A low FODMAP diet is effective in improving IBS symptoms in about 75% of IBS sufferers. This is because FODMAPs worsen symptoms for many IBS sufferers. But can FODMAPs cause stomach upsets for those of us without IBS?
Why FODMAPs can impact anyone
So firstly you may be wondering what exactly FODMAPs are. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharies And Polyols. In English? Basically they are types of fermentable carbohydrates which we often don’t absorb well. By ‘fermentable’ carbohydrates it means they are broken down (fermented) by gut bacteria in the large intestine. So they serve as food for our good gut bacteria, which keeps us healthy.
FODMAPs are not well absorbed in most people, and are particularly poorly absorbed in those with IBS. Those who are sensitive to FODMAPs will experience various gut symptoms. These symptoms commonly include diarrhoea, flatulence, gas, constipation, stomach pain, and bloating. These symptoms are caused by unabsorbed/partially absorbed FODMAPs in the large intestine. It is here that they either draw in excess water (causing symptoms like diarrhoea) or promote excess gas during fermentation. An intolerance to FODMAPs is actually very common, with approximately 35% of Aussies having an intolerance to at least one FODMAP.
What are some common FODMAP-containing foods?
Below are the different types of FODMAPs and common foods they are found in. See here for our full list.
|Type of FODMAP:||Found in:|
|Oligosaccharides (fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides)||Wheat, rye, onion, garlic, and legumes such as baked beans and chickpeas.|
|Disaccharides (lactose)||Milk and some milk products such as yoghurt and ice-cream.|
|Monosaccharides (fructose)||Some fruits (e.g mango, watermelon, apples and pears), honey, and high fructose corn syrup.|
|Polyols (sugar alcohols e.g sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol)||Found in some fruits (e.g apples, avocado, and blackberries), some veggies (e.g cauliflower, celery and corn), and in products which are artificially sweetened (e.g some gum, mints, sugar-free confectionary).|
How do I know which FODMAPs I react to?
It can be tricky to identify which specific FODMAPs you react to, since our everyday diet generally contains all of them.
If you don’t have IBS but believe certain FODMAP-containing foods don’t agree with you, it may be an idea to investigate your tolerance levels. For example, you may find you don’t tolerate foods well which contain garlic or onion. You wont necessarily need to cut these foods out, but rather establish your tolerance levels. For instance, you could try eating a food containing 1/4 clove of garlic or 1/4 of an onion and see if this evokes symptoms. If not, then increase the portion to 1/2 clove or 1/2 an onion. If the larger quantity causes symptoms, then you would know your threshold is about 1/4 clove or 1/4 of an onion. Or perhaps you find too much sugar-free gum causes you diarrhoea and stomach cramps. In this situation it is easy to substitute for a product which doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, such as tic-tacs.
If you have IBS, the best treatment option is to undertake a strict low FODMAP diet (usually 4-6 weeks) and then re-introduce each FODMAP individually to identify triggers. Our programs at the FODMAP challenge are an awesome way to start managing your IBS symptoms and identify your triggers. Click here to see which option is right for you. The next FODMAP challenge round starts the 12th May, so why not sign up now to manage your IBS and begin your journey towards a happier you!
Barrett JS, Irving PM, Shepherd SJ, Muir JG, Gibson PR. Comparison of the prevalence of fructose and lactose malabsorption across chronic intestinal disorders. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2009 Jul 1;30(2):165-74.