A Beginner's Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

A Guide to Understanding the Low FODMAP Diet

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may have heard some talk about the benefits of a low FODMAP diet. But what is it, exactly? Read on to find out.

Are you someone who experiences digestive issues after eating certain foods?

The link between certain foods and digestive disorders have been confirmed by many studies. Many studies show that digestive issues can result from consuming FODMAPs. FODMAPs are small carbohydrates that can be found in certain foods.

A low FODMAP diet can be very beneficial for people with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms. Some of these symptoms include recurrent bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea or constipation.

If you are someone who has some of these symptoms, you may want to to try this diet. Read on for a guide to understanding the low FODMAP diet.

What Are FODMAPs?

So what exactly are FODMAPs? The acronym stands for:

  • Fermentable - Compounds that are fermented by bacteria in the large bowel.
  • Oligosaccharides - "Oligo" means "few" and "saccharide" means sugar. Individual sugars join together in a chain to form these molecules.
  • Disaccharides - "Di" means two. This molecule is made up of double sugar.
  • Monosaccharides - "Mono" means single. This is a single sugar molecule.
  • Polyols - These are alcohol sugars.

The above types of carbohydrates are difficult to process and digest. They become fermented by bacteria and in turn cause bloating and discomfort.

Common FODMAPs in food include:

  • Fructose: A sugar found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Lactose: A sugar found in dairy foods.
  • Fructans: Similar to fructose, found in vegetables and grains.
  • Galactans: Found in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol. Found in artificial sweeteners and chewing gum.

Some other FODMAPs to look out for on ingredient labels are high fructose corn syrup, inulin (chicory root), natural flavors, agave, honey, and etc.

What About Gluten?

You may have heard that many people have digestive issues when it comes to gluten as well. While gluten can also trigger food sensitivities in some people, it is a protein, not a carbohydrate.

That is why gluten is not classified as a FODMAP. However, gluten-free products are almost always lower in FODMAPs, which makes them beneficial for those with digestive disorders.

What is a Low FODMAP Diet?

If you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, your doctor or dietitian will likely recommend a low FODMAP diet. If you are a good candidate for the diet, you may be advised to limit the FODMAPs in your diet.

It is also important to note that a low FODMAP diet is extremely restrictive and cuts out many common foods that you are probably eating almost daily. This is why the diet is meant to be temporary only.

Many of these foods will be reintroduced to your diet at some stage, so it is not a permanent solution. In the beginning, you will probably be advised to cutting out all or almost all FODMAPs from your diet.

The idea is that restricting all FODMAPs completely will have a far greater effect than simply restricting one FODMAP at a time. With all FODMAPs out of your diet, it gives the bacteria in your system a chance to correct any imbalances and to heal.

How it Works

The diet usually lasts anywhere between 3 to 8 weeks. This depends on how your body responds to the diet. Throughout that time, you limit or exclude all FODMAPs from your diet. This is known as the elimination phase.

A period shorter than 3 weeks is not usually recommended because the body usually requires at least 3 weeks to adjust and reset.

After the elimination phase, you then begin the phase known as the reintroduction plan or rechallenge phase. During this phase, you will reintroduce FODMAP types one at a time to see which FODMAP triggers symptoms.

For example, you first reintroduce fructose back into your diet for 1 week. If the reintroduction of this FODMAP results in no symptoms, you would then reintroduce lactose too, and etc.

Through this process of elimination, you will be able to identify your trigger FODMAPs. This will then inform you of what you can and cannot eat.

Is it Easy?

Ask anyone who has been on the diet, and they will probably tell you that this is a very challenging diet. However, one of the advantages is that the duration of the diet is relatively short.

During this time, it is important to work with a dietitian trained in this program to ensure you're meeting your nutrition requirements. As the diet becomes more and more popular, there are numerous low FODMAP recipes that have become accessible.

Something that many people have an issue with during the diet is eating out. However, once you get the hang of it, it's not hard to know what to eat or where to go. For example, Asian restaurants usually have many options you can choose from.

For those of you who like to drink, the good news is that not all alcohol needs to be cut out. Avoid beer, rum, and sweet wine. A small amount of dry wine and most spirits are fine. Of course, drinking amounts should always be moderated.

Nutrition experts emphasize the importance feeling satisfied that you've had enough to eat. Just because there are many restricted foods does not mean that you should ever feel hungry. Just make sure you are filling up with the right types of foods.

Ready to Start your FODMAP Diet?

In the United States alone, recent studies show that 60 to 70 million people are affected by some sort of digestive disease. Having a digestive disorder does not have to impact your day-to-day life.

A low FODMAP diet may be a great way for you to rebalance your system and also find out exactly what foods to stay away from in the future. There are a plethora of resources online that have charted out the do's and don'ts of the diet.

Click here for even more information on the low FODMAP diet!

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