Digestive complaints are among the most common health concerns, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes. If you’re experiencing distress, and you’ve determined after my previous article on IBS that you want to do something to mitigate your symptoms, the low-FODMAP diet is a great place to start. I’ve written before about FODMAP, including recipe books I like.
The low-FODMAP diet is one of the most common strategies used to help mitigate the often debilitating symptoms of IBS. But what exactly is a FODMAP, and how can one best avoid them?
What is a FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for fermentableoligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. This scientific term is used to identify groups of carbohydrates—also known as “fermentable carbs”—that trigger digestive problems such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea.
FODMAPS in Food?
You will find FODMAPS in a variety of foods:
- Oligosaccharides: in wheat, rye, legumes, garlic and onions.
- Disaccharides: in milk, yogurt and soft cheese. Lactose (milk sugar) is the main carb culprit.
- Monosaccharides: in many different fruits, including fig and mango, and sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. Fructose (fruit sugar) is the main carb culprit.
- Polyols: in blackberries and lychee, as well as some low-calorie sweeteners like those in sugar-free gum.
Research and clinical experience demonstrate that following a diet low in fermentable carbs reduces digestive distress, improves enjoyment of eating, and supports gut health by promoting the growth of good gut bacteria, or probiotics.
Starting a Low-FODMAP Diet
There are several stages, briefly outlined here:
Stage 1: Restriction of high-FODMAP foods. This involves strict avoidance of foods that have been identified or are suspected to be irritants to the digestive system. This stage lasts eight weeks for most people. You will record food intake and monitor symptoms and health variables, in a food journal like this, which you will discuss with your doctor or nutritionist.
Stage 2: Reintroduction. You systematically reintroduce high-FODMAP foods to learn which ones you can tolerate and in what amount, or if you are sensitive to several or all FODMAPS.
Stage 3: Personalization. With the data collected in the first two stages, you and your doctor will establish a personalized low-FODMAP diet. You will progress over time to ensure you have a diet that is flexible, manageable, and provides a variety of nutrients and flavors.
Remember: check with your doctor before you try adopting this diet, because it has to be customized to your specific food intolerances or allergies.