FODMAPs – what are they and why do I keep hearing about them?
By Chloe McLeod, Leading Australian Dietitian
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are all different types of carbohydrates. When these carbohydrates are poorly absorbed, it can result in increased water being drawn into the gut. This can cause diarrhoea for some people. For others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria, producing gas. This gas can lead to additional symptoms, such as bloating.
Which foods contain FODMAPs?
Common high FODMAP foods include asparagus, onion, garlic, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, legumes, apples, pears, mango, watermelon, yoghurt, cow’s milk, soft cheese, ice cream, wheat-based breads, cereal, pasta, cashews and pistachios. Foods low in FODMAPs include cucumber, carrot, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, banana, orange, mandarin, grapes, lactose-free yoghurts and milk (such as Zymil), hard cheese, meats, fish, wheat free breads and pastas, quinoa and rice.
So why FODMAPs?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms can often occur when there is an increased consumption of one or more of the types of FODMAPs you are intolerant to. For example, if you have apple, avocado and apricots all in the one-day, this could be too much for you to tolerate. However if you only have avocado the quantity may be fine for you to eat without getting any symptoms. This can make it a tricky task to work out what is causing your discomfort.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that following a strict low FODMAP diet is not recommended long term. Why? Many high FODMAP foods are also rich in prebiotic fibres, which are important for feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut. Working out which FODMAPs you’re sensitive to, and then working through reintroductions is essential.
So why do I keep hearing about FODMAPs?
Up to one in five Australians suffer from IBS, so it is likely that you, or someone you know may suffer from this debilitating condition. Reducing intake of FODMAPs in the diet to a level you tolerate is likely to help reduce symptoms, which include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and wind.
What do I do if I’m worried these might be a problem for me?
First and foremost, check with your GP that there is nothing more sinister going on, then check in with a dietitian experienced in managing gut issues and food intolerance to help you determine if FODMAPs is the right path for you, and if so, coach you through the process.