What are FODMAPs and How can eliminating them change your life?

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From gluten-free diets to low-carb diets, we frequently hear about all manner of nutritional plans that involved eliminating certain types of food from your daily intake.

One group of foods that is commonly overlooked in the context of improving health and losing weight is FODMAP-containing foods.

FODMAPs are known for contributing to a range of digestive and gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.

In this article we are going to look at exactly what FODMAPs are, some examples of foods you will find them in, and how eliminating them from your diet or reducing your intake may help to improve your health and well-being dramatically.

One group of foods that is commonly overlooked in the context of improving health and losing weight is FODMAP-containing foods.

FODMAPs are known for contributing to a range of digestive and gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.

In this article we are going to look at exactly what FODMAPs are, some examples of foods you will find them in, and how eliminating them from your diet or reducing your intake may help to improve your health and well-being dramatically.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym which stands for “FermentableOligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols.”

The most common classes of FODMAPs are:

  • Monosaccharides, including:
    • Fructose
  • Disaccharides, including:
    • Lactose
  • Oligosaccharides, including:
    • Fructans; and
    • Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Polyols, including:
    • Sorbitol;
    • Xylitol; and
    • Mannitol

Simply put, FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates which a large number of people have difficulty digesting. This results in them passing from the small intestine into the large intestine where they are subsequently fermented by the bacteria there.

The space within the intestinal walls is referred to as the intestinal lumen, and inflammation or distension of these tissues can significantly hinder the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, resulting in the bloating and stomach cramps that many of us are all too familiar with.

The spectrum of GI-related ailments is broad, including everything from the aforementioned irritable bowel syndrome to fructose malabsorption and dairy allergies such as lactose intolerance. For this reason it is important that you seek professional medical advice in order to receive an accurate assessment of how FODMAP-containing foods may be affecting your health.

Nevertheless, it should suffice to say that if you are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms then there is a high probability that you would do well to at least reduce your consumption of FODMAPs.

You may be wondering how to go about removing FODMAP-containing foods from your diet, so next we are going to look at some common food items that are notoriously high in FODMAPs.

FODMAP is an acronym which stands for “FermentableOligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols.”

The most common classes of FODMAPs are:

  • Monosaccharides, including:
    • Fructose
  • Disaccharides, including:
    • Lactose
  • Oligosaccharides, including:
    • Fructans; and
    • Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Polyols, including:
    • Sorbitol;
    • Xylitol; and
    • Mannitol

Simply put, FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates which a large number of people have difficulty digesting. This results in them passing from the small intestine into the large intestine where they are subsequently fermented by the bacteria there.

The space within the intestinal walls is referred to as the intestinal lumen, and inflammation or distension of these tissues can significantly hinder the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, resulting in the bloating and stomach cramps that many of us are all too familiar with.

The spectrum of GI-related ailments is broad, including everything from the aforementioned irritable bowel syndrome to fructose malabsorption and dairy allergies such as lactose intolerance. For this reason it is important that you seek professional medical advice in order to receive an accurate assessment of how FODMAP-containing foods may be affecting your health.

Nevertheless, it should suffice to say that if you are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms then there is a high probability that you would do well to at least reduce your consumption of FODMAPs.

You may be wondering how to go about removing FODMAP-containing foods from your diet, so next we are going to look at some common food items that are notoriously high in FODMAPs.

 

Which Foods Contain FODMAPs?

At first glance you may find it quite alarming just how many foods contain FODMAPs.

Before reading this list and worrying that you will have to remove some vast majority of the foods you currently eat, please understand that different people respond differently to different classes of FODMAPs.

Monosaccharides

Fructose

Disaccharides

  • Lactose

Oligosaccharides

  • Fructans

Galacto-oligosaccharides

  • Beans and pulses

Polyols

  • Foods containing Xylitol, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Malitol, or Isomalt

How Does a FODMAP Reduction Diet Work?

You may find that eliminating just one type of FODMAP, say, lactose, helps to alleviate many of your symptoms so the best thing you can do is to take a systematic approach by restricting your intake of just one FODMAP class at a time.

This will allow you to observe the results over a period of a week or two in order to identify which FODMAPs are giving you the most trouble.

A slightly more time-consuming but nonetheless more effective method of implementing a FODMAP Reduction Diet goes as follows:

Begin with an Elimination Phase where you remove all of FODMAP-containing foods from your diet, or at least as many as you can.

Continue with this phase for approximately 6 – 8 weeks before moving on to a Reintroduction Phase.

At this point you can begin reintroducing small amounts of FODMAP-containing foods into your diet, for example, one slice of bread or one piece of stone fruit a few times per week.

Food Choice as a Key Management Strategy for Functional Gastrointestinal Symptoms by Gibson and Shepherd offers a simple way of reintroducing FODMAPs:

  • Mannitol: 1/2 cup Mushrooms
    or
  • Sorbitol: 4 Dried Apricot Halves
  • Lactose: 125 – 250ml Milk or 200g Yoghurt
  • Fructose: 2 teaspoons Honey
  • Fructans: 2 slices Wheat Bread or 1 clove Garlic
  • GOS: 1/2 cup Lentils or Legumes

It is recommended that you introduce just one type of FODMAP per week as this will make for a far more accurate assessment of which ones are problematic.

List of FODMAP-Free Foods

Finally, here is a list of foods that are either FODMAP-free or contain negligible amounts:

  • Meat and Animal Products: 

    • Beef
    • Chicken
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Lamb
    • Pork
    • Shellfish
    • Turkey
  • Fruits

    • Banana
    • Blueberry
    • Cantaloupe
    • Grapes
    • Kiwi
    • Lemon and Lime
    • Orange
    • Pineapple
    • Raspberry
    • Rhubarb
    • Strawberry
  • Vegetables

    • Arugula
    • Bell Pepper
    • Bok Choy
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Cabbage
    • Eggplant
    • Endive
    • Kale
    • Lettuce
    • Parsley
    • Parsnip
    • Potato
    • Spinach
    • Squash
    • Sweet Potato
    • Tomato
    • Turnip
    • Zucchini
  • Nuts and Seeds

    • Almonds
    • Caraway Seeds
    • Chia Seeds
    • Hazelnuts
    • Macadamia
    • Peanuts
    • Pecan
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Walnuts
    • Sesame Seeds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Coconut Oil
    • Almond and Rice Milk
    • Lactose-Free Dairy Products
    • Oatmeal
    • Spelt
    • Gluten-Free Grain Alternatives

With the above list of non-FODMAP foods and a plan for elimination and reintroduction, you should now have everything you need to assess your tolerance and hopefully improve your health and well-being for the long-term.

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