Can you eat low FODMAP while pregnant?

It can be exciting time when a little one is on the way in your family. However, it’s important in the midst of that excitement to remember to provide the safest nutrition to you and your growing baby each day. This can be a challenge enough for a mom without digestive issues. However, it can be even more difficult for a mom with digestive issues. This is because the baby will place pressure on your bowel which could make bowel movements more difficult.

And if that wasn’t enough, the pregnancy hormone progesterone can slow transit time in the bowel, which can increase risk of constipation that is already an issue with many pregnant women.  So, you may be thinking that a low FODMAP diet is especially needed during this time to lessen digestive symptoms, but is it safe during pregnancy? Read below for tips on how to eat safely during pregnancy and to see if the low FODMAP diet is an option for those pregnant women with digestive conditions.

Safe eating during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it will be important to eat a little bit more each day since you will be eating for you and baby. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that pregnant women consume about 340 more calories than weight maintenance calories during the second trimester and 450 more calories a day during the third trimester. No extra calories are required during the first trimester. Weight maintenance calories would be the number of calories that a person requires to maintain their current weight. This can be calculated through online calculators like this one by ACE Fitness.

These extra calories should be consumed through nutrient-dense foods. This means you should consume plenty of fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and protein-rich foods like animal meats, seafood, dairy, or plant-based proteins like nuts and beans. There are also a few food safety guidelines you should follow to be safe during pregnancy no matter what your digestive health.

  • Do not eat raw seafood such as sushi, sashimi, raw oysters, scallops, or clams, as well as ceviche.
  • Reheat refrigerated smoked seafood before consuming to reduce risk of Listeria
  • Avoid unpasteurized food products such as juice or cider such as fresh squeezed juices to reduce risk of coli infection. This also includes unpasteurized milk that could cause food borne illness from a variety of bacteria. You should also avoid soft cheeses as well as cheeses made from unpasteurized milk such as brie, feta, camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco.
  • Only consume cooked eggs. No eggs means no raw batters, eggnog, Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, eggs benedict, homemade ice cream, or freshly made hollandaise sauce.
  • Stay away from premade meat or seafood salad to avoid Listeria
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked sprouts such as alfalfa, mung bean, clover, and radish.
  • Avoid undercooked meat and poultry and unpasteurized meat spreads. Also, be sure to reheat deli meats and processed meats like hot dogs and dry sausage.
  • Do not drink alcohol and limit caffeine. Experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is equal to about one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Pregnancy and FODMAPs

Monash University recommends that pregnant women who normally follow the low FODMAP diet stop doing so during pregnancy since its safety in this population has not been studied. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem for some since Monash reports that women with irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) may actually see improvements in symptoms during pregnancy. However, those with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) may see a worsening of symptoms. For those who have more digestive problems during pregnancy, Monash University suggests eating plenty of fiber and drinking plenty of water to help. Be sure to see your doctor if this treatment option does not help lessen symptoms.

Take home message

Although you may be used to eating a low FODMAP diet daily, it’s not such a good idea during pregnancy until further studies have been done. However, do be sure to eat a balanced diet full of fiber, water, and protein and follow the food safety guidelines to stay as safe and healthy as possible during this time.

If you have any digestive concerns during your pregnancy and small diet changes are not working, be sure to visit a qualified healthcare provider such as your doctor or dietitian to help. A registered dietitian who specializes in food intolerances can also be helpful when it comes time to transition back onto your low FODMAP diet.  Also, visit Casa de Sante for tips on how you can use meditation as a safe supplement to your digestive health routine during pregnancy.  

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

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