What is the FODMAP diet: A beginner’s guide

There are many new diets and plenty of dietary advice being thrown around as the next big thing you should try. Something you may have heard of, but may not know very much about, is the FODMAP diet.

So what is the FODMAP diet? And why is everybody talking about it?

You often see products in restaurants or bakeries that say FODMAP friendly. But if you ask the person behind the counter what FODMAP means, they might not be able to tell you exactly.

This is because what FODMAP is an acronym for is a little difficult to wrap your tongue around: Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. They are a type of carbohydrate, called a short-chain carbohydrate, that many people are finding it hard to digest (almost as hard as it is to say!)

Many adults and even some children are responding incredibly to a low or no FODMAP diet. People suffering from digestive issues or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) particularly are seeing some great results from adjusting their diet to exclude these carbohydrates.

What do FODMAP foods do?

Not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs, but a great many people are. The carbohydrates reach the far end of your intestine and cause all sorts of havoc by interacting with the gut bacteria there. The gut bacteria turns them into fuel, which makes hydrogen gas and creates a number of different kinds of digestive problems. They can also draw water into the intestine.

FODMAPs can cause the following digestive problems:

  • Excessive wind
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

What are FODMAPs exactly?

The most common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: sugar found in fruits, vegetables and added to many processed products
  • Lactose: carbohydrate found in dairy products
  • Fructans: most commonly in gluten products including wheat, rye, spelt and barley
  • Galactans: found in legumes
  • Polyols: sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol

How can you avoid FODMAP foods?

According to Healthline, these foods are high in FODMAPs

  • Fruits:Apples, applesauce, apricots, blackberries, boysenberries, cherries, canned fruit, dates, figs, pears, peaches, watermelon.
  • Sweeteners:Fructose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol.
  • Dairy products:Milk (from cows, goats, and sheep), ice cream, most yogurts, sour cream, soft and fresh cheeses (cottage, ricotta, etc) and whey protein supplements.
  • Vegetables:Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, shallots.
  • Legumes:Beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans.
  • Wheat:bread, pasta, most breakfast cereals, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, crackers, biscuits.
  • Other grains:Barley and rye.
  • Beverages:Beer, fortified wines, soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup, milk, soy milk, fruit juices.

 

These are the foods that are low in FODMAP and which you can enjoy freely on this diet:

  • All meats, fish, and eggs, except if they have added high-FODMAP ingredients like wheat or high fructose corn syrup.
  • All fats and oils.
  • Most herbs and spices.
  • Nuts and seeds:Almonds, cashews, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds (not pistachios, which are high in FODMAPs).
  • Fruits:Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, lemons, lime, mandarins, melons, (except watermelon), oranges, passionfruit, raspberries, strawberries.
  • Sweeteners:Maple syrup, molasses, stevia and most artificial sweeteners.
  • Dairy products:Lactose-free dairy products and hard cheeses (including brie and camembert).
  • Vegetables:Alfalfa, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, green beans, kale, lettuce, chives, olives, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, spinach, spring onion (only green), squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, yams, water chestnuts, zucchini.
  • Grains:Corn, oats, rice, quinoa, sorghum, tapioca.
  • Beverages:Water, coffee, tea, etc.

Who should try the FODMAP diet?

Around 14% of people in the US (many of whom are undiagnosed) suffer from IBS and may benefit from a FODMAP restrictive diet. IBS has no known cause, but experts believe that stress may play a big part in it.

Adjusting to a low-FODMAP diet has been shown to greatly improve the quality of life of people suffering from IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders. People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may also benefit from this dietary change.

If you are trying to lose weight and have been cutting calories with no results, it might be that you need to cut FODMAPs instead.

People who have tried the diet have seen reduced gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation, as well as improved energy and mood. Dealing with digestion and bowel problems can be incredibly draining and fixing these problems can help with many different aspects of your life, including your ability to get out and about and just enjoy things.

FODMAP: The good news

While it does sound like there are lots of things you can no longer enjoy on the FODMAP diet, the news is not all bad. The diet recommends restricting these ingredients as much as possible – you can still treat yourself every now and then.

And like any diet, you can play around with alternatives and you are bound to find new foods that you love and that agree with your belly as well. You might need to just get a bit inventive and adventurous with new recipes and ingredients, but you are sure to find alternatives that you love.

Many supermarkets and bakeries are offering FODMAP friendly products as well, so you don’t need to deny yourself much-loved things like bread, cakes, pasta or pizza. It is getting easier than ever to eat well and enjoy your food and still look after your body at the same time.

Check out some of the delicious FODMAP friendly recipes on this site for example: https://www.fodmapeveryday.com/recipes/

If this changes in your diet reduce the effects of digestive and bowel troubles, then it will all be worth it.

Drop into Eric’s Health Foods today and talk to the expert staff about their FODMAP friendly products and how this dietary change may be able to help you.

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