If you suffer from the gas, bloating and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are not alone. This disruptive digestive disorder affects about ten percent of the world’s population. Many more people suffer from other digestive related issues.
IBS’ root cause is unknown, but theories suggest that those who suffer with IBS have pain from distention or bloating in the gut. Anxiety, stress, and a number of dietary factors can initiate and irritate IBS symptoms, although triggers vary from individual to individual.
“FODMAP” is an acronym for a group of short-chain carbohydrates that some people find hard to digest. If you suffer from IBS or other digestive related issues, high-FODMAP foods may make your condition worse. FODMAPs can be troublesome when they interact with gut bacteria that produce gas when they feast on them. A number of FODMAPS can pull fluids into the gut, which can cause cramping, bloating, and even diarrhea. As a Los Angeles health coach, I encourage my clients with IBS and other digestive related issues to explore FOMAPS to see which may be troublesome to their guts.
Here’s what FODMAP stands for:
- F is for Fermentable (foods high in refined sugars and carbs that “ferment” in the bowel).
- O is for Oligosaccharides (sugars found in wheat, onions, garlic, leeks, etc.).
- D is for Disaccharides (sugars found in milk, cheeses, etc.).
- M is for Monosaccharides (sugars found in glucose, dextrose, mangos, etc.).
- (A is for “and”).
- P is for Polyols (sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol found in candy, ice cream, chewing gum, etc.).
In my experience integrative health coaching in LA, three out of four clients with IBS find relief from symptoms after removing high-FODMAPs from their diets.
Low FODMAP Diet Stages
You are not supposed to follow a low-FODMAP diet indefinitely. Even though you may be tempted to remain on the diet after your symptoms improve, you need to familiarize yourself with your specific triggers and expand your diet if you can. Lots of gut-protective, healthy foods have FODMAPs in them.
Monash University pioneered the low FODMAP diet, and identifies three distinct stages:
This phase takes 4-6 weeks typically. During the phase, you eliminate high-FODMAP foods and replace them with low-FODMAP foods to determine whether FOODMAPs are initiating or irritating IBS symptoms.
Below are some examples of high and low-FODMAP foods. The list is not exhaustive. For more complete details on FODMAP foods, I highly recommend the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App, which you can buy for about eight bucks.
Food Group: Grains/starches
High FODMAP: wheat bread, bran cereals, pasta
Low FODMAP: oats, rice, potato
Food Group: Fruits
High FODMAP: apples, pears, plums, prunes, dried fruit
Low FODMAP: grapes, blueberries, oranges, strawberries
Food Group: Vegetables
High FODMAP: onion, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, peas
Low FODMAP: green beans,squash, lettuce, spinach, green and red peppers
Food Group: Meat/protein foods
High FODMAP: meats seasoned with onion or garlic, beans, silken tofu
Low FODMAP: Plain meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tempeh, firm tofu
Food Group: Nuts and seeds
High FODMAP: almonds (more than 10), cashews, pistachios
Low FODMAP: brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts
Food Group: Sweeteners
High FODMAP: high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, sugar alcohols
Low FODMAP: table sugar, stevia, maple syrup
In phase two, you will methodically reintroduce foods from the high FODMAP category, while maintaining a diet low in FODMAPs. A nutrition coach can help you select the correct foods in the right quantities in order to gauge your symptoms. In general, you will begin with small portions of the food, and increase these during the course of three days. Before reintroducing another food, you would return to a low-FODMAP diet.
You may not get any digestive related symptoms from some high-FODMAP foods, but others may give you tummy troubles. Small portions of a food may not bother you, while larger amounts may make you miserable. Keep a food diary with details on your responses to the foods. The food diary will help you advance to the final diet stage.
Once you have determined which foods are symptom triggers, you can then begin monitoring your intake. It may be possible for you to tolerate smaller amounts of high-FODMAP foods that are symptomatic when eaten in larger amounts. Stick with it. Over time, food tolerance and IBS symptoms often change. Keep trying problematic foods periodically to see whether anything has improved. Your ability to reintroduce high-FODMAP foods may pleasantly surprise you.
Health Coach, Manhattan Beach
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