Here at The Latch — more specifically, here on the Wellness vertical — we’re all about gut health. We’ve delved deep into the gut with the help of a gut expert, and even provided you with some gut-boosting snacks. We’re so into it, we’ve even looked at what comes out the other end — poops, period-related and otherwise. But it’s not that easy for everyone; IBS is very much a thing.
We can’t talk everything gut without talking about some of the bad things that happen within it. Which is why, today, we’re diving into irritable bowel syndrome (metaphorically) — which is the “most prevalent” of gastrointestinal conditions, according to one study. More specifically, it’s time to look at the FODMAP diet.
What are FODMAPs?
Regardless of what the name suggests, the FODMAP diet has nothing to do with literal maps. No, the acronym stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” In easier to understand terms? Types of carbohydrates found in certain foods, like wheat and beans.
What’s the issue with FODMAPs?
According to Heathline, these short-chain carbs are resistant to digestion. Instead of doing what they’re supposed to — get absorbed into your bloodstream — they reach the far end of the intestine, where most gut bacteria resides.
The result? The gut bacteria use the carbs for fuel, producing gas, bloating, stomach cramps, pain, constipation. FODMAPs also draw liquid into the intestine — possibly causing diarrhoea.
What foods contain FODMAPs?
It’s a pretty exhaustive list, so here’s a summary: fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, nuts, legumes, lentils, dairy foods, and manufactured foods.
If you’re looking for a specific list, Monash University has an app with the “largest FODMAP food database available”.
So what is the FODMAP diet?
Those with the aforementioned IBS — that has been medically diagnosed — should follow a FODMAP diet. You should not follow this diet if you have not been medically diagnosed.
A FODMAP diet is a three-step process, which should be implemented under the guidance of a dietitian. The first step is the complete elimination of high-FODMAP foods. According to studies, this step should only occur for two to six weeks. FODMAP alternatives can be consumed during this time.
If symptoms improve, it’s onto the second step of the FODMAP diet. The second step involves reintroducing FODMAPs, one at a time, to see which ones your body can tolerate and which ones trigger IBS symptoms. Monash FODMAP recommends doing each of these introductions for three days as a “challenge”. This process may take a few weeks — there are a lot of FODMAP foods out there.
The third step? Relaxing these restrictions — to an extent. John Hopkins Medicine says “Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.”
It’s good to eventually repeat challenges of poorly tolerated foods, to see whether your tolerance changes over time.
In 2020, the Annual Review of Medicine reported that 52-86% of patients reported significant improvement of their IBS symptoms, with the elimination of dietary FODMAPs.