Do you suffer from a sensitive digestive system? You are not alone! It is estimated that between 9-23% of the world population is living with a common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). With symptoms ranging from wind, bloating, distension, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhoea that’s a whole lot of discomfort!
I know firsthand just how frustrating, uncomfortable and inconvenient it can be having a sensitive digestive system. So when I first heard about FODMAPs and how they might be affecting me, I was very interested to learn more.
In Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, the Director of Gastroenterology, Professor Peter Gibson lead a team alongside Dr Jane Muir, who is the Head of Translational Nutrition Science, to become the first group to provide evidence that FODMAPS are behind many of these symptoms. Their research also indicated that a low FODMAP diet could alleviate the symptoms experienced by nearly 75% of people suffering from IBS.
FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates that often prove to be more challenging to digest. The unusual name ‘FODMAP’ is actually an acronym for a rather big mouthful of words:
- Oligosaccharides (Fructans, Galacto-oligosaccharides [GOs])
- Disaccharides (Lactose)
- Monosaccharides (excess Fructose)
- Polyols (Sorbitol, Mannitol)
Basically FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates including sugars and fibre that are commonly found in many different types of food. Unfortunately these FODMAPs are difficult to digest in the small intestine (which is where the majority of the nutrients are absorbed in our body), so they sit here and end up feeding the microbes that live in the gut. These microbes include fungi, bad bacteria and archaea. This results in a fermentation process which is responsible for those unpleasant symptoms such as flatulence, bloating and belching.
Another side effect of these FODMAPS remaining in the colon is that they draw water to them which continue to perpetuate the bloating as well as adding cramping and potential constipation or diarrhoea.
Here are some examples of foods that are either low in FODMAPs or high:
|Food Group||Low FODMAP||High FODMAP|
|Dairy||Lactose free milk, lactose free yogurt, coconut milk, almond milk, minimal lactose cheese||Most milks, most yogurts, cream, ice cream, sour cream|
|Proteins||Poultry, eggs, fish, beef, firm tofu, almonds||Soy beans, black beans, kidney beans, cashew nuts, silken tofu|
|Fruits||Oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi fruit, strawberries, bananas, blueberries||Apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, watermelon|
|Vegetables||Tomato, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, potatoes||Corn, beetroot, sugar snap peas, asparagus, onion, garlic, mushrooms|
|Sweeteners||Maple syrup, stevia||High-fructose corn syrup, mannitol, sorbitol, honey|
The idea of a low FODMAP diet is not to permanently remove all foods that are high in FODMAPS, because many of these provide fantastic nutrients that are essential to good health. How it works is that under the guidance of a dietician who is familiar with FODMAPS, a low FODMAP diet is introduced for 2-8 weeks, then slowly other foods are reintroduced back into the diet, helping you determine which foods work well and which foods cause a bad reaction in your body.
So if you suffer from a common functional GI disorder, then trying a low FODMAP diet could be just what you need to help you discover what foods work best for you!