Following a diet that is low in FODMAPs has been shown by research to help relieve symptoms of IBS. FODMAPs, stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. When these carbohydrates are poorly absorbed in the small intestine increased water can be drawn into the gut. This can result in diarrhoea in some people, whilst for others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria, producing gas. This gas can lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea.
To complicate it further, some low FODMAP foods can still contribute to IBS. Fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, too much fibre, too little fibre, medications and even stress, may also influence your symptoms.
What are FODMAPs?
Oligosaccharides include both fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). It is important to remember that these are absorbed poorly by everyone. Some people are just able to better tolerate them than others.
Fructans, mostly come from wheat products and some vegetables, such as onion and garlic. It also includes inulin (a type of fibre), which is often added to yoghurt, and fructo-oligosaccharides, which are found in packaged foods.
GOS are found in legumes. The technical names are raffinose and stachyose. Again, some are better absorbed than others.
Lactose is a disaccharide which naturally occurs in milk and milk products. People vary in the amount of lactose they can digest. As we age, we have less of the enzyme that breaks down lactose, called lactase. Some ethnic backgrounds (such as those of Asian descent) naturally have less lactase and tend to be more likely to have lactose intolerance.
Fructose is a monosaccharide, which is most often found in fruit. It is usually only a problem if the food contains more fructose than glucose, or if too much is consumed in one sitting.
Polyols includes sorbitol and mannitol. These are naturally occurring in some fruits and vegetables, while maltitol, xylitol, isomalt and polydextrose are used to artificially sweeten food and as food additives. Polyols are only partially absorbed by everyone. Some polyols may be listed in the ingredients list by their additive number: Sorbitol (420), Mannitol (421), Maltitol (965), Xylitol (967), Isomalt (953) (contains sorbitol and mannitol), and Polydextrose (1200) (10% sorbitol).
Want more info?
The wonderful team at Monash University are leading the way with research into FODMAPs. They have created this video, which provides a great summary about FODMAPs:
Start feeling better now! By signing up to The FODMAP Challenge you will receive meal plans, recipe ideas, and regular support with other resources, such as a private Facebook group, to make this as easy for you as possible.