Food is a common trigger of gastrointestinal disorder symptoms and by carefully and methodically restricting certain foods, issues such as abdominal pain and bloating can be dramatically reduced and quality of life improved.
A diet low in fermentable carbs known as FODMAPS is sometimes recommended for the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - a common condition that affects the digestive system. In this article, we explain more about what a low-FODMAP diet is, how it works, and who should try it.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These long-lettered lovelies are ironically short-chain carbohydrates found in many foods that tend to ferment and increase the amount of liquid and gas in the small and large intestine - making them notorious for the development of flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain associated with IBS.
FODMAPs are found in a wide range of common foods, some of which we have listed below:
· Disaccharides: Milk, yoghurt and soft cheese. Lactose is the main carb.
· Monosaccharides: Various fruit including figs and mangoes, and sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. Fructose is the main carb.
· Polyols: Certain fruits and vegetables including blackberries and lychee, as well as some low-calorie sweeteners like those in sugar-free gum.
What is the Low-FODMAP Diet?
Knowing that FODMAPs can trigger symptoms associated with IBS, the low-FODMAP diet seeks to eliminate these foods in order to help prevent and/or ease unpleasant flare-ups. Committing fully to this dietary regime can be quite a challenge as many high-FODMAP foods are commonplace across the western diet, however, the results can be life-changing.
A low-FODMAP food plan is designed in three phases as part of an elimination diet. Stage one involves removing high FODMAP foods from your diet that you suspect your body can’t tolerate well for around 3-6 weeks. Stage two then sees these foods being reintroduced one FODMAP type at a time while keeping track of any symptoms that show a reaction.
A third stage, known as ‘personalisation’ or ‘modified low-FODMAP diet’ entails restricting some FODMAPs based on your personal tolerance, with the aim of expanding your diet to a healthy degree of variety and flexibility.
Who Should Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet?
A low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone and recommended for adults with IBS. If you are not diagnosed with IBS following the diet may do more harm than good and it’s always best to consult with a medical professional.
How do I Prepare?!
It’s true that this diet can be difficult to follow if you are not prepared.
Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
· Get rid of high-FODMAP foods: Clear your fridge and pantry of these potentially aggravating foods so they don’t accidentally make it onto your plate.
· Load up your cupboards: Head to the shops to make sure you have plenty of low-FODMAP foods close to hand at home. Our shopping list below will give you some pointers.
· Read menus in advance: Before dining out familiarise yourself with low-FODMAP menu options to give you peace of mind ahead of leaving the house.
Low-FODMAP Shopping List
We have compiled a list of low-FODMAP food and drink below to give you that added support on your first shopping trip:
· Fruit: Bananas (firm, unripe), blueberries, grapes, kiwi, limes, mandarins, oranges, papaya, pineapple, rhubarb and strawberries.
· Vegetables: Aubergine, bean sprouts, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, cucumber, kale, potatoes (white), squash, sweet potato, and spinach.
· Nuts: Almonds (no more than 10 per sitting), brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts.
· Dairy: Cheddar cheese, lactose-free milk, and parmesan cheese.
· Oils: Avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil.
· Beverages: Black tea, coffee, green tea, peppermint tea, water, and white tea.
The low-FODMAP diet can dramatically improve digestive symptoms, including those in people with IBS. We hope this article has provided some help and support to those embarking on a new food regime – you can do it!