FODMAP’S 101

What you need to know about the FODMAP’S diet

FODMAPs. It’s probably a word you’ve heard of but haven’t really known what it means or what it means to be on a FODMAP diet.

FODMAP and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) go hand in hand, with more than 2.2 million Australians diagnosed with IBS, and research now shows that following a low FODMAP diet is the best way of managing your symptoms and IBS overall.
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But what are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are all different types of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates affect everyone differently, but for most they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, causing a re-uptake of water into the gut leading to diarrhoea. For others, these carbohydrates can make it through to the large intestine but become fermented by bacteria producing gas, resulting in the common symptoms of IBS – bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea. These symptoms aren’t pleasant, but extremely common!

If that wasn’t enough there are many other factors that contribute to IBS, like fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, too much fibre or too little fibre, medications and even stress, all of which may influence your symptoms. If any of this sounds familiar to you then you might be surprised to discover that you could suffer from IBS.

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The FODMAP diet:

A strict low FODMAP diet is a short-term diagnostic tool that helps you identify your triggers, in order to help you manage your IBS and it is not a recommended long-term diet plan. The FODMAP Challenge is a 12-week program based on an elimination approach. In the first four weeks, high FODMAP foods are eliminated, and more low FODMAP foods are incorporated into your diet. This allows you to control and reduce your IBS symptoms. With IBS it’s important to remember that there might be a number of high FODMAP foods contributing to your symptoms and sometimes it’s the combination of a number of different foods as opposed to one particular FODMAP that is causing your tummy troubles.

Once it has been determined what FODMAPs are causing grief, moving through a series of food challenges is essential to help determine which FODMAPs are an individuals’ triggers.

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The FODMAP Challenges:

The challenges are a process whereby the high FODMAP foods are reintroduced back slowly, week by week. Eight challenges, eight weeks… one FODMAP per week! The FODMAP of the week is re-introduced into the diet in the most natural way possible – incorporating it into your already low FODMAP meals for a total of four days, sometimes less depending on if it’s a trigger for you and your symptoms return. Once the challenge is done, you return to being low FODMAP for a few days, then move onto the next FODMAP. During this process it’s really important that it is done with the guidance of an experienced dietitian, which is what makes The FODMAP Challenge so great!

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The High’s and Low’s of FODMAP foods:

High FODMAP foods that are typically avoided on a FODMAP diet include;

  • Asparagus, onion, garlic, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, legumes, apples, pears, mango, watermelon, yoghurt, cow’s milk, soft cheese, ice cream, wheat-based breads, cereal, pasta, cashews and pistachios

Low FODMAP foods that you can enjoy include;

  • Cucumber, carrot, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, banana, orange, mandarin, grapes, lactose-free milk and yoghurts, hard cheese, meats, fish, gluten-free breads and pastas, quinoa and rice

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Why not just stay completely low FODMAP?

Most people do not react to all the high FODMAP groups of foods. Identifying these means that we can re-introduce the groups of foods that weren’t a problem, then determine tolerance levels of those that were. This is recommended for the following reasons:

  • Most people with IBS can maintain good symptom control with reintroduction of some high FODMAP foods. This makes it easier to make informed choices when you aren’t directly in control of food choices, and better management of symptoms on a daily basis.
  • Avoiding unnecessary restrictions helps to ensure a nutritionally adequate diet.
  • Many high FODMAP foods are also high in prebiotics. These provide food for the healthy bacteria that are found in your gut. In particular, this includes onion, garlic, legumes, wheat, watermelon and asparagus. Research indicates that long-term avoidance of these may affect the health of your gut microbiome.

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What else should I consider?

Other things can trigger symptoms of IBS. These include fatty foods, spicy foods and caffeine. Stress and anxiety also play a key role in symptom management; managing these helps with reducing symptoms.

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If the above sounds a little too familiar, determining your triggers with support from a dietitian is the best way forward. Check out The FODMAP Challenge for recipes, meal plans and lots of support to help you figure out your triggers. The second round of The FODMAP Challenge commences on September 1st, register at http://fodmapchallenge.com.

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One Response

  1. Great article, thanks for helping to spread the news about the low-FODMAP diet!
    Colleen from FODMAPLIfe.com

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