MIND & BODY BOOSTERS
Gut issues? Learn all about the low-FODMAP diet and who should consider giving it a go.
Beans, cashews, blackberries, cauliflower and apples are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and nutrients. But if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, certain super-healthy foods can wreak havoc on your gut – and an apple a day may not keep the doctor away. You’ve probably heard of the lowFODMAP diet as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gut issues. Here’s what you need to know.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols – shortchain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols. Found in a wide variety of foods, they’re not fully digested and absorbed by some people, especially those who have IBS or other digestive problems. In the colon, gut bacteria feed on these undigested sugars, releasing gasses that lead to bloating, cramping, stomach pain, constipation, gas and flatulence. FODMAPs may also have an osmotic effect, meaning they draw water into the intestines, causing loose stools.
A number of studies show the effectiveness of a low-FODMAP diet for reducing abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea in people with IBS. In some research, up to 75% of people with IBS reported relief from symptoms, and other studies suggest a lowFODMAP diet is more effective than standard dietary interventions for controlling IBS. Besides IBS, a lowFODMAP diet can also benefit other gastrointestinal disorders, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
While a low-FODMAP plan can significantly ease IBS and IBD, it’s not a cure. FODMAPs themselves aren’t the
root cause. Other factors – such as stress, overeating, eating too quickly, certain medications and hormonal influences — can trigger symptoms. And it’s not a magic bullet for all belly woes. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or IBD, a low-FODMAP diet may do more harm than good, masking underlying issues and delaying treatment. And restricting legumes, fruits and many vegetables can adversely impact the number and diversity of gut microbiota, leading to imbalances in the healthy bacteria and further digestive problems.
If you think you’d like to try a low-FODMAP plan, keep in mind that discovering which foods work for you can be a months-long process, so you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it right. This simple guide for what to eat and what to avoid can help you minimize adverse effects and maximize results.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
The low-FODMAP diet is (or should be) a three-stage process. In the first phase, high-FODMAP foods are eliminated to ease gastrointestinal distress. In the second phase, some FODMAP foods are slowly and systematically reintroduced to determine which ones trigger symptoms. Ideally, you’ll work with a nutritionist to help you with the reintroduction phase, which usually takes six to eight weeks. The third phase aims to personalize the diet, reintroducing as many foods as possible, while avoiding FODMAPs that exacerbate discomfort. Check out the Monash University FODMAP Diet app for more info. Here’s how it works: