Hitting the health and nutrition industry lately is an idea to avoid certain short-chain carbohydrates known as “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.” With a name like that, you can see why everyone just says “FODMAPs.” But what are FODMAP foods – and could a low FODMAP diet make you feel better?
The reason that these short chain carbs are grouped together is that they are poorly absorbed by the small intestine – and they are quite common in the average Westerner’s diet. Many believe that avoiding these types of foods can alleviate the suffering caused by certain gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Some are going so far as to call a low FODMAP diet the “new gluten-free diet” – and NPR suggests that many people who think they are sensitive to gluten are actually sensitive to FODMAP foods. With up to 20 percent of the American population now suffering from IBS, perhaps it’s time to take a look at FODMAPs.
So… what are they?
FODMAPs are simple carbohydrates – sugars – that are found in foods, many of which are naturally occurring. These carbs are rapidly fermented in the colon, which produces excess gas and draws water into the large intestine – a big problem for people with IBS. For sensitive individuals, ingesting an overabundance of FODMAPs can lead to gas, bloating, cramping and gastrointestinal distress.
FODMAPS include all of the following “Fermentable” food items:
- Fructans – wheat, garlic, onion, asparagus, sunchoke, chicory, rye, barley, leeks, radicchio, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, fennel, and cabbage
- Galactans – pulses and beans, including soybeans and lentils
- Lactose – most dairy foods
- Fructose – fruits, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sweeteners that contain sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, and isomalt; plus vegetables and fruits (especially stone) fruits – including apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, lychees, nectarines, apples, blackberries, nectarines, pears, watermelon, avocados, mushrooms, and cauliflower.
If you suffer from IBS or other chronic gastrointestinal disorders, a low FODMAP diet might help you feel better – but looking at the list of foods that you can’t eat is a little disheartening. No broccoli? No fruits? Whatever happened to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”
The good news is that you may not have to cut out these foods completely, you just have to be careful not to eat too many at one time. At the outset however, your doctor or nutritionist may prescribe an elimination diet paired with a food journal – so you can know for sure if the FODMAPs foods are affecting you are not.
Stanford Health Care has released a thorough document that lists high FODMAP foods and lower FODMAPs foods that could be eaten as an alternative. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from if you find that eliminating these quickly fermenting foods reduces your gastrointestinal distress.
Like all restrictive diets, it’s important that you consult a health care professional before diving in. Food is medicine – so be sure that you are giving your body what it needs.
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