What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs is an acronym for fermentable oligo- di- mono-saccharides and polyols. They are complex fibres (insoluble fibres) that can be found in fruits and vegetables and are difficult to be digested and broken down in the human gut. Unlike soluble fibre, they are unable to be absorbed into your blood, hence, they remain in your intestine where gut bacterias are able to utilize it as food and start fermentations. Because of this process, it creates gas such as methane which causes bloating and flatulence, depending on the amount and type of fibres consumed.
FODMAPs sound kind of troublesome, should i avoid eating them?
Unless you have gastrointestinal sensitivity such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), consuming FODMAPs are encouraged as they contain essential fibres for your gut health and gut microbiome. FODMAPs in general, are complex fibres that can absorb water and expand in the intestine which helps in bowel movement and can be fermented by gut bacteria as food for them (prebiotics). For a healthy individual, it is a very important source of fibres as it can greatly improve gut health and gut microbiome.
However, individuals with gastrointestinal problems such as IBS may not be suitable in consuming too much FODMAPs. People with IBS have sensitive intestines, when there is expansion or stretch of intestinal wall, the sensation will be intensified which causes discomfort and pain. Individuals with SIBO may not benefit as much from FODMAPs as it may cause the bacterial growth to worsen as well.
Who is suitable for Low FODMAPs diet
Generally, Low FODMAPs diets are intended for IBS patients. However, it can somewhat benefit individuals who have SIBO, coeliac disease, as well as other inflammatory bowel diseases. Do not self-diagnose with IBS or other diseases, consult your doctor to assess your symptoms for a medical diagnosis before you start Low FODMAPs diet.
FODMAPs can be found in various forms such as sugars such as lactose (in milk), complex fibres from grains, legumes, and sugar alcohol such as xylitol that are used in mints candy.
Here are some common food that are high in FODMAPs
Bread, pastas, breakfast cereals, are processed carbohydrates and are high in FODMAPs. Hence, it is encouraged to consume whole grains instead such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats.
Fruits & Vegetables
There are no general traits to identify for fruits and vegetables with high FODMAPs, but the common ones would be apples, nectarines, mangoes, watermelon, and for vegetables, are asparagus, leeks, garlic, and onion. The most commonly avoided ones would be garlic and onion as the content of FODMAPs are high. Other types of fruits and vegetables may be tested through the elimination process which will be explained below. Find out more about which food contains high and low FODMAPs here.
Legumes & Beans
All legumes, pulses, and beans contain high amounts of FODMAPs. Hence, controlling the portion is key rather than avoiding it. Beans such as baked beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and soybean contain high amounts of FODMAPs and are advised to limit consumption to ½ to 1 cup a day depending on your body’s reaction. Nuts such as almonds, macadamia, peanuts, pecan, and walnut, may consume no more than 10 per sitting.
Ironically, sugars that are in their natural state such as nectar agave, honey are high in FODMAPs. Sugar alcohol such as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol that creates a sweet and minty or cooling sensation are often found to cause reaction which causes diarrhea and bowel discomfort in IBS patients as well. Hence it is recommended to actively avoid them.
Dairy products generally contain high amounts of lactose, which is a type of sugar considered as a FODMAPs group. However, not all dairy products contain high lactose amounts. The general rule for dairy cheese is that hard cheese would contain the least amount of lactose, hence it is suitable even for lactose intolerants; hard cheese such as cheddar, parmesan, and feta. Other dairy products such as yoghurt or cultured beverages contain lactose due to the probiotic used. They require lactose to survive in yogurt and cultured beverages. However, with technological advancement, there are dairy products that contain less lactose or lactose free, such as YourGutt Pre + Probiotics which contains B. longum Rosell 175 with oat milk and rice bran powder, offering a dairy free, lactose free, and vegetarian friendly complete biotics for you.
*Keep in mind that these lists are neither definitive nor exhaustive. Naturally, there are foods not listed here that are either high or low in FODMAPs.
How do I practise low-FODMAP diets?
- Restriction of High FODMAPs food
This is strict avoidance of any high FODMAPs food for about 1 month as long term restriction is bad for gut health and gut microbiome. Generally IBS symptoms will be improved after a month of restriction. This would prompt the second stage which is Reintroduction of FODMAPs
- Reintroduction of High FODMAPs food
The purpose of this method is to identify which FODMAPs foods are intolerable and the amount of FODMAPs food are tolerable, as not all FODMAPs foods are intolerant and not everyone has the same intolerances.
Start by reintroducing a small amount eg: around ½ cup a day. Observe the reaction in your body and increase the amount gradually until you experience symptoms. This is to establish the amount of FODMAPs foods. After finding out the types and amount of FODMAPs food, it is time to advance into the 3rd stage, personalized meal.
- Personalized FODMAPs meal
In this stage, restricting certain FODMAPs foods that you know are intolerable and control the amount consumed to your own level in each meal whether at home or eating out. It is important to personalize your own FODMAPs meal as this would greatly improve your quality of life as well as giving variety to your meals. No one wants to eat the same meal for the rest of their lives.
Tips while practising Low FODMAPs diet
- It is nearly impossible to eliminate FODMAPs out of every food as it is everywhere. Hence, simply minimizing the amount would be more practical.
- Increasing protein intake as well as healthy fats such as omega-3 could help in maintaining satiation while in Low FODMAPs diet. (before reaching stage 3 of Low FODMAPs diet)
- Especially for IBS individuals, eating probiotics could help in reducing the symptom as probiotics could help reduce the inflammation in the intestine as well as help in digesting the FODMAPs that are consumed.
- FODMAPs are crucial in determining gut health, hence do not practise No-FODMAPs diet as this would disrupt gut microbiome as well as causing constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.