The term FODMAP is an acronym, deriving from “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols“. The restriction of these FODMAPs from the diet has been found to have a beneficial effect for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders.
The low FODMAP diet is a dietary approach used to decrease/minimize symptoms of:
- Abdominal pain
These symptoms are quite common and are present in a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. They are hard to treat and can be very disruptive. These symptoms are often present in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The FODMAP Foods
The term FODMAPs is used to describe a collection of short-chain carbohydrates found in many common foods. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols.
Consuming foods high in FODMAPs results in the above symptoms. These food items are poorly absorbed, highly osmotic and rapidly fermented by GI bacteria, leading to increased volume of liquid and gas in the GI tract, which then leads to GI tract distention that causes changes in GI motility, bloating, discomfort and flatulence.
A low FODMAP diet should result in a decrease in digestive symptoms. There is a cumulative effect of these foods on symptoms. In other words, eating foods with varying FODMAP values at the same time will add up, resulting in symptoms that you might not experience if you ate the food in isolation.
Click HERE to view or download a FODMAP Food Chart
F – Fermentable or produce gas
O – (Fructans and Galactans): Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed because the intestine lacks an enzyme to break their fructose-fructose bond. For this reason, fructans can contribute to bloating, gas, and pain. Wheat accounts for the majority of people’s fructan intake. Galactans are carbohydrates that are malabsorbed for the same reason as fructans; the intestine does not have the enzyme needed to break down galactans. Consequently, galactans can contribute to gas and GI distress.
D – (Lactose): Lactose is the carbohydrate found in cows, sheep’s and goat milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by partial or complete lack of the enzyme lactAse which digests lactose. When lactose is not completely digested, it contributes to the abdominal bloating, pain, gas and diarrhea, often occurring 30 minutes to two hours following the consumption of milk and milk containing products.
M – (Fructose): Fructose is a carbohydrate found in fruit, honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup, but not all fructose containing foods need to be limited on a low FODMAPs diet. Fructose malabsorption is similar to lactose intolerance, in that fructose is not completely digested in the GI tract due to the lack of an enzyme, but unlike lactose intolerance the absorption of fructose is dependent on another carbohydrate, glucose. Therefore, fructose containing foods with a 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose are generally well tolerated on FODMAPs diet and conversely, foods with excess fructose compared with glucose, such as apples, pears and mangos, will likely trigger abdominal symptoms.
A – and
P – (Polyols): Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and added as sweeteners to sugar-free gums, mints, cough drops and medications. Sugar alcohols have varying effects on the bowel.
Low FODMAP Diet instructions:
To assess your tolerance for these compounds, eliminate foods high in FODMAPs for 6-8 weeks and then gradually reintroduce foods to identify bothersome foods. Reintroduce one food every four days with a 2-week break between bothersome foods. The goal is to identify the threshold at which you are able to consume FODMAP containing foods without causing bothersome GI symptoms.
Foods that are high in FODMAPs may aggravate your GI complaints but they are not causing an allergic reaction or an autoimmune reaction in your body. The foods high in FODMAPs that elicit GI symptoms are causing functional discomfort in your gut that result in gas, bloating, distention etc.
Online Resources for More Information:
Gibson PR, Sheperd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach. J of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 25(2010) 252-258
Scarlat, K FODMAPs Basics, Well Balanced. Food. Life. Travel.
Scarlata, K. Successful Low FODMAP living. Today’s Dietitian, March 2012
Scarlata, K The FODMAPs Approach-Minimize Consumption of Fermentable Carbs to Manage Functional Gut Disorder Symptoms. Today’s Dietician, August 2010