An Introduction To FODMAPs: Part 1


Do you often experience digestive stress after eating certain foods? Have you been given the diagnosis of ‘IBS’ but aren’t sure where to go from there?

If this is you, there is a good chance that FODMAPs could the culprit.

Given the rise and success of the therapeutic FODMAP diet, I’ve put together an introduction for anyone wanting to understand what the diet is, what is involved and how it could help your IBS.

→ WHAT ARE FODMAPs?

‘FODMAP’ is the acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

Put simply, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. FODMAPs are found naturally in many foods and food additives.

  • Fermentable - process through which gut bacteria ferment undigested carbohydrates to produce gas.

  • Oligosaccharides - fructans and fructo-oligosaccharides, found in foods such as wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes and pulses

  • Disaccharides - lactose, found in dairy products like milk, soft cheeses and yoghurt

  • Monosaccharides - fructose, found in honey, fruit, high fructose corn syrups etc

  • Polyols - sorbitol and mannitol, found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners

→ WHAT EFFECT DO FODMAPs HAVE ON THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM?

Susceptible people can experience intestinal symptoms from ingestion of FODMAP foods for a number of reasons:

  • The carbohydrates are not well absorbed into the body and remain in the digestive tract for longer periods.

  • FODMAPs draw water into the intestines, which can increase bowel motions and promote diarrhoea.

  • These carbohydrates can be metabolised by the bacteria that normally reside in the bowel, producing gas, bloating and wind.

People without IBS are generally able to ingest FODMAPs without noticeable concern.

→ WHAT IS THE FODMAP DIET?

To determine if FODMAPs might be contributing to your IBS symptoms, the most effective strategy is to follow the FODMAP protocol. The protocol has three stages:

  • PHASE 1: ELIMINATION - The first stage of the low FODMAPs protocol involves removing all high FODMAP foods from the diet for at least 2 weeks, until there has been a significant reduction in symptoms. Symptoms should be monitored (using the symptom tracker in the resources section) on a daily basis, to track your progress. Use the table and resources provided to help you navigate high and low FODMAP foods.

  • PHASE 2: REINTRODUCTION - The reintroduction phase can start after the initial 2 weeks elimination phase, when significant resolution of the symptoms has been achieved. This phase lasts about 5 weeks and the goal is to systematically reintroduce each FODMAP to determine the level of individual FODMAP consumption that can be comfortably tolerated. A detailed program for the reintroduction phase is explained in the resources section.

  • PHASE 3: ADAPTED DIET - After the five week trial, it is recommended to integrate foods from all the FODMAP groups which were well tolerated into your normal diet, to determine your tolerance of the combination of FODMAPs. Symptoms should continue to be monitored closely during the reintroduction. For the FODMAP types which aggravated symptoms, it is recommended you continue to avoid, or significantly restrict, foods containing these FODMAPs in your diet.

→ WHAT FOODS CONTAIN FODMAPs?

Many foods contain ‘FODMAPs’, but the quantity of the FODMAP in the food can vary dramatically. This table is not an exhaustive list of high and low FODMAP foods. For a comprehensive database of FODMAP food information, download and refer to the Monash University FODMAP Diet App.

→ WHAT DOES LIFE AFTER THE FODMAP DIET LOOK LIKE?

It is not recommended that you follow a low FODMAP diet for life. This is a therapeutic protocol that should be followed under the supervision of a practitioner as you work our triggers and take steps towards reintroducing foods and finding your personal tolerance level.

Restricting dietary intake of such a wide range of foods for excessive and prolonged periods of time should generally be avoided where possible to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiency and dietary imbalance. FODMAPs are by no means ‘bad foods’, in fact they are a normal and very healthy addition to the diet, providing fibre and probiotics which are very important for gastrointestinal health.

Think you may need to try the FODMAP diet? Get in touch and let me help you resolve your IBS.

#FODMAP #guthealth #microbiome

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