The acronym FODMAP has, in the last few years, worked its way into the Australian health and food vernacular. You can now find processed food and ready-to-go meals that identify themselves as ‘FODMAP friendly’. So what are FODMAPs and how do they fit into your health puzzle?
What are FODMAPS?
FODMAPs are found in the foods we eat. FODMAP is an acronym for
- Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))
- Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
- Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
- Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)
They are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives.
Some food sources are higher in the above constituents and for many people, particularly those who experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), they can be a trigger of symptoms. They may also impact people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and may be a potential consideration as a trigger for those with Auto-Immune Diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis or Eczema.
When the FODMAP molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the digestive tract, they continue along the digestive tract, arriving at the large intestine where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. The bacteria then digest (ferment) these FODMAPs and can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Being highly osmotic, they also attract a lot of water and may alter how quickly bowels move.
IBS and FODMAPs
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence), abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both), and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
If you do experience IBS, be aware that these foods may not be the only trigger for you. Whilst they may be responsible for your digestive upsets, you may remove these foods and still experience symptoms. That is because other foods or chemicals can also trigger IBS.
Whilst for many avoiding FODMAP foods may be beneficial from a symptom management perspective, it may only serve as a bandaid treatment and can act as a temporary relief while the underlying ‘root cause’ is managed.
Working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner to determine then treat underlying cause is a critical step in regaining optimal digestive health, and is something our practitioners help patients with often. Removing these foods from your diet should be part of a well formulated health plan and act as an important, but temporary part of your recovery and treatment.
What are the FODMAPS foods?
- Fructose: A sugar found in most fruits and vegetables like
- Lactose: A sugar found in dairy foods like milk.
- Fructans: Very similar to fructose, found in many vegetables and grains
- Galactans: Found primarily in legumes.
Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. You find them mainly in artificial sweeteners and chewing gum.
For a comprehensive list of the foods to avoid and to consume on the low FODMAP diet click here.
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