Struggling with bloating, gas, and digestive stress despite eating a crazy healthy (apples, garlic, and mangoes, for example) diet? Certain carbohydrates, known as FODMAPs, may be to blame for those (unsexy) digestive woes. Following a different plan, the low FODMAP diet, may be able to kick digestive issues aside.
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
First thing first: what is a FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym referring to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.
These carbohydrates are made up of small chain sugars and an array of fibers that can be difficult to digest due to their osmotic properties, in which they pull water into the small intestine.
High FODMAP carbohydrates are also known as prebiotics, food for the friendly bacteria in the gut. These carbs are easily fermented (eaten by bacteria) in the small intestine, producing methane and hydrogen gases as a result.
As a result of these two processes, a host of digestive issues can arise. Many of the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal bloating and distension, excess gas, constipation, diarrhea, and even abdominal pain can occur with consumption of high FODMAP foods.
Following a low FODMAP diet, and removing high FODMAP foods, can help to alleviate and combat these digestive issues, simply by modifying the types of foods consumed regularly.
What Are FODMAP Foods?
FODMAP foods are made up of oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and polyols (sugar alcohols).
Many foods do not contain these types of carbohydrates, however, and are naturally low FODMAP diet foods. These include some of your (probable) favorites: spinach, berries, and tomatoes, for example – phew.
High FODMAP foods: asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, garlic, legumes and pulses, sugar snap peas, beetroot, cabbage, apples, pears, mango, figs, watermelon, peaches, plums, dairy products, rye, barley, wheat, cashews, pistachios, honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, dried fruits like raisins and dates, chicory root extract, and sugar alcohol additives.
Low FODMAP foods: Arugula, bean sprouts, green beans, butternut squash, bok choy, bell pepper, carrot, fresh herbs, parsnip, kale, ginger root, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, watercress, zucchini, berries, banana, orange, mandarin, grapes, melon, lemon, limes, rhubarb, papaya, pineapple, almond milk, hemp milk, lactose free dairy products, pure maple syrup, palm sugar, millet, oats, rice, quinoa, gluten-free bread, and low-lactose cheeses.
Who Should Follow the Low FODMAP Diet?
Individuals struggling with symptoms of IBS, digestive upset, bloating, and gas could benefit from following a low FODMAP diet.
Of course, always talk to a registered dietician, nutritionist, or medical practitioner to discuss FODMAP foods, IBS, and any other questions you may have before embarking on a new diet or food plan.
The FODMAP diet has mostly been studied and shown successful in managing symptoms of IBS. According to a 2016 study published in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, up to 86 percent of patients with IBS "find improvement in overall gastrointestinal symptoms as well as individual symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal distention, and flatulence following the diet."
A 2014 study found that individuals with IBS had lower gastrointestinal symptoms while on a low FODMAP diet, compared to the subjects' regular diet. The study also found that issues of bloating, abdominal pain, and gas were significantly reduced while on the low FODMAP diet.
Following a low FODMAP diet can be simple and manageable with some preparation and homework. Read ingredient lists to find sneaky sources of high FODMAP foods (like HFCS, garlic, and chicory root extract) and print out lists of low and high FODMAP foods. There are also phone apps (like the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app) that deliver the information straight to your phone.
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