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FOD-whats? What you need to know about FODMAPs

Updated: May 11, 2023

I am sure by now you have heard of the term FODMAPs and might know that it has to do with some sort of diet. But this is no ordinary diet where it's meant to act like a cleanse and make you fitter or "skinnier". This diet is to improve your quality of life, specifically for those struggling with IBS who may have symptoms of constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and/or gas after eating. I use the term "diet" very lightly here, I do not condone any sort of strict diets, especially those for weight loss however when I do mention a diet, it is for those individuals that need to follow some food "rules" to avoid pain, discomfort and potential detrimental health issues if not taken seriously. And if you have tried out a FODMAP diet, well, you know how much it sucks! Here I take you through what FODMAPs actually are, and what a FODMAP diet entails!

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that are found in a variety of foods and one or all types of these FODMAPs may onset digestive reactions such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhoea in some individuals. These carbohydrates are not absorbed in the small intestine, so they make their way through the large intestine where they draw water in and are fermented (the F in FODMAP stands for Fermentable) by healthy gut bacteria.

The types of FODMAPs include:

🥦Oligosaccharides: Fructans and galactans- Are rapidly fermented in the gut as they feed the bacteria (AKA prebiotics) and are known to cause the onset of bloating and abdominal pain.

These include foods such as wheat, rye, barley, onion, garlic and some fruits and vegetables.

🥛Disaccharides: Means 2 sugars, such that glucose and galactose combine to make lactose, which is found in dairy products such as yoghurt and milk. Some individuals lack the enzyme lactase to break down lactose and are therefore malabsorbed. This is what we call lactose intolerance.

🍎Monosaccharides: Means 1 sugar which includes fructose, a component found in fruits and vegetables. These may be malabsorbed in the gut due to overload from consuming high doses and/ or the limited ability of the gut wall to absorb the free fructose.

🍬Polyols: These are sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol, that are found in some fruits, vegetables and products labelled as “sugar-free”.

What does the FODMAP diet entail?

The FODMAP diet consists of 3 phases; Low FODMAP diet, FODMAP reintroduction and FODMAP personalisation. The goal of this diet is to figure out what and how much FODMAPs you can tolerate before they cause you discomfort. Sounds pretty straightforward forward right? Well considering the list of FODMAPs I provided above, it is anything but straightforward as the majority of the foods we eat daily, contain at least one type of FODMAP to some degree.

Phase 1: Low FODMAP diet

This involves investigating the high FODMAP foods you eat and converting them with low FODMAP options for 2-6 weeks. Yes, I totally understand that 2-6 weeks is actually a long time to be on top of what is a high FODMAP vs a low FODMAP but trust me, it's a process that will pay off! Usually, you will have the help of a dietitian to inform you of what is low or high in FODMAPs and they should provide you with resources as well as support because it is tough! You can also download apps that base FODMAPs on a traffic light system (red being very high in FODMAPs, orange being moderate and green being low) which I found very useful!

Phase 2: FODMAP reintroduction

This phase is similar to phase 1 but again, becomes increasingly harder as you begin these FODMAP challenges. These involve selecting one of the FODMAP groups (as mentioned earlier) and having foods rich in that FODMAP daily for 3 days. With this you must monitor your symptoms (if any) and move on with the next FODMAP group, continuing to monitor your symptoms.

Phase 3: FODMAP personalisation

At this step, you should have narrowed down which FODMAP causes you the most trouble and know which ones are off the hook. With the FODMAPs that you cannot tolerate, you begin to experiment with the amounts of that FODMAP you can have so you don't have to completely remove it from your diet. For example, let's say you are having issues with lactose. So for one day you will have 1/4 cup of milk and note down your symptoms. If you are successful with no symptoms the next day you may try half a cup of milk and so on, until you reach a limit where your IBS symptoms come about.

So there you have it, the journey of the FODMAP diet! If you are experiencing any IBS symptoms do be sure to contact your local dietitian with FODMAP training to help guide you through the process as it can be overwhelming!

For more information on FODMAPs and FODMAP tracking, you can book a 15-minute discovery call to get some of your questions answered!

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