The FODMAP Diet Explained
Last Updated: 14th December 2022 · Written by Donna Mastriani
Do you suffer from digestive issues after eating certain foods but you’re unsure of the cause? You may benefit from learning more about FODMAPs. Within this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about what ‘FODMAP’ is, and how to target this issue through changes to your diet.
What is FODMAP?
FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates known as short-chain carbohydrates. For certain individuals, the consumption of these carbohydrates can lead to a variety of painful symptoms, including bloating, distended abdomen, flatulence, cramps, diarrhoea and constipation. FODMAPs are known to exacerbate a number of common digestive disorders.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and polyols. In certain individuals, the short-chain carbohydrates, or FODMAP foods, are poorly digested in the small intestine. The undigested food particles travel to the large intestine, where the gut bacteria begin the process of fermentation. In this process, water is drawn into the large intestine and carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane are produced. It is the production of these gases, which results in uncomfortable symptoms.
Meaning of FODMAP
FODMAP is an acronym which includes four main groups of carbohydrates, or saccharides(sugars). The acronym FODMAP is explained below:
- Fermentable – can be fermented by bacteria in the large intestine.
- Oligosaccharides – ‘oligo’ means few, sugar molecules in a chain.
- Disaccharides – ‘di’ means two, a double sugar molecule.
- Monosaccharides – ‘mono’ means one, a single sugar molecule.
- Polyols – sugar alcohols.
High FODMAP foods
The number of fructans, galactans, lactose, fructose, sorbitol or mannitol in a food item will vary from one to the next. For example, apples would be classed as a high FODMAP fruit, whereas strawberries would be classed as a low FODMAP food.These certain foods that are higher in FODMAPs should be taken into account when engaging in a low FODMAP diet. You should also consider how your body may be able to tolerate high FODMAP foods in small quantities, but a large portion will produce a high FODMAP load.
These high FODMAP foods include:
- Vegetables: garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, artichoke, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, mushrooms.
- Fruits: apple, pear, mango, peach, cherry, dried fruit, plum, blackberries, watermelon.
- Dairy: products containing lactose such as cow’s milk, ice cream, yoghurt.
- Grains and cereals: wheat/barley/rye based breads, wheat pasta, muesli.
- Legumes and pulses: Red kidney beans, baked beans, almonds, black beans.
- Sugars and sweeteners: high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt extract.
- Nuts and seeds: cashew nuts, pistachios.
Low FODMAP foods
If you are suffering from symptoms when consuming high FODMAP foods, it is recommended that you undertake a low FODMAP diet for a period of time to see if this eases your symptoms. You will be able to determine if your body struggles to digest highFODMAP foods once they are removed from your diet. A list of low FODMAP food includes:
- Vegetables: aubergine, bok choy, bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber.
- Fruits: orange, kiwi, mandarin, pineapple.
- Dairy: lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, feta cheese. Grains and cereals:quinoa, brown rice, wheat/rye/barley free breads.
- Legumes and pulses: protein substitutes such as tofu, tempeh, eggs.
- Sugars and sweeteners: table sugar, maple syrup, dark chocolate.
- Nuts and seeds: other nuts and seeds are suitable to eat.
Low FODMAP diet
If you experience uncomfortable symptoms when eating high FODMAP foods, it is recommended that you engage in a low FODMAP diet. This diet has been shown to improve people’s symptoms of IBS. A low FODMAP diet involves restriction, reintroduction and personalisation.
Firstly, you will follow a low FODMAP diet, removing highly rated items from your diet. You may want to discuss with your doctor or dietician how this can be achieved to ensure you are still maintaining a healthy diet. Your restricted diet should not prevent you from getting the right nutrients, so you should consider substitutes once you remove an item. This elimination diet will take place for 6-8 weeks to see if your symptoms subside.
If you choose to engage in a low FODMAP diet, this does not mean that you will never be able to eat high FODMAP foods again. It is thought that once your body has got used to digesting just low FODMAP foods, you can begin to slowly reintroduce each of the highFODMAP items while monitoring your symptoms. Through doing this, you will be able to determine which food items you can tolerate or not.
Some people will experience symptoms after consuming certain FODMAP foods but not others. It is trial and error to discover which items your body can tolerate or not. From this, you can create a diet that is tailored to your needs where you are still getting the correct amount of nutrients and are no longer suffering from digestive issues.
FODMAP and Food Intolerance
Individuals who are sensitive or intolerant to FODMAP foods are not necessarily intolerant to all of them. It is a case of understanding those that cause discomfort and symptoms through a process of elimination.
This process can be accelerated with the use of an intolerance test, which will analyse your blood sample against 159 key allergens. Complete your intolerance test at home and sendoff your sample to our dedicated laboratory where it will be analysed and your results sent back to you. From this test, you will have an indication of which foods to remove in your elimination diet. If you order a complete test, you are also entitled to a free 30 minute consultation with one of our nutritional therapists. Together, you can plan any lifestyle changes based on your results.
It is important to note that being intolerant or sensitive to certain FODMAP foods may or may not coexist alongside IgG4 intolerance, and this is a highly individual matter. If you do decide to consult our Lifelab Testing nutrition team on your results, FODMAP foods may be an area we discuss with you. FODMAP foods can exacerbate the symptoms of a food intolerance, so it is important to consider them in your elimination journey. If you’d like to order an allergy or intolerance test but are unsure which to choose, get in touch with our helpful customer service team or try our simple test chooser tool.