A low-FODMAP diet is sometimes recommended for people suffering Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or dealing with gut issues such as bloating, gas or abdominal pain. We asked naturopath and medical herbalist Jane McClurg from Blend Wellness what you need to know about FODMAPs, when it’s right to eliminate them from your diet and how to go about it safely.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols - basically it covers several groups of foods that the small intestine can have difficulty digesting which means that eating them can cause gut issues for some people. Below we have a full food table covering off FODMAP-friendly foods but here is a general list of foods to avoid if you decide to try a low-FODMAP diet.
Oligosaccharides: wheat, rye, nuts, legumes, artichokes, garlic, and onion
Disaccharides: lactose-containing products such as milk, yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream, buttermilk, condensed milk, and whipped cream
Monosaccharides: fructose-containing foods, including fruits such as apples, pears, watermelon, and mango and sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, and high fructose corn syrup
Polyols: mannitol and sorbitol in apples, pears, cauliflower, stone fruits, mushrooms, and snow peas, as well as xylitol and isomalt in low calorie sweeteners, such as those in sugar-free gum and mints.
What are the signs your gut might not tolerate high-FODMAP foods?
Bloating, gas, abdominal pain and food intolerances are the main signs you’re not tolerating FODMAPs because these foods may be fermenting in your small intestine or large intestine. Altered bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation or switching between both or having that feeling of not a complete evacuation can be signs of IBS or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.)
As FODMAPs move through the gut they attract water and when they reach the large intestine, the bacteria there ferments the FODMAPs, producing gas, distension and pain.
Research has shown more than 70 per cent of people with IBS have SIBO, so these FODMAP foods are being fermented in the small intestine by bacteria that shouldn’t be there.
If you experience bloating with 60 to 90 minutes of eating and you feel bloated above the belly button, then it’s possible you have SIBO. I highly recommend getting tested for SIBO and clear this up first as it can resolve so many digestive issues for people, and they are even able to eat most FODMAP foods again.
If you test negative for SIBO, then the large intestine and its microbiome needs some TLC. Often it can be both areas that need some gut healing.
There are many conditions with symptoms that are similar to IBS, such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis and bowel cancer. You should not self-diagnose yourself with IBS. It’s always best to talk to your doctor and naturopath and have a great team to support you.