAPs; it is necessary because there are no plant-based sources of this nutrient.
Other nutrients vegans on low FODMAP diets might have a hard time getting enough of are protein, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc. Adult women need at least 46 grams of protein every day. Adult men need at least 56 grams of protein. Some people need more protein if they are in larger bodies, elderly, ill, having surgery, or in other special circumstances. The sample menu above provides approximately 70 grams of protein. Many vegans should take nutritional supplements to make sure they get enough of the other nutrients. Ask your healthcare provider for advice about supplements.
Need help with a Vegan Low FODMAP Diet?
If you have IBS, please make sure your doctor knows you are a vegan and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. Most vegans need extra help planning a low FODMAP diet. If you need help with following a vegan low FODMAP diet then you should check out ModifyHealth's vegan low FODMAP meal options which can be delivered to your front door with free shipping.
Click here to check out our Low FODMAP meal plans!