Whether your doctor has recommended a low-FODMAP diet or you’ve heard about it and are wondering if it may be a good option for you, this guide will take you through all of the basics you need to know to start your low-FODMAP journey.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym for a group of short-chain carbohydrates that can trigger digestive symptoms in people sensitive to them. These fermentable sugars are found in varying amounts within a lot of common foods. Those sensitive to FODMAPs may find that only one particular type causes gastrointestinal issues, while others may be sensitive to all FODMAPs.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides and Monosaccharides and Polyols, which breaks down as follows:
- Fermentable: This is the process that occurs when your gut bacteria breaks down carbohydrates and uses them as fuel.
- Oligosaccharides: There are two main types of oligosaccharides. They are found in wheat, rye, legumes, garlic, onions and some beans.
- Disaccharides: This FODMAP is lactose, which is found in milk, milk products and soft cheeses.
- Monosaccharides: These are found in fruits and sweeteners that contain excess fructose such as mangoes, apples, figs, and sweeteners like honey and high fructose corn syrup.
- Polyols: Certain fruits and vegetables, along with some artificial sweeteners, contain sugar alcohols called polyols, which can cause digestive symptoms because they are not fully absorbed by the small intestine.
Is a low-FODMAP diet right for you?
The low-FODMAP diet can be beneficial in managing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common digestive issue that affects between 25 and 45 million Americans according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). Because FODMAPs contain healthy prebiotics that are important for gut health, the low-FODMAP diet is recommended only for those with medically diagnosed gastrointestinal conditions. It is important to check with your doctor before making restrictive dietary changes like the low-FODMAP diet. Many patients find it helpful to work with a FODMAP-trained dietitian.
It’s also important to note that a low-FODMAP diet may not eliminate symptoms associated with IBS such as bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea and constipation. However, it has been shown to drastically reduce symptoms for many IBS-sufferers.
How does a low-FODMAP diet work?
The goal of the diet is to identify which FODMAPs trigger your digestive symptoms and which you can tolerate. Not all FODMAPs cause issues for all patients. In some cases, there is no improvement on a low-FODMAP diet.
The FODMAP diet is a three-step process:
- FODMAP Restriction: High-FODMAP foods are avoided for two to six weeks. How long you need to be in the restriction phase depends on what symptom reduction is experienced.
- FODMAP Reintroduction: High-FODMAP foods are reintroduced one at a time to find out which FODMAPs you can tolerate and at what amounts, as many people with IBS can in fact tolerate small amounts of FODMAPs without triggering symptoms. This involves testing each FODMAP individually for a three-day period. This phase can last eight weeks or longer.
- FODMAP Personalization: The final phase of the program is the implementation of a long-term diet based on the findings of step two. Avoidance or reduction of certain FODMAPs will become a way of living that allows you to enjoy a balanced diet without as many IBS symptoms.
Although following a low-FODMAP diet can be difficult, especially in the restrictive first stage, remember that it doesn’t last forever. Many patients find that they can reintroduce high-FODMAP foods into their diet without triggering gut issues, particularly if they are eaten in moderation. For those who can’t tolerate certain high-FODMAP foods, there are many low-FODMAP alternatives and cookbooks to show you how to create delicious low-FODMAP meals, including your favorite treats.
If you would like to learn more about the low-FODMAP diet and if it is right for you, or if you have any gastrointestinal concerns, contact the GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.