For those suffering from diagnosed IBS the Low FODMAP diet can make the difference between pain and discomfort and a manageable normalness. So what is the Low FODMAP diet and how does it work?
The Low FODMAP diet, unlike your average diet, is a medical diet. I guess the first question most people ask is, what is a FODMAP? FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are all types of carbohydrates. For a large portion of people they cause absolutely no problems whatsoever and go unnoticed. For those with IBS or similar dietary condition FODMAPS can cause a great deal of grief. Symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea or constipation often with pain and discomfort.
The Low FODMAP diet is designed to work in 3 steps. The first step is the process of elimination, which means removing or rather swapping high FODMAP foods for better choices. This takes a bit of practice as they can be hidden in many foods, go by many names, and can depend on things like serving size and manufacturing process for example. Therefore, step 1 is largely learning and swapping. This is also the time for the gut to heal. When you have mastered this stage and are feeling better it’s time to move on.
Step 2 is the process of reintroduction. This process allows you to work out what are your specific triggers. starting with small servings of a food and gradually over a couple of days increasing the serving size (if all goes well) to, hopefully add back into your diet (and other foods containing that FODMAP). If the process is unsuccessful, not to worry, you can try again another time.
Step 3 is making your diet yours. On going monitoring, reintroduction and tweaking to personalise to work with your life.
So what can’t I eat with the Low FODMAP Diet?
FODMAPS are a problem when undigested portions make their way to the gut where they can become rapidly fermented by gut bacteria, this process causes gas. The process also draws in water which can increase the discomfort with bloating and follow on symptoms of IBS.
Before you start cutting out foods (and remember this diet needs to be recommended by a health care professional), it is important to remember that no food groups are cut from this diet. All nutrients you require to be healthy are present, it is just a case of swapping one food or ingredient for a gentler choice.
There are a vast array of foods/ingredients containing potentially problematic FODMAP’s. This diet is one that should be followed under guidance as it requires a bit of knowledge and a fair balancing act.
Some common trigger foods are things like garlic and onion in various forms, including powder, salt and extracts. Wheat is another big ingredient (contains fructans), certain fruits, fruit juices and dried fruits (due to fructose), and polyols are ingredients like sorbitol, xylitol and isomalt.
Now, this is barely scratching the surface. I wish it was this easy, sadly the list is extensive and one thing FODMAPPERS become very good at is label reading. And even then, you can still find out the hard way that some foods are indeed not what they seem. The best source of help is the Monash University Low FODMAP app, and the website. Monash university is the head honcho for FODMAP research and should be the first stop for anyone interested in learning more about the diet (after your doctor or health professional recommendation).
The Low FODMAP Diet is becoming more common and with that it is gaining some recognition in the world of food manufacturing. This is great as it means Low FODMAP labelling is becoming a ‘thing’. Anything that helps this group of people find safe to eat foods is a good thing. Look out for the Monash University FODMAP label for example.
If you would like to recommend a brand, product or other helpful source for Low FODMAP dieters please feel free to comment below.