FODMAPs – your questions answered
You might have seen FODMAPs mentioned in the media or perhaps your healthcare professional has suggested that you might benefit from following a low-FODMAPs diet for a while. So, what are they? And why might you want to avoid them? Read on for the answers to all your questions.
What are FODMAPs?
The short answer: FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates (sugars) found in the diet that can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms in some people because they’re often poorly absorbed in the digestive tract.
The long answer: FODMAPs is an abbreviation used to refer to certain types of short-chain carbohydrates. It stands for:
Fermentable: These types of carbohydrates are fermented in the gut by the bacteria that reside there, which results in the production of gases.
Oligosaccharides: ‘Oligo’ means ‘few’ and ‘saccharides’ means sugars; accordingly, oligosaccharides are carbohydrate molecules that are comprised of a small number (3-10) of simple sugars (or monosaccharides), which are joined together in a chain formation.
Disaccharides: Disaccharides are another type of carbohydrate molecule. In this case the prefix ‘di-’ indicates that they’re comprised of two simple sugars joined together.
Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are the basic building blocks of carbohydrates. Often referred to as ‘simple sugars, their prefix ‘mono-’ signifies that there is a single unit of carbohydrate in each molecule.
Polyols: Polyols are also known as ‘sugar alcohols’. They are chemicals that occur naturally in some foods, and can also be added to commercially prepared foods as sweeteners.
How do FODMAPs cause digestive concerns?
FODMAPs are naturally found in a wide variety of foods (see below for some examples). However, when not digested properly, two issues can arise in susceptible people:
- FODMAPs attract water into the small intestine (in chemical terms, they are highly osmotic), which in turns affects how urgently you need to pass a bowel movement
- The FODMAPs are rapidly fermented by the intestinal bacteria in the large intestine or ‘gut’, leading to the production of gas
As a result, in susceptible people, FODMAPs may trigger symptoms like:
- Abdominal discomfort and pain
- Altered bowel habits – e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both
Which foods are high in FODMAPs?
Foods that are high in the various types of FODMAP carbohydrates are best avoided while following a low-FODMAPs diet.
Oligosaccharides, including fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOSs) are found in:
- Garlic and other members of the allium family of vegetables, such as onions, leeks and shallots
- Grains such as wheat, rye and barley
- Globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes
- Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) – ingredients that are sometimes used in prebiotic nutritional supplements
- Legumes and pulses, including lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and baked beans
- Lactose, found in dairy products like milk, soft cheese, ice cream, cream and yogurt
- Sucrose, found in cane sugar, for example
Monosaccharides, such as fructose and glucose are found in large quantities in:
- Fruit such as apples, watermelon, pear, mango, dates and cherries
- High-fructose corn syrups (an ingredient in some commercially produced food and drinks)
- The food additives sorbitol (food additive number 420), mannitol (421), xylitol (967), maltitol (965) and isomalt (953), which are used as sweeteners in some commercially prepared foods
- Some fruit and vegetables, including mushrooms, apples and some stone fruit (e.g. apricots, plums and prunes)
Which foods are low in FODMAPs?
Luckily, there are lots of foods that are naturally low in FODMAPs. These include:
- Vegetables like tomatoes, capsicum, bok choy, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, zucchini and eggplant
- Fruit of many varieties, including strawberries, rockmelon, pineapple, grapes and kiwifruit
- Dairy alternatives, including soy, almond and lactose-free milk.
- Proteins such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and tofu. (However, avoid marinated options, as their sauces may contain high-FODMAP ingredients)
- Grains such as oats and quinoa
In addition, look for FODMAP-Friendly symbols while shopping for food, drink, and natural health supplements. Products bearing this symbol are 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.
In the initial phase of the diet (usually 4-6 weeks), your healthcare professional will typically recommend the strict avoidance of all high-FODMAP foods, while also helping you to maintain a healthy and nutritiously balanced diet.
Significantly reducing your intake of FODMAPs in this way often results in changes in your digestive symptoms, but doesn’t necessarily identify which specific types of FODMAPs are responsible for causing them.
Therefore, in the second phase of the low-FODMAP diet (which may extend over several months), a variety of foods are gradually re-introduced into the diet, with the goal being to identify any that are best consumed only in limited quantities or avoided altogether long term.
In both phases of the diet, it’s important to be aware that the objective is to reduce FODMAP intake, not remove them from your diet entirely.
What else can I do to support my digestive health?
Consider taking Fusion Gut Healing Powder to support your digestive function and gastrointestinal health. Its ingredients include:
- L-glutamine, which helps maintain the structural integrity of the mucous membranes lining the gastrointestinal tract
- Marshmallow and slippery elm, which have traditionally been used to soothe irritated tissues and mild gastrointestinal inflammation in Western herbal medicine
- Mastic gum, which has been used to relieve symptoms of indigestion in traditional Greek medicine since the time of Hippocrates, almost 2500 years ago
Fusion Gut Healing Powder is FODMAP Friendly certified, free from common allergens, and contains no artificial flavours, colours, sweeteners or preservatives.