New Year, New Health Buzz: Why You Will Be Hearing About “FODMAPS”

The gut has been spotlighted in recent years for its contribution to overall wellness. The gastrointestinal (“GI”) tract (and the good bacteria that lives within it) are being studied more closely than ever as we seek out alternatives to decrease abdominal discomfort like bloating, gas and pain. You may have already be familiar with gut-oriented wellness trends including probiotics, gluten, sugar and lactose-free diets and other nutrition lifestyles. In 2015, you may hear a new term — FODMAP — popping up in the conversation. Experts suggest that the relief of bloat and pain associated with a gluten-free diet may actually be attributed to a FODMAP-free diet.

So, who might have a FODMAP intolerance, and what are the first steps towards a FODMAP Free Diet? Reserveage Nutrition’s Chief of Innovation and nutritionist Rob Maru shares the basics.

WHAT ARE FODMAPS?

The acronym FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.” Some studies assert that these short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. These sugars exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel. The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are suggested to be a cause of major Irritable Bowel Syndrome (“IBS”) symptoms such as gas and pain.

Many common foods are high in FODMAPs, which may be the link to your IBS symptoms, even if they are considered healthy by most standards. Lactose from dairy products, fructose from certain fruit, coconut products, and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables, and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols are all rich in FODMAPs and can be difficult to digest for people with functional gut disorders. Nutritionists suggest that these foods can cause painful symptoms in those with IBS and Crohn’s disease–and possibly be the underlying factor in people without these conditions who still find discomfort from eating certain foods.

WHAT ARE HIGH-FODMAP FOODS

Maru says that FODMAPS are found in so many common everyday foods that completely eliminating them may not be realistic for most people. However, if you are looking to remove FODMAP foods from your diet, start with garlic and onions, followed by gluten-rich foods (including wheat, barley, malt, couscous, rye, semolina, bran), many sugars (including agave, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, xylitol), many dairy foods (cow’s milk, buttermilk, cream cheese, cream, custard, ice cream, margarine, goat and sheep’s milk, sour cream, yogurt and greek yogurt), many drinks (beer, fruit juice, rum, sodas, soy milk, sport’s drinks), many fruits (including apples, apricots, avocado, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit, mango, peaches, pears, plums) and vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, scallions, shallots, and more). For a complete list, see a consult a nutritionist.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SEE IF YOU ARE FODMAP-SENSITIVE

  • Start a food diary: Maru suggests starting a food diary and taking note of the types of foods that you are eating and how you feel post meals. He says that you should start to see patterns emerge that will help you zero in on the most problematic foods. Once you have established the list of culprit foods, you can then consciously avoid or limit your consumption to reduce undesirable GI discomfort, bloating and other IBS related symptoms.
  • Take a daily probiotic: It is also wise to address the underlying cause, which often times is overgrowth of bad bacteria in the intestines. Maru says that taking a quality high potency multi-strain probiotic on a daily basis can help reestablish the healthy balance of the good and bad bacteria present in the gut.
  • Avoid processed foods and read labels: Avoid foods made with high FODMAP fruits/vegetables, High Fructose Corn Syrup (“HFCS”), honey, inulin, wheat, soy, etc. However, a food could be low in FODMAPs if a high FODMAP food is listed at the end of the ingredient list.
  • Consult a physician: As with any diet, we recommend consulting with your physician or health care practitioner before you begin and throughout the process.
  • Stick to Your Plan: As with any dietary lifestyle, to see results you should try to stick to a six-week plan or the plan recommended by your health care practitioner. After the trial is over, begin to add high FODMAP foods back into your diet (one at a time and in small amounts) to identify foods that could be “triggers” to your symptoms. If you experience discomfort after eating certain foods when they are reintroduced, you can then limit or eliminate them going forward.