You might have heard of a FODMAP diet to help gut health, but what does it mean, who should use it and how does it work?? Let me explain a bit more about it.
What does FODMAP stand for?
The term stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. No clearer? Basically these are all fermentable carbohydrates that commonly trigger bloating and gas that are so prevalent in IBS. Not everyone has a problem with these foods, and they aren’t ‘unhealthy’ foods. In fact it might surprise you how common they are.
What are FODMAP foods?
FODMAPs are found in many common foods, and you might react to one type, or all of them. The main kinds of foods are:
- Oligosaccharides: Wheat, rye, legumes and various fruits and vegetables, such as garlic and onions.
- Disaccharides: Milk, yogurt and soft cheese. Lactose, maltose and sucrose.
- Monosaccharides: Foods high in fructose are the main source, for example mangoes as well as sweeteners like agave syrup.
- Polyols: Certain fruits and vegetables including blackberries, cauliflower, watermelon that are high in Mannitol, Isomalt, Maltitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol (found in toothpaste and chewing gum)
In some people these carbohydrates produce gas due to fermentation in the gut, and draw water into the intestines causing bloating and loose stools. Fermentation in the gut is normal, but the symptoms arise for people with IBS who have a hypersensitive gut.
What CAN you eat on the FODMAP diet?
Lots of vegetables and fruits are still available to you like red peppers, courgette, green beans, pumpkin, parsnips, kiwi, blueberries, sweet potato etc. You can also eat meat, oats rice, some nuts and some low lactose dairy.
How to do the low-FODMAP diet
It’s a very tough diet to manage because it’s so restrictive, and you need to ensure you’re eating a balanced range of nutrients. I don’t recommend anyone trying to manage a dietary changes this big on their own, always work with a nutrition professional.
Think of the low FODMAP diet as a diagnostic tool that is intended to identify food triggers for symptoms of IBS rather than a way of life. In some cases if can allow some healing in the gut so we can reintroduce as much food back into your diet as possible. The low FODMAP diet should not be followed long term because it is too restrictive. The microbes in our gut need fibre and diversity. It’s more healthy for us to eat as varied a diet as possible.
To do this the diet is conducted in 3 phases:
- Low FODMAP Phase – 2-6 week
- Re-challenge Phase – reintroducing each of the FODMAP groups in a strict way, with washout period in between each group
- Adapted low FODMAP Phase – personalise your long term diet and gut health
Should you do a low FODMAP diet?
It’s important that your digestive symptoms have been checked out by a doctor. If you’re constantly getting constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and pains there could be other diagnoses that your doctor might make so get yourself checked out. These could include coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or colonic cancer.
If you have IBS and want to try making changes to your diet, there are simple changes you can try before a FODMAP diet such as
- cutting out processed foods especially high fat foods as these can contribute to a leaky gut
- remove alcohol from your diet
- restrict caffeine – 1-2 cups of tea or coffee because caffeine can irritiate the digestive system
- drink water – aim for 8 glasses a day
- if you’re sensitive to dairy or gluten try cutting either of these out for 4-6 weeks to look for any difference in your symptoms
- look at your stress levels
- ensure you’re getting enough sleep – aiming for 8 hours a day
To get support with making any changes to your diet please get in touch – I can help you find the right diet for you!
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help people with IBS, gut health and digestive issues.
I can help you to:
- understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
- eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
- develop healthy, sustainable habits for life
“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"
To find more about 1:1 nutrition consultations or my group membership see my IBS Diet support page