If you’re not a fan of food trends, you’re probably skeptical of today’s diet trends. There’s the DASH diet for hypertension, the Mediterranean diet for heart health, and the low FODMAP diet for IBS.
FODMAP isn’t the name of a celebrity doctor or a country you’ve never heard of. It’s actually an acronym for certain groups of foods that tend to trigger IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS can be managed with a combination of avoiding certain foods and taking prescription medications like Linzess and Rifaximin.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are sugars and short-chain carbohydrates.
Oligosaccharides – This group of carbohydrates includes foods like wheat, rye, barley, onions, garlic, lentils, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans and legumes.
Disaccharides – Lactose-containing foods like milk, yogurt and ice cream.
Monosaccharides – Foods high in fructose like mango, watermelon, apples, pears, honey, and high fructose corn syrup.
Plyols – Also known as sugar alcohols, this group includes food additives and sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol. Polyols are also found naturally in foods like apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, mushrooms, cauliflower, and sweet potato.
Who should try a low FODMAP diet for IBS?
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. These occur even though there aren’t visible changes to the GI like ulcers or inflammation. For many people, dealing with IBS involves avoiding the specific foods that trigger their symptoms.
A large number of foods fall under the FODMAPs umbrella, making it seem like a pretty unrealistic diet to adopt. The FODMAP diet isn’t meant to be a long-term meal plan, but rather a tool to discover which foods trigger someone’s IBS symptoms.
How are FODMAPs related to IBS?
- FODMAP foods are difficult for some people to digest, which leaves them to be fermented by microbes in the large intestine.
- Fermentation produces gases, which contribute to bloating and cramping.
- FODMAPs also tend to draw water into the intestines, which may trigger diarrhea or constipation.
Phases of a FODMAP Diet
1. Elimination Phase
- In the first phase, all high-FODMAP foods should be excluded or strictly limited from the diet. The goal of this phase is to resolve or greatly reduce IBS symptoms.
- The elimination phase takes from 2–6 weeks, and is completed when you’ve gone 5 days with no IBS symptoms.
- If you’re still having symptoms after 6 weeks, consult a doctor or dietitian. A zero-FODMAP diet shouldn’t be continued long-term, as this may harm your intestinal microbiota and overall health.
2. Reintroduction/Challenge Phase
- One by one, each FODMAP group is “challenged” and reintroduced to the diet.
- In order to discover exactly which FODMAPs trigger you, foods must be chosen that contain only one FODMAP group.
- Once a group has been reintroduced without causing any symptoms, you can then move on to challenging the next FODMAP group.
- Challenge each FODMAP group individually, and don’t reintroduce any FODMAPs until all challenges are completed.
3. Modified Low FODMAP Diet
- After all challenge phases are complete, you should be left with an idea of which specific FODMAP groups trigger your IBS symptoms.
- Now you can gradually introduce well-tolerated FODMAPs back into your diet and restrict others accordingly.
Before trying a low FODMAP diet...
- Before beginning a FODMAP diet, your doctor should rule out potential causes of digestive issues like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, or cancer. Testing for these conditions can be more difficult after you’ve already started a low FODMAP diet.
- It’s highly recommended that you undergo a low-FODMAP diet plan with the help of a registered dietitian who can guide you through the various phases and offer specific meal plans.
- A low-FODMAP diet can be challenging, especially in the elimination phase.
- Eliminating all FODMAPs is not meant to be a long-term diet strategy. Doing so can have negative health consequences.
- Your modified low-FODMAP diet could prevent you from getting the recommended amounts of some vitamins and nutrients (like calcium from lactose products or fibre from oligosaccharides). Look for different foods or consider supplements to make up for what you end up permanently removing from your diet.
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IBS is a tricky condition, and treatment usually focuses on relieving existing symptoms. Implementing a FODMAP strategy can help target the specific food groups that trigger symptoms, leading to a happier and healthier digestive life.
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DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.