What is FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym that is used to describe groups of carbohydrate molecules that are difficult to digest:
Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols.
Australian-based Monash University conducted significant research in this area and linked consumption of foods that are high in FODMAP’s with increased symptoms for those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The reason for this is that some people are not able to properly digest foods that are high in FODMAP’s and so these undigested carbohydrate molecules travel to the lower intestine where they react with the natural bacteria present and then ferment and produce gas. Those suffering from IBS have an intimate understanding of the symptoms this can produce – pain, discomfort, wind, bloating, diarrhoea and / or constipation.
Scientists have identified five different types of FODMAP’s that are present in our food:
- Fructose – found in fruit, honey, juices.
- Lactose – found in milk and milk products.
- Polyols – found in some fruits and vegetables and artificial sweeteners including sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, and xylitol.
- Fructans – found in wheat, rye, onions, garlic.
- Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) – found in legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans or baked beans.
Different people may be able to tolerate some of the FODMAP’s identified above, or conversely, a person may be intolerant to all. What often happens is that a person will find their own level of tolerance, but this a process of elimination and re-introduction that needs to be done under guidance of a dietitian.
Why follow a low FODMAP diet?
The scientific research conducted in this area has concluded that those who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may find significant relief from their symptoms by following a diet that is low in FODMAP’s. That sounds simple, however, FODMAP’s are present in many innocent, healthy foods that we eat every day. So while following a diet low in FODMAP’s can provide immense physical and emotional relief from symptoms, every day eating can become complicated.
How do I know if a low FODMAP diet is right for me?
Following a low FODMAP diet isn’t for the faint-hearted, so the first step is to speak to your medical practitioner about your symptoms to confirm that you do have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Your medical practitioner will probably want to rule out other causes such as coeliac disease or gluten intolerance. Once you have an accurate diagnosis you should ask to be referred to a dietitian or nutritionist who has appropriate experience in working with gastro-intestinal issues. In Australia the best place to find a dietitian is through the Dietitians Association of Australia and for nutritionists is via the Nutrition Society of Australia.
How do I implement a low FODMAP diet?
Initially it is necessary for the strict avoidance of all foods that are high in FODMAP’s, replacing these with foods that are low in FODMAP’s. This is viewed as a trial for 6-8 weeks. During this period it is best to keep a food diary and monitor IBS symptoms.
After this trial period, if all symptoms have cleared, then it is time to start to identify individual tolerance levels of the different FODMAP groups. The dietitian will work with you to gradually introduce different foods and different quantities to a level that is suitable for you without the return of symptoms.
Where can I found the most accurate list of foods that are high in FODMAP’s?
I have found that the most accurate list can be found through the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. It isn’t free, but it is a wonderful resource and it does get updated to included the latest research findings.