FODMAPS: What Are They, Where Are They and Who Should Be Avoiding Them?
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermentable –broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
Oligosaccharides – “oligo”: few, “saccharide”: sugar; molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
Disaccharides – double sugar molecule
Monosaccharides – single sugar molecule
Polyols – sugar alcohols
So the term FODMAPs refers to the collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives.
Foods high in FODMAPs
The following is a list of foods and drinks that are considered relatively high in FODMAPs:
- Snow peas
- Sweet corn
- Brussels sprouts
Fruits, particularly "stone" fruits like:
- Dried fruits and fruit juice concentrate
- Beans and lentils
- Wheat and rye
Dairy products that contain lactose
- Soft cheese
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
Nuts, including cashews and pistachios
Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners
- High fructose corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Isomalt (commonly found in sugar-free gum and mints, and even cough syrups)
- Sports drinks
- Coconut water
When FODMAPs are bad
When consumed, FODMAPs have the potential to be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and then passed through the large intestine.
As bacteria in the large bowel ferment the FODMAPs, gas is produced. And since FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.
The combination of these two processes can trigger symptoms like abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, and constipation and/or diarrhea.
For these reasons a diet low in FODMAPs is scientifically proven to be the most effective dietary therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and for the symptoms of an irritable bowel.
Low FODMAPs Diet
A diet low in FODMAPs is not recommended for healthy individuals without IBS symptoms, since restricting the consumption of FODMAPs means restricting many healthy foods and may keep you from meeting all your nutritional dietary requirements.
To treat patients with IBS, health care professionals usually recommend what’s known as the FODMAPs Elimination Diet. This diet consists of limiting or avoiding foods and drinks that contain FODMAPs for 3-8 weeks.
After that short period foods can be slowly reintroduced into the diet, one at a time to see what particular food or drink causes symptoms.
Most people suffering from IBS or IBS related symptoms are able to find relief by simply adapting to a low-FODMAP diet. Instead of cutting out FODMAPs entirely, they just avoid foods that are extremely high in FODMAPs.
In fact, scientific studies have shown that around 70% of people with IBS achieve adequate relief of their symptoms on a low-FODMAP diet.
But again, only a small subset of affected individuals should follow this diet. FODMAPs are healthy for most people. They function like prebiotics, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
FACOEP, John P. Cunha DO. “What Is a Low FODMAP Diet? List of Foods to Eat & Foods to Avoid.” MedicineNet, www.medicinenet.com/low_fodmap_diet_list_of_foods_to_eat_and_avoid/article.htm.
Rossi, Megan. “10 Foods High in FODMAPs (and What to Eat Instead).” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Feb. 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-fodmaps#section14.
“What Are FODMAPs?” FODMAP Friendly, fodmapfriendly.com/what-are-fodmaps/.