What Is The Low-FODMAP Diet?

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Do you frequently develop abdominal pain or discomfort after eating? Has it ever been to the point that it affects your daily life and responsibilities? Your nutrition and lifestyle habits play a role in your gastrointestinal health and symptoms.

The Low-FODMAP diet is becoming increasingly popular and has been proven to reduce symptoms in patients with IBS. Researchers at Monash University developed this diet and a corresponding app that provides the FODMAP content of most foods. Below are a few common questions on the low-FODMAP diet and answers from yours truly.

What does FODMAP stand for?

FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that are rapidly digested and poorly absorbed in the gut. They stand for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are naturally occurring in certain foods, but also can be added to foods as sweeteners. FODMAPs are known to contribute to excess fluid and gas in the bowels, especially in individuals with IBS.

What is IBS?

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. IBS can cause symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, bloating, distention, diarrhea and constipation. Although symptoms may be uncomfortable, IBS does not change bowel tissue like Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Some of these symptoms may be common, but avoid self-diagnosing; a medical physician should make the IBS diagnosis. Triggers can vary, but commonly include food, stress and hormones. The low-FODMAP diet produces the most significant results in IBS patients and can contribute to a significant reduction in symptoms, but is not a cure-all.

What foods are high in FODMAPS?

The fermentation process involves degrading undigested carbohydrates to produce gases. Oligosaccharides are divided into two groups: fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). FOS are found in wheat, rye, onions and garlic. GOS are found in legumes. Disaccharides include lactose, found in milk, soft cheese and yogurt. Monosaccharides include fructose found in honey, apples and high fructose corn syrup. Sugar polyols, such as sorbitol and mannitol, are most commonly used as artificial sweeteners.

What high-FODMAP foods seem to bother people the most?

In my experience working with IBS clients, I’ve seen a reoccurring theme of certain foods that are common triggers. These include cow’s milk, beans, garlic, artificial sweeteners and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. Conversely, most clients respond well to foods such as bananas, plain protein sources such as fish, chicken and plain gluten-free breads.

Should I start the FODMAP diet if I don’t have IBS?

Unless recommended by your medical physician or registered dietitian, the low-FODMAP diet is not something you should start as it does eliminate a variety of nutritious foods and food groups. If you are experiencing IBS symptoms and are advised to start a Low-FODMAP diet, talk to your registered dietitian who can help make a personalized Low-FODMAP plan and guide you through the process.

Visit the Monash University website at www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro for more information on the low-FODMAP diet.

Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit her website www.StefHealthTips.com for more information and to schedule an appointment.

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