What’s a FODMAP?

*The information below is paraphrased and/or informed by the website of Dr Sue Shepherd – http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/low-fodmap-diet* who was part of the research team which developed the low FODMAP diet.

The low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University and has since been proven through scientific research as a proven treatment for the symptoms of IBS.

The diet works by eliminating or reducing (depending on the person and the stage of the diagnosis/treatment plan the individual is at) all or certain kinds of FODMAPS, which are found in the foods that we eat.

So what are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym, which stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – fancy names for a collection of molecules that are found in food, which are poorly absorbed by some people, leading to a variety of digestive issues as the poorly absorbed food travels from the small intestine to the large intensive where they act as food for the bacteria that live there. The way that these bacteria digest and ferments the FODMAPs is what can cause the symptoms of IBS – abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind, abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods, with extensive ongoing research by experts in the field allowing the list of safe and non-safe food to be updated on a regular basis, and when consulting with your dietician you should be supplied with the most recent information (personal note: this is a great reason for purchasing the MONASH FODMAP smartphone app, as it is constantly updated with the latest findings, with a handy traffic light system for indicating what is safe, what is to be avoided, and what is to be considered depending on circumstances, serving sizes and so on).

On her website, Dr Shepherd says the following on where FODMAPS can be found:

“A few examples of food sources for each of the FODMAPs are listed below. The list is not complete:

  • Excess Fructose: Honey, Apples, Mango, Pear, Watermelon, High Fructose Corn Syrup,
  • Fructans: Artichokes (Globe), Artichokes(Jerusalem), Garlic (in large amounts), Leek, Onion (brown, white, Spanish, onion powder), Spring Onion (white part), Shallots, Wheat (in large amounts), Rye (in large amounts), Barley (in large amounts), Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides.
  • Lactose: Milk, icecream, custard, dairy desserts, condensed and evaporated milk, milk powder, yoghurt, soft unripened cheeses (eg. ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone).
  • Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS): Legume beans (eg. baked beans, kidney beans, bortolotti beans), Lentils, Chickpeas
  • Polyols: Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Cherries, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Mushrooms, sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), xylitol (967), maltitol (965) and isomalt (953).”

So how does the FODMAP diet work?

There are essentially two phases. The first (when I decided to start this blog) is a strict restriction of all high FODMAP foods, commonly referred to as the elimination phase, which can go for anywhere from 4 (in my case) to 8 weeks.

At that point, patients should see their dietician for a review appointment and to start the second phase – known as re-introduction or the challenging phase. This is an exciting phase, as we get to learn about how to tailor the diet to our exact individual needs by learning which particular FODMAPs cause us trouble, which we can tolerate in moderation, and tolerate in general. This allows us to, by the end of the process, create a diet for ourselves that is not as restrictive as the elimination phase, yet sees us know how to avoid what has been causing our symptoms previously.

When undergoing any major diet or lifestyle change, it is recommended to do so under the care of a qualified physician.

In the USEFUL LINKS page of this blog, you will find links to help you locate a dietician (and remember your GP can give you a referral), as well as other links to learn more about the low FODMAP diet, irritable bowel syndrome, and other resources related to the subject.

*The information above is paraphrased and/or informed by the website of Dr Sue Shepherd – http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/low-fodmap-diet