Some days I feel so bloated, nauseous, pained and fed up that I want to drop the “F” word. But that day isn’t today (and profanities don’t play a huge role in my vocab!). Nope. Today is different. Today’s “F” word is FODMAP. “Whaaaaat!?” I hear you cry. Let me explain…
FODMAP stands for:
To break it down, these are different types or components of carbohydrate/sugars – and they can be REALLY difficult to digest.
Lets start with FERMENTABLE. One of the common symptoms of IBS is bloating and flatulence. If you think about when you ferment a food or beverage (kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, even beer) you know that when you open it for the first time you get a bit of a fizz or pop as gas is released. This is exactly what happens when food ferments in your stomach, even more so if your bowel flora is not in balance, which sadly for the majority of people it isn’t. Why? The high FODMAP foods are a great food source for the bacteria that reside in the small and large bowel, and a fast source too. When they are broken down rapidly, bi-products such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane gas are formed – hence the bloating and hence the flatulence. To make things worse, the effect of FODMAP fermentation is cumulative, so this isn’t a scenario where starting again tomorrow is a good idea.
On to OLIGOSACCHARIDES, DISACCHARIDES and MONOSACCHARIDES. I am grouping these together as their definition is very similar. The word SACCHARIDE means sugar. The prefix OLIGO, DI or MONO simply refers to the chemical structure of the sugar molecule. Therefore…
MONOSACCHARIDES contain one sugar molecule
DISACCHARIDES contain two sugar molecules, and
OLIGOSACCHARIDES contain many sugar molecules (but less than 10)
What we need to remember here is that they are all “short-chain” sugars that are poorly absorbed and difficult to digest. That said, the degree of difficulty can vary from person to person – which is one of the reasons why some people develop IBS symptoms, and others are completely fine.
AND – don’t you love it when the conjunction gets a feature in the acronym!
Finally the POLYOLS. These are sugar alcohols, and have a name ending in “-ol” – such as sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol and mannitol. While they do occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables, they are primarily found in processed foods and artificial sweeteners. These are the sneaky ingredients that warrant the “excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect” label found on some products such as chewing gum.
So how do I follow a FODMAP diet?
There is far more to be said about the FODMAP diet than what I have listed above, so over the next few days I will provide more details about each of the trouble makers. In the mean time, if you would like to know more there is a really useful iPhone app put out by Monash University, which helps you to make low FODMAP food choices. If you too are struggling with IBS or gastrointestinal disorders, or would like some guidance around following a low FODMAP diet then I would love to see you in my clinic! Please call or email me to schedule an appointment 🙂 It is important when moving on to a new diet regime to ensure that it is still nutritionally sound. Especially when I diet is quite complicated or restrictive, it is easy to just remove certain items without adding anything back in.
While I don’t like to specifically label myself and the way I eat (how do you succinctly say dairy free, predominantly vegetarian, that eats seafood and eggs, loves bone broth and will on occasion have slow cook, grass fed meat and raw milk. Confused is the only label I could come up with!), for the next 4 weeks I am exclusively a FODMAP-er. I have tried many different diets, but have really resisted this one. And while it isn’t a “cure” for IBS, it is shown to be effective at managing the symptoms, which I believe would allow the opportunity to go in and do some really thorough gut healing, without the heightened inflammation. So here we go! Stay tuned for further information and some delicious FODMAP friendly recipes along the way ♥