High and Low FODMAP Cheeses - List and Guidance

High and Low FODMAP Cheeses – List & Guidance

“High and Low FODMAP Cheeses – List & Guidance” was written by dietetic intern and Certified Personal Trainer Julie Wilcoxson, B.S. and was reviewed, edited and updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.

When it comes to a low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), many folks are excited to hear that they don’t need to go 100% dairy free… especially when it comes to cheese!

That’s because not all cheese contains lactose.  But this often depends on the type of cheese, the amount of cheese you’re consuming at any given time, and whatever else you’re eating alongside it.

Read on for a comprehensive list on high and low FODMAP cheeses, and a guide on what else to consider when you can’t seem to tolerate lactose free, low FODMAP cheeses.

Disclaimer: This article was written for general educational purposes and should not be taken as medical/dietary advice. Consult a gut health dietitian to receive custom dietary advice tailored to your individual needs.

Affiliate Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links*. As an Amazon associate, Whole-istic Living may earn a commission on qualifying purchases.

Low FODMAP diet: quick review

FODMAPs are types of short-chain carbohydrates that your gut can’t properly digest. 

The acronym stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. (1)

A low FODMAP diet includes the following categories of food, to help manage and reduce IBS symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain and/or diarrhea:

  • Fermentable- undigested carbohydrates that produce gas
  • Oligosaccharides- Fructans and GOS; found in wheat, rye, onions, garlic
  • Disaccharides- Lactose: found in dairy products
  • Monosaccharides- Fructose: found in honey, apples, high fructose corn syrup
  • Polyols– Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol: found in some fruit and vegetables

When it comes to cheese, the key FODMAP to consider is lactose (a fermentable disaccharide).

Is cheese low FODMAP?

Yes and no; it depends!  Not all cheese has the same FODMAP content.  

What makes cheese high or low FODMAP?

Lactose

Lactose, aka “milk sugar,” is a type of disaccharide (the “D” in FODMAP) which is commonly found in milk and some other dairy products. 

The FODMAP content of cheese is based primarily on its lactose content.  

  • 1 gram or less of lactose per serving meets criteria for low FODMAP.
  • More than 1 gram of lactose per serving is considered high FODMAP.

In unsweetened dairy products like cheese, you can usually verify whether or not it contains lactose based on the total grams of sugar (on the nutrition fact label).

For example, hard cheese varieties such as cheddar, Swiss, or parmesan will usually contain “0 grams sugar” per serving.

Added ingredients

In most cases, cheese doesn’t contain added ingredients.

However, it’s always worth keeping in mind that garlic and honey (common added ingredients in flavored cream cheese and fancy cheeses) would alter the FODMAP content of any cheese, even those that are naturally 100% lactose-free.

Low FODMAP cheese list (Monash-approved)

The following cheeses were listed in the Monash University FODMAP App as being low in FODMAPs, for easier digestion, as long as you’re sticking to a serving of 1.4 ounces unless otherwise noted.

(For reference, 1 ounce of cheese is about the size of 4 dice or 1 standard slice of deli cheese, so 1.4 ounces would be a little under 6 dice or 1.5 standard deli slices!)

  • Camembert Cheese
  • Asiago Cheese
  • Comte Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Gruyere Cheese
  • Havarti Cheese
  • Manchego Cheese
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Oaxaca Cheese
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Italian Cheese
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Brie Cheese
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Colby Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Goat Cheese
  • Halloumi Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Paneer Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Pecorino Style Cheese
  • Provolone Cheese
  • Gouda Cheese

Other low FODMAP cheeses

While not all cheese has been Monash-tested and approved, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t try it on a low FODMAP diet.  

For example, 1 ounce (or 1/4 cup) of bleu cheese (as shown below) contains zero grams of total sugar per serving, which means it doesn’t contain lactose.

Bleu Cheese Nutrition Fact Label - shows 0 grams total sugar per serving

Additional low FODMAP cheeses include:

  • Bleu cheese (1 ounce or 1/4 cup)

High FODMAP cheese list

During the initial phases of the FODMAP elimination diet, you’ll most likely be advised by your registered dietitian to avoid high FODMAP foods since, on paper, these foods are most likely to trigger your IBS symptoms. 

But keep in mind, avoiding certain cheeses during this phase doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to enjoy them again!

Once your symptoms improve, you can gradually reintroduce one high FODMAP cheese at a time to determine your triggers more accurately. (2)

The following cheeses in the noted serving size are considered high FODMAP and should be avoided during the elimination phase:

  • Queso
  • Ricotta Cheese, 1/2 cup
  • Cottage Cheese, more than 2 TBSP
  • Cream Cheese, more than 1 ounce
  • Processed cheese slices, 2 slices

How to try low FODMAP cheese 

Just because you experience gut issues and may need to follow a low FODMAP diet, doesn’t mean you can’t have some of your favorite foods!  

Below are some fun, flavorful ways to enjoy cheese on a low FODMAP diet.

Tasty recipes 

Simple meal ideas

Recommended reading:

Snacks

  • Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, and 1.4 ounces fresh sliced mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce sliced cheddar cheese (or low FODMAP cheese of choice) with low FODMAP crackers 
  • Low FODMAP tortilla chips topped with 1 ounce shredded cheese, low FODMAP beans, and some FODY salsa*
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries with a side of 1 ounce Colby Jack cheese
  • 1 ounce low FODMAP chocolate + 1 serving low FODMAP nuts of choice + 1 ounce sliced cheddar cheese 

(Check out more low FODMAP snack ideas here!)

Cheese and IBS – what else to consider

When it comes to cheese, there are other factors (aside from just the lactose/ FODMAPs) which may impact your IBS symptoms. 

If you’re finding you can’t tolerate even small amounts of low FODMAP cheese, it may be worth investigating the following considerations.

Dairy allergy/sensitivity

If you’re lactose intolerant, you should still be able to tolerate cheese which, in most cases, is inherently lactose-free.

On the other hand, if you’re allergic or sensitive to constituents in dairy, symptoms at first glance may look and feel very similar to a lactose intolerance…

However, an allergy or food sensitivity would actually be a very different type of adverse food reaction in that allergies and sensitivities involve your immune system.  

(Lactose intolerance takes place only in your digestive system, and it has to do with digestive insufficiency/microbial overgrowth… dairy allergy and dairy sensitivities involve your immune system.)

Recommended reading:

Fat intolerance

You may or may not be among many of the folks with IBS who struggle to break down foods that are higher in fat.  (This is called a “fat intolerance”.) 

This is usually the result of digestive insufficiency.

Some studies suggest that consuming foods high in fat may slow down the movement of gas in your intestines, leading to symptoms such as gas, bloating, and loose stools. (3)

In these cases, consuming larger quantities of any full-fat cheese may not be well tolerated if you have an underlying fat intolerance (regardless of lactose).

Very high-fat cheeses (which may not be well tolerated even in small quantities, in cases of a fat intolerance) include:

  • Cream cheese
  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Blue Cheese
  • Gouda

When it comes to fat intolerance, keep in mind it isn’t sustainable to restrict fat intake indefinitely as a way to manage symptoms.  

It’s important to get to the root cause of your fat intolerance and give your digestive system the support it needs to properly digest and absorb fats from your diet. (A conversation for another time!)

Histamine

Histamines are a type of inflammatory chemical mediator (the same kind involved in allergic reactions) which gets produced and released via the immune system. Histamine can also be found naturally in some foods. 

In the body, usually in cases of allergies, histamine gets released from white blood cells found in the body’s tissues called mast cells (the white blood cells which live on the mucous membranes of the body), when they sense a perceived threat.

A histamine intolerance can develop when your body doesn’t make enough of an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO) to help break down histamines. 

In functional nutrition, we often see histamine intolerance co-occur alongside the following health issues:

  • Klebsiella microbe overgrowth in the gut (per a GI MAP test)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – especially the hydrogen sulfide subtype
  • Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)
  • Mold exposure with mycotoxins

In some cases of IBS, histamine intolerance can co-occur and will manifest as symptoms of inflammation and IBS symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea following the consumption of high-histamine foods, or foods which trigger histamine production indirectly. (4)

Aged cheeses (such as the following examples) generally tend to be highest in histamines; however, your individual histamine tolerance will be unique to you.

Generally speaking, the older the cheese, the higher its histamine content will be.

Examples of cheese which tend to be highest in histamine include but aren’t limited to:

  • Gouda
  • Camembert
  • Cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Parmesan

TLDR:  Eating foods high in histamine (like aged/fermented foods, including cheese) may trigger symptoms of histamine intolerance, which has nothing to do with the lactose or FODMAP content of foods, if your body isn’t properly clearing out histamine for one reason or another.

But it doesn’t stop here.

Sulfur

Some individuals with IBS caused by an underlying case of hydrogen sulfide SIBO actually have a sulfur intolerance (usually unbeknownst to them).

It’s tricky because high sulfur foods overlap quite a bit with high FODMAP foods.

High sulfur foods include cruciferous vegetables, eggs, red meat, dairy, garlic, and onions.

Symptoms of sulfur intolerance usually include, but aren’t limited to:  smelly gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. (5)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Is goat cheese low FODMAP? 

It depends on the serving size; up to 1 tablespoon of goat cheese at a time is low FODMAP.

Is cream cheese low FODMAP? 

It depends on the type and the serving size.  

For example, regular plain cream cheese is low FODMAP at 1.41 ounces or less.  This translates to 2.8 tablespoons per serving.  (That’s usually enough to cover a low FODMAP bagel!)

But if not, you could technically also have larger quantities of lactose-free cream cheese.

Garlic cream cheese, on the other hand, isn’t low FODMAP because it’s high in fructans.

Is bleu cheese low FODMAP? 

Yes; based on the nutrition fact label, 1 ounce of bleu cheese contains 0 grams of sugar which means it is lactose-free and subsequently low FODMAP.

Is American cheese low FODMAP? 

One slice of American cheese per meal is low FODMAP.  However, always check the food label for added ingredients that may contain FODMAPs.

Is mozzarella cheese low FODMAP? 

Up to 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese per meal is considered low FODMAP.

Is parmesan cheese low FODMAP?

1.41 ounces or approximately 40 grams of parmesan cheese is Monash-tested and approved to be low FODMAP.

Is cottage cheese low FODMAP? 

It depends on the amount at one time.

For example, a low FODMAP serving of cottage cheese is 2 tablespoons, which provides less than 1.5 grams of lactose.

According to the Monash University FODMAP App, 3 tablespoons or more of cottage cheese is more likely to cause digestive issues among folks with lactose intolerance.

Is Swiss cheese low FODMAP? 

Swiss cheese is low FODMAP at ~1.41 ounces or ~1.5 slices per serving.

Is feta cheese low FODMAP? 

Yes, up to 3 tablespoons of feta cheese per serving is low FODMAP.

Is gouda cheese low FODMAP? 

Yes, up to 40 grams or 1.41 ounces of gouda cheese per meal is low FODMAP.

Is ricotta cheese low FODMAP? 

Yes, ricotta is considered low FODMAP at 1.41 ounce or less per serving.

Related articles

Recap and final thoughts

Most cheeses are low lactose and low FODMAP in reasonable servings of 1.41 ounces at a time.

This is because cheese is very low in lactose (milk sugar).

Soft cheeses such as cream cheese and ricotta contain small amounts of lactose, and can become high FODMAP in larger servings at one time.

Also make sure to be mindful of high FODMAP seasonings/spices, dried fruit, or sweeteners  being added to cheese.

If you have a more complex case of IBS, you may still not be able to tolerate even low FODMAP cheese in cases of fat intolerance, dairy allergy/sensitivity, histamine intolerance, and/or sulfur intolerance. 

Consider keeping a detailed food-symptom log and consult a functional medicine dietitian for a more holistic, multi-dimensional, comprehensive and customized IBS treatment plan.

When in doubt, follow your gut (literally!) and always listen to your body.

Next steps

If you’d like to learn more about what a holistic, multidimensional approach to addressing and resolving IBS can look like, make sure sign up for the Weekly Digest newsletter and opt in to receive a free guide: 5 Common Diet Mistakes to AVOID When Healing Your Gut!

Free Download - 5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut - by Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT

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