I am going to answer some basic questions you may have about the low-FODMAP diet:
What does it stand for? Let me first define the term FODMAP for you. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo- di- mono- sacchrides and polyols. It is not something that you need to memorize in order to follow the diet! FODMAPs are foods that do not look or taste similar, but they share a similarity at a molecular level. Foods that contain FODMAPs are made of short-chain carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed and as a result can create a slew of gastroenterological symptoms. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, distention and pain are some of the major effects that people who are sensitive to FODMAPs may experience after eating them. The diet has been studied in clinical trials of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and has been show to help up 75% of IBS sufferers.
Where does it come from? The low-FODMAP diet was developed by a group of doctors and dietitians at Monash University in Australia. Monash University has done an amazing job in sharing FODMAP information with the world through their blog, app, and social media. Monash continues to do the majority of testing of FODMAP content of foods. They are a trusted source when you are looking up FODMAP content of certain foods. Because the diet is so effective, it has spread well beyond Australia and is used all over the world to help IBS sufferers. It has become a key component of my private practice and I have seen how well it works with hundreds of patients.
Why do I see some people say FODMAP diet and others say low-FODMAP diet? Technically, when a person is following this diet to alleviate digestive symptoms they should be following a low-FODMAP diet (i.e. a diet that removes or limits FODMAPs). I think that because it is a difficult acronym to pronounce, that people abbreviate and just say FODMAP diet. I believe when someone says they are following the FODMAP diet they mean the low-FODMAP diet.
What types of foods have FODMAPs? By definition the foods that are high in FODMAPs are: lactose, fructose, galactooligosaccharides, fructans, polyols. That probably doesn’t help you much because not many people know what foods have fructans in them without looking at a list! Here are some examples of the categories and what foods are in them:
Lactose: milk, soft cheeses, ice cream, yogurt
Fructose: apples, pears, mango, honey, agave, high-fructose corn syrup
Fructans: wheat, barley, rye, garlic, onions
Galactooligosaccharides (GOS): beans
Polyols: cauliflower, mushroom, artificial sweeteners ending in -ol
What is the process of the low-FODMAP Diet? The diet works in three phases: In the first phase you go on an elimination diet removing all five categories of foods listed above. In the second phase you test your tolerance to these foods under the guidance of a dietitian. In the third phase you have you craft the diet that works for you based on your response to the testing of the individual categories. There are many books available written by dietitians (myself included) that will guide you through the elimination diet. I recommend working with a dietitian to get an extra level of support and personalization.
This post was originally published on GastroGirl as part of a series sponsored by ProNourish. The original post can be found here.