If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, you probably heard about FODMAP. It is actually an acronym that stands for the following:
- Fermentable Oligosaccharides
Although they are not easy to understand, FODMAPs are simply a group of carbohydrates and are commonly found in the foods we eat. Unfortunately, many people cannot digest them, causing bacteria to ferment the food that stays in the gut. This can cause different digestive problems.
A lot of people cannot break down some foods in the FODMAP, but there are individuals who are highly sensitive:
- Those with irritable bowel syndrome who experience symptoms like lower abdominal pain, excessive gas, diarrhea or constipation, and bloating.
- Those with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, a condition where bacterial overgrowth found in the large intestines travels to the small intestine. The symptoms are similar to that of IBS, which is why a doctor needs to examine you first to know which condition you have.
Although there is no test to determine if you have FODMAP malabsorption, there are specific FODMAPs that can be checked namely:
- Fructose, a type of monosaccharide
- Lactose, a type of disaccharide
- Sorbitol, a kind of polyol
To test for the above-mentioned FODMAPs, you will have to drink a measured amount of each carbohydrate. Then, you will need to blow into a tube that’s attached to a bag. You will produce gasses and will be exhaled into the bag if your body can’t absorb the specific carb.
A Low FODMAP Diet
There are foods that you need to avoid as they are high in FODMAP. If it has been proven that you are indeed unable to process the carbohydrates, you can refine your approach by using low FODMAP diet. For instance, if the test says that you can absorb lactose, but not the other carbs, you can proceed with a low FODMAP diet without restricting foods that contain lactose, including cheese and milk. If you can’t absorb lactose, go for alternatives that don’t involve milk and dairy.
There are two phases in a low FODMAP diet:
- For two to six weeks (some dieticians say you should complete full eight weeks), high FODMAP foods are strictly eliminated. This will help determine if the symptoms stop after removing the potential triggers.
- Specific FODMAPs are reintroduced systematically and carefully back into a person’s diet. It is important that the reintroduction is done one by one and in increasing amounts gradually. This will help find the foods that can and cannot be tolerated by the body.
High FODMAP foods that should be avoided or at least reduced are breads and cereals, dairy products, protein sources, vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, and onions, fruits like apple, avocado, and cherry, nuts and seeds, and sweeteners.