The low FODMAP diet has been designed as a tool to help Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients gain good symptom management and identify trigger foods.
Research shows that the low FODMAP diet can help significantly reduce symptoms in 68 to 76% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients (1, 2). It works by reducing the amount of FODMAPs you eat to see if it helps significantly reduce your gastrointestinal symptoms, such as excessive wind (flatus), abdominal pain, bloating and distension, and changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea and/or constipation).
The diet is broken down into three phases:
- Low FODMAP diet phase,
- Re-challenge phase,
- Adapted FODMAP diet phase
WHAT DOES FODMAP STAND FOR?
FODMAP sounds complicated, but in simple terms it is an acronym that stands for a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols, that occur naturally in a wide range of foods and may be added to processed products.
Let’s break the FODMAP acronym down:
this is when certain types of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols are broken down (fermented) by our gut bacteria in our large intestine.
“oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain. There are two types you need to be aware of: fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.
“di” means “two” and this is a double sugar molecule. On the low FODMAP diet disaccharides represent lactose.
“mono” means single and this is a single sugar molecule representing fructose. Fructose is only high FODMAP when it is in excess of glucose.
these are sugar alcohols found in a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as in processed products (don’t worry they won’t make you intoxicated!).
FODMAPs occur in a wide range of fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products, sugars and
sweeteners. The below table will give you a brief overview of the types of foods that are high
FODMAP for each group, however you will need to consult your smartphone app for an
extensive and up-to-date list.
Source: FODMAP Friendly
HOW DO FODMAP’S TRIGGER SYMPTOMS?
When consumed in foods and/or drinks, FODMAPs can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass through to the large intestine, where two major events happen:
- The FODMAPs are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas.
- The FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, meaning that they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.
These two processes can then trigger or exacerbate symptoms including excess wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, or a combination of both.
Now that you understand the basics about FODMAPs, it’s time to learn about the three phases of the low FODMAP diet and ask for a referral to a FODMAP trained dietitian.
- Tuck C, Muir J, Barrett J, & Gibson P. Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols: role in irritable bowel syndrome. Expert Review: Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.2014: Volume 8: pages 819–834.
- Tuck, C., and Barrett, J.(2017) Re-challenging FODMAPs: the low FODMAP diet phase two. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 32: 11–15. doi: 1111/jgh.13687.