Even if you’ve never heard the term “FODMAP,” you’ve likely eaten one fairly recently.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that – when poorly digested – sit in your large intestine and cause pain, bloating and other problems.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
F – Fermentable, meaning these materials are fermented in the bowels.
O – Oligosacchardies, which are sugar molecules
(“oligo” means “few,” and “saccharide” means “sugar.”)
D – Disaccharides, a double sugar molecule.
M – Monosaccharides, a single sugar molecule.
AP – And Polyols, which are sugar alcohols.
You’ll find FODMAPS everywhere, from the fructose in fruits and vegetables to the lactose in dairy products to the polyols in artificial sweeteners.
There’s also a good chance these foods can lead to digestive disorders, which is why a low FODMAP diet can work wonders for people with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms.
What’s included in a low FODMAP diet?
A good low FODMAP diet can include things such as:
- Gluten-free breads
- Breads and cereals made from oats
- Smoothies made from low FODMAP fruits and vegetables and lactose-free milk
- Roasted, grilled or steamed low FODMAP vegetables
- Lactose-free yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Carrot sticks with cottage cheese as a snack
Strategies for incorporating a low-FODMAP diet
1. Don’t go it alone
You can’t just diagnose yourself with IBS. Talk to your doctor first, and if they confirm you have irritable bowel syndrome, talk to a dietician who has experience in designing a low FODMAP diet.
2. Don’t expect too much
“It’s important to have realistic expectations about what FODMAPs can do for you,” says Patsy Catsos, a dietician and co-author of IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family.
Writing on the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website, Catsos argues it’s important to first learn how your body reacts to FODMAPS so that you can better manage your IBS.
And because FODMAPS aren’t the cause of IBS, cutting them out of your diet won’t cure your ailments. In the end, it may just be a matter of recognizing there are some foods you can’t overdo.
3. Don’t change everything at once
Let’s say you changed your medications and supplements at the same time you embarked on your low FODMAP diet. How would you know what worked?
Catsos recommends working with health care providers to structure the changes to your diet, possibly delaying new medications and supplements until after the first few weeks on the diet. If you’re taking antibiotics for small intestinal bacterial growth, this is best done just before starting a low FODMAP diet.
4. Don’t put too many restrictions on your diet
Unless you have a good reason not to, keep eating a variety of low FODMAP foods. You can keep eating low-lactose milk products – aged cheeses, low-lactose yogurts (unless of course you’re a vegan or allergic to milk).
5. Don’t forget your fiber
Fiber is often one of the first casualties of a low FODMAP diet. And that is a problem, because fiber puts what’s known as “good bacteria” into our digestive systems. That’s why it’s important to get more fiber from low-FODMAP fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and – in small servings – seeds and nuts.
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