With the ever-changing landscape of farming, food manufacturing, and food processing, it’s no surprise that digestive issues are extremely common. For people who suffer from IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome), digestive issues can become a norm that’s been grown accustomed to from childhood. Thanks to the newly popular FODMAP diet, many IBS sufferers seem to be finding some relief for their digestive problems.
What is FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. In more simple terms, FODMAP represents a set of short-chain carbohydrates that some people have problems digesting.
For those who don’t suffer from IBS, these carbohydrates are often fed on by friendly bacteria in the gut that produce methane gas as a result. Those who suffer from IBS, however, have trouble digesting these carbohydrates. The bacteria in their gut feeds on the carbohydrates, but gives off hydrogen gas, rather than methane gas, leading to digestive issues.
Those who are sensitive to FODMAPs can experience the following digestive symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
- Abdominal distension
- Abdominal pain
The FODMAP diet is really just a low-FODMAP diet, meaning the intake of foods containing FODMAPS is restricted. While the following list is not all-inclusive, it contains some of the everyday foods that are typically high in FODMAPS.
High FODMAP Foods
- Fruits: Apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, mango, dates, figs, pears, peaches, watermelon.
- Sweeteners: Fructose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol.
- Dairy: Milk, ice cream, sour cream, most yogurts, and cheese.
- Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions, shallots, peas.
- Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans.
- Wheat: Bread, pasta, cereal, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, crackers, muffins.
- Beverages: Beer, fortified wines, soft drinks, soy milk, fruit juices.
A low-FODMAP diet would seek to greatly reduce, and in some cases, completely avoid these foods. The FODMAP diet is typically tailored to each individual. It’s important for those suffering from IBS to consult a dietician to come up with a plan that addresses their unique digestive issues. The following list is not all-inclusive, but includes some of the foods a dietician may suggest eating on a low-FODMAP diet.
- Fruits: Bananas (unripe), blueberries, cantaloupe, clementine, grapes, guava, kiwifruit, lemon, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries.
- Vegetables: Bean sprouts, broccoli (limited amounts), bok choy, carrots, chives, collard greens, courgette, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, kale, okra, parsnip, radish, squash, yam.
- Grains: Rice bread, potato flour bread, wheat free or gluten free pasta, buckwheat flour, buckwheat noodles, brown rice, whole grain rice, basmati rice, chips (plain), corncakes, oats, oatmeal, popcorn, polenta, quinoa, rice cakes.
- Nuts: Brazil nuts, almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts.
Low-FODMAP Diet Plan
A low-FODMAP diet is usually used as part of a treatment plan for those suffering from IBS. It is approached in two phases:
- Phase 1: Foods that are high in FODMAPs are completely eliminated for 4 to 6 weeks. This gives the gastrointestinal tract a chance to heal and provide relief for IBS symptoms. During this time, a dietician will help the patient create a comprehensive list of foods to eliminate and foods that may be substituted to provide adequate nutrition.
- Phase 2: Foods that were previously eliminated are slowly reintroduced into the body, and symptoms of these foods are noted and discussed with the patient’s dietician. This will help the patient and his/her dietician figure out a more lasting dietary regimen that he/she can sustain in the future.
How Long Is the Low-FODMAP Diet Plan?
Because a low-FODMAP diet is very restrictive, it’s not intended to be maintained for long-term use. Unlike a gluten-free diet for celiac disease, for example, a low-FODMAP diet is more about figuring out what your body reacts to. The diet gives the gut a breather and allows for a process of elimination that will hopefully help IBS sufferers find what foods are specifically triggering their digestive problems.
Once these foods are recognized, individuals can either completely eliminate these foods from their diet or reduce the quantity and frequency with which they are eating them. Ultimately, a low-FODMAP diet is about creating sustainable balance in the diet for those suffering from IBS.