What is the Low FODMAP Diet & Should You Try It?

Posted and filed under Health Awareness.

Certain types of food are commonly known to trigger inflammation in people who are sensitive to specific agents. To manage diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and other chronic inflammatory disorders, many people have turned to the low-FODMAP diet.

What Does FODMAP Mean?

FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols. In short, they are dietary sugars found in many grains, types of produce, and dairy products. While these FODMAPs sound complex, they simply refer to characteristics in foods that are known to present digestion challenges. These agents are highly fermentable, and it is their rapid fermentation that leads to bowel issues. For instance, they create an osmotic effect, meaning they draw water through the bowel, creating increased permeability. They are also poorly absorbed within the small intestine, and the fermentation that takes place within can create gas, abdominal pain, discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation.

Which Foods are Considered High-FODMAP?

There are many foods high in FODMAPs. Foods with excess fructose, including honey, dried fruit, watermelon, pears, and apples, should be avoided on the diet. Sources of lactose, including milk, yogurt, and dairy desserts, are also high-FODMAP. Leeks, onions, barley, rye, wheat, garlic, legumes, cashews, and chickpeas are best avoided on the diet as well. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, and there are many other foods considered to be high enough in FODMAPs to cause an inflammatory response. With that said, certain food sources don’t have to be avoided entirely on the diet and limiting portion sizes may be enough to minimize inflammatory effects.

Is the Low-FODMAP Diet Right for Me?

Because many high-FODMAP foods are also rich sources of key nutrients, it is typically not recommended for anyone who doesn’t have an apparent sensitivity to FODMAPs to try the diet. Avoidance of FODMAPs could put individuals at risk of nutritional deficiencies, as it restricts many healthy foods. Thus, it should only be followed as prescribed by healthcare professionals.

In fact, this restrictive diet is only practiced for three to eight weeks at a time. It is typically followed in phases. The first phase involves strict elimination of FODMAPs, followed by a reintroduction stage during which one type of FODMAP is introduced at a time. This allows patients to gauge which group triggers the most significant inflammatory response. Then, in the final phase, the modified FODMAP diet can be followed, in which certain trigger foods can be avoided at the patient’s discretion.

While a low FODMAP diet is not intended to be a permanent solution, it can shed light on which dietary sources elicit the most challenging symptoms in disorders like IBS and Crohn’s disease. If you’re interested in exploring the eating plan to help you manage your condition, be sure to speak with your gastroenterologist to discuss your eligibility for the diet.

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