What are FODMAPs ?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Mono-saccharides And Polyols. (You can see why they went for the short version!). And the FODMAP diet is more properly called the Low FODMAPs diet, because the idea is to limit your consumption of these nutrients.
All of these nutrients are in the carbohydrate family; some are sugars (such as lactose and fructose), others are sugar alcohols (such as sorbitol and mannitol), and some are non-digestible fibers (such as fructans and galactans). All occur naturally in whole foods such as fruit, dairy, beans, and grains. Sugar alcohols are also used in more concentrated amounts in food processing to produce sugar-free and diabetic foods .
How Do FODMAPs Affect Digestion?
Different FODMAPs present different issues in digestion. The sugars require specific enzymes for proper digestion and an absence of these enzymes can cause problems. The sugar alcohols are highly osmotic, meaning that they tend to pull water into the digestive tract from the surrounding tissues. The fibers serve as food for your gut bacteria, which digest them via a process of fermentation, producing carbon dioxide in the intestines.
All of this is perfectly natural and–although consuming large amounts of these compounds could lead to digestive discomfort for just about anyone–most people don’t have trouble with the amounts encountered in a typical diet. In fact, some of these nutrients serve beneficial roles, such as acting as prebiotics that foster healthy gut bacteria.
Some folks, however, seem to have a lower tolerance for some or all of the FODMAPs. When they eat more than small amounts of these nutrients, they end up with severe bloating, distention, pain, and all kinds of other miseries. Fortunately, the solution is fairly simple. A low FODMAP diet often solves the problem. Note that it’s usually not necessary to achieve a Zero-FODMAP diet in order to get relief.
Which Foods Contain FODMAPs?
Foods that are high in FODMAPs include most dairy products, certain fruits (including apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, watermelons, stone fruit, mango and papaya), certain vegetables (including artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, garlic, and mushrooms), certain grains (including wheat, rye, barley, and spelt), most legumes (including soybeans), certain sweeteners (including honey and agave nectar), and some food additives (such as chicory root, inulin, and xylitol).
Fortunately, there is an equally long list of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy alternatives, sweeteners, and other foods that are low in FODMAPs.
Although there is definitely a learning curve involved, it’s not hard to put together a varied and balanced diet, using only low FODMAP foods. And if it brings blessed relief from long-standing misery, the effort is obviously well worth it. Plus, there’s a good chance that you can eventually reintroduce at least some of these foods.
Check out the diagram below on the foods that are on the FODMAP list. Remember though, some of the foods on the suitable list have been eliminated on this challenge, but once you start reentry, you may want to try some of these!