What’s all the fuss about FODMAPs?

The term FODMAPs seems to be popping up all over the place lately. You may even have been recommended to follow a low-FODMAPs diet by your healthcare professional. So, what are these mysterious FODMAPs? And do you really need to worry about them, or are they just a passing fad? Read on to learn what you need to know.

What are FODMAPs?

In summary, the term FODMAPs is an abbreviated name for a group of carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in the diet. Some people have difficulty digesting FODMAPs, and consequently may experience digestive problems after eating them.

The specific groups of short-chain carbohydrates that are collectively referred to as FODMAPs are:

Fermentable: These types of carbohydrates generate gas in the gut as a by-product of fermentation by the bacteria (also known as microflora or microbiota) that are naturally present in the intestines.

Oligosaccharides: Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates made up of a few simple sugars (monosaccharides) linked together in a chain.

Disaccharides: Disaccharides are carbohydrate molecules comprised of two simple sugars.

Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides is another term for the simple sugars that all carbohydrates are made up of.

AND

Polyols: Polyols is a chemical term for compounds also known as sugar alcohols, which occur naturally in some foods and are added to others as sweeteners

How do FODMAPs cause tummy trouble?

In susceptible people, eating foods containing FODMAPs may lead to the onset of symptoms like flatulence, bloating, abdominal discomfort and nausea. Constipation, diarrhoea or a combination of both issues may also occur.

These symptoms are the result of two specific characteristics of FODMAPs and the way they’re digested:

  • The fermentation of FODMAPs by the bacteria in the gut results in the production of gas in the bowel, leading to flatulence and related symptoms
  • Due to their chemical make-up, FODMAPs attract water into the small intestine, which interferes with the regularity of bowel movements and can cause the urgent need to go to the toilet

Which foods are high in FODMAPs?

FODMAPs occur naturally in our diets, so can’t be avoided entirely. However, if you’ve been recommended to adopt a low-FODMAPs diet, here are some foods you’ll want to avoid:

Oligosaccharides, including fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOSs) are found in:

  • Onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and other members of the allium family of vegetables
  • Wheat, barley, rye and other grains
  • Artichokes (both globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes)
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin (ingredients that are sometimes added to prebiotic and probiotic nutritional supplements)
  • Baked beans, kidney beans, lentils and other types of legumes and pulses

Disaccharides include:

  • Sucrose (as found in cane sugar)
  • Lactose (as found in dairy products)

Monosaccharides, such as fructose and glucose are found in large quantities in:

  • Honey
  • Dates, watermelon, pear, apples, cherries, mangoes and other fruit
  • High-fructose corn syrups (an ingredient added to some commercially produced food and drinks)

Polyols are found in:

  • Stone fruits like apricots and plums (including prunes)
  • Mushrooms and some other vegetables
  • Certain food additives, including the sweeteners:
    • Sorbitol (look for additive number 420 on food labels)
    • Isomalt (953)
    • Maltitol (965)
    • Xylitol (967)

Which foods are low in FODMAPs?

Following a low-FODMAPs diet isn’t as restrictive as it may sound; there are plenty of foods you’re still able to include in your diet, including:

  • Meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
  • Carrots, capsicum, bok choy, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant and a wide variety of other vegetables
  • Rockmelon, pineapple, grapes, strawberries, kiwifruit and many other fruits
  • Oats and quinoa
  • Tofu
  • Soy, almond and lactose-free milk

Also keep an eye out for products carrying the FODMAP-Friendly symbol, which have been certified as low in FODMAPs, based on laboratory testing.

How long do I need to avoid FODMAPs for?

A low-FODMAP diet is best followed under the guidance of your healthcare professional who can help to make sure that your diet is balanced and nutritious along the way.

The dietary changes generally occur in two stages.

First, you’ll strictly avoid consuming any foods high in FODMAPs (usually for around 4-6 weeks), during which time a change in your symptoms may confirm whether you’re experiencing FODMAPs-related digestive difficulties.

If you are, the second phase of the diet is used to help identify the specific type or types of FODMAPs that are problematic for you. This involves the gradual reintroduction of certain foods into your diet (usually over a period of several months) while your symptoms and responses are carefully monitored.

What else can I do to support my digestive health?

Consider taking Oriental Botanicals Gut Healing Powder, to support your digestive function and gastrointestinal health. Its ingredients include the slippery elm and marshmallow, which are traditionally used to ease mild gastrointestinal inflammation in Western herbal medicine, and the amino acid L-glutamine, which helps maintain the structural integrity of the mucous membranes in the gut.

Oriental Botanicals Gut Healing Powder is FODMAP Friendly certified, free from common allergens, and contains no artificial flavours, colours, sweeteners or preservatives.

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