A cause for concern amongst dietitians is the growing number of people that ask whether a low FODMAP diet will help them lose weight. Why is this concerning? Well, friends, weight loss is not the intended purpose of this prescriptive diet. A low FODMAP diet should really only be undertaken with the guidance or input of a qualified dietitian, and it is a diet intended for people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that, when eaten, are not completely digested and absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. FODMAPs move comparatively slowly through the digestive system, and in the process, two things happen:
- They draw water towards them.
- They are fermented by our gut bacteria in the large intestine – which results in extra gas production.
These two processes can cause some additional stretching of the intestinal walls. Don’t worry, this is all a completely normal and healthy process in the average person! FODMAP-containing foods are generally very nutritious! However, for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, these two processes can cause excessive gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms such as:
- Significant bloating
- Excessive wind
This is because Irritable Bowel Sufferers have an extra-sensitive gut.
Foods are either higher or lower in FODMAPs (even a low FODMAP diet is not totally void of them). A strict low FODMAP diet aims to reduce high FODMAP foods in the diet, to minimise gastrointestinal symptoms.
Did you know that a low FODMAP diet is actually only phase one of a three-phase process? Here, check out the 3 phases:
- The elimination phase. A strict low FODMAP diet is followed for 2-4 weeks.
- The challenge phase. FODMAP foods are reintroduced one at a time to determine trigger foods and trigger amounts. Side note: most people do not actually react to all FODMAP types.
- The reintroduction phase. Modifying the diet to become as balanced as possible overall, and reintroducing as many FODMAP foods as possible whilst managing symptoms.
A strict low FODMAP diet, phase 1 of the protocol, is very restrictive. Foods from each of the major food groups are removed from the diet, and therefore key nutrients may be missed due to the lack of variety. This is why it is very important to work under the guidance of a dietitian. Specifically, a low FODMAP diet may be lower in fibre, calcium, healthy fats, B vitamins, and iron. Production of short-chain fatty acids may also be decreased if on a low FODMAP diet, which plays a role in many aspects of our health. So, in short, NO, a low FODMAP diet should not be used for weight loss. A low FODMAP diet is a short-term prescription as part of the management of a medical condition.