Get ready for this; it’s a mouthful: FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. In plain English, FODMAPs are naturally occurring short-chain carbohydrates and sugars found in some foods. Researchers from Monash University in Australia found that FODMAP foods negatively impacted people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Based on this research, the scientists went on to create a low FODMAP diet to relieve IBS symptoms.
FODMAP foods are considered detrimental to people with IBS because these foods don’t get digested well. In the intestines, undigested carbohydrates draw in water and along with bacteria already present fermentation takes place. For people with IBS, this can trigger symptoms, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc.
A low FODMAP diet basically translates into eating less of the foods that aggravate the gut. It’s so successful that the diet has become a standard for treating IBS across the world. Research shows that 75% of patients with IBS who have done the diet improved.[i]
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
For the 15% of the world’s population or 1 in 7 people, IBS is a daily struggle.[ii] Besides lower abdominal discomfort, bloating, and gas, people with IBS can alternate between having diarrhea and constipation. While there are no abnormal pathologies, IBS interferes with the person’s quality of life.
A low FODMAP diet is not a cure for IBS; it’s a dietary management tool although some people after being on the diet have been able to stop medications that treat the symptoms of IBS. A low FODMAP food diet is also said to be beneficial for people sensitive to FODMAP foods who have consistent diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or cramping. It may also help patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease).
The Low FODMAP Diet
The low FODMAP diet is best done under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner or registered dietitian (RD) who understands the diet. Research shows when done under the guidance of an RD the success rate was high. Many people who do the low FODMAP on their own find it too restrictive and stop. A registered dietician can help with this by providing meal plans and other suggestions that will make it seem less restrictive.
For the first two to six weeks, FODMAP foods are severely restricted. People with constipation may be longer on it than those with predominately diarrhea symptoms. After the restrictive period, FODMAP foods are gradually transitioned into the patient’s diet to isolate the offending foods.
The controlled and permitted food list is extensive, which is another reason to seek out a healthcare provider to guide you. Below is a small sample of some restricted and approved FODMAP foods.
A Sample of Restricted FODMAP Foods
Stone Fruits – mangoes apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, avocado,etc.
Honey, fructose corn syrup, agave, etc.
Dairy, such as yogurt, milk, sour cream, cottage cheese
Wheat, onion, and garlic
Beans, lentils, and legumes (peas, soy)
Vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, squash, mushrooms
Sweeteners that contain sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol
Beer, rum, and sweet wine
A Sample of Foods Allowed on FODMAP Diet
Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs
Nuts and seeds
Wheat free grains, such as rice oats, gluten-free products
Fruits, such as bananas, oranges, and melons
Veggies, such as kale, potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers
The low FODMAP diet is a nutritional therapy plan that helps people with IBS and other intestinal conditions to pinpoint foods that trigger their symptoms. It has a high rate of success for those who have incorporated into their lifestyle and is best done under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner or registered dietician.
[i] The Low FODMAP Diet Introduction, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, Web.
[ii] FODMAPs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Monash University, Web.
FODMAPs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/
Low FODMAP diet. Retrieved from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/l/low-fodmap-diet.html.
Low FODMAP diet. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/low-fodmap-diet.
The Low FODMAP Diet Introduction. Retrieved from http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/Gastro/LowFODMAPDietIntroduction.pdf.