Five Things Women with PCOS Should Know about FODMAPs

Over 40 million Americans have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and women with PCOS have more than their share. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include excess gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation. If your doctor says you have IBS, you might want to consider the FODMAP approach to managing your symptoms. This evidence-based diet can help up to 75% of IBS-sufferers get symptom relief.

  • FODMAPs are a group of certain sugars and certain fibers in the diet that can cause GI distress. For the record, FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable- Oligo- Di- and Monosaccharides and Polyols. Click here for more details.
  • Women with PCOS are often encouraged to decrease their overall intake of sugary foods and beverages. This advice dovetails nicely with the FODMAP approach. Gut-friendly sugars include small servings of granululated sugar, brown sugar and 100% pure maple syrup. People with IBS may want to avoid foods sweetened with sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, honey, agave, fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, which are high in FODMAPs.
  • Women with PCOS are often encouraged to eat foods with more fiber in them. Unfortunately some of these very foods are likely to cause gastrointestinal distress for people with IBS. For example, beans, hummus, nuts, whole grains, trail mixes and nutrition bars are high in FODMAPs. These foods are fine if you can tolerate them, but if your IBS symptoms have worsened as you’ve tried to improve your diet for PCOS, this might explain why. For a list of lower-FODMAP alternatives, visit my web site,
  • A FODMAP elimination diet is a learning diet, not a permanent diet to follow for life. To find out how FODMAPs affect your IBS, try limiting all of them for a few weeks to see if it helps. Then, reintroduce them one type at a time, and monitor your symptoms, and adjust your diet as tolerated. The goal is the most varied and nutritious diet you can tolerate.
  • With the FODMAP approach, there is finally a way to find that happy medium between eating for your PCOS and your IBS. You may need help with this project; most women learn more from the elimination diet experience with the help of detailed instruction, a strategy and a plan. Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist knowledgeable about FODMAPs.

Patsy Catsos is a registered dietitian, medical nutrition therapist, and author of IBS Free at Last! Change your Carbs, Change your Life, a step-by-step guide to the FODMAP elimination diet. Her latest book is the Flavor without FODMAPs Cookbook. In her Portland, Maine practice, she helps patients with gluten-related disorders, IBS, and other gastrointestinal problems manage their symptoms and experience a better quality of life. She is a frequent speaker at community and professional events. Patsy completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell University and earned a Master’s degree in Nutrition at Boston University. She interned at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. For more information about FODMAPs and IBS, visit Patsy at and follow her on facebook, pinterest or twitter.


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