FODMAPs Might Be Affecting Your Digestion — Here's How To Figure Out If They Are And What To Do About It

FODMAPs Might Be Affecting Your Digestion — Here's How To Figure Out If They Are And What To Do About It

When it comes to gastrointestinal distress, symptoms are often tied to two of the most inflammatory foods: gluten and dairy.

Most people find this out by trying an elimination diet, which entails removing certain foods from your diet to see which ones are causing symptoms. 

But there is a subset of the population that still experiences unexplained gastrointestinal discomfort even without the presence of gluten and dairy in their diet. Symptoms can include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain.

Eiliv-Sonas Aceron/Unsplash

Eiliv-Sonas Aceron/Unsplash

FODMAPs are carbohydrates that the body has a hard time absorbing.

If this sounds like you, FODMAPs might be the issue.

FODMAP is an acronym for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.” In layman’s terms, these are specific carbohydrates that the body doesn’t completely absorb because they’re easily fermented by gut bacteria.

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars

  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk

  • Fructans: Found in the gluten containing grains wheat, spelt, rye and barley

  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes

  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol and sorbitol

To determine if FODMAPs are affecting you, try an elimination diet.

An elimination diet is not meant to completely eliminate all FODMAPs from your diet forever. But it’s necessary for a short amount of time to be able to evaluate which foods impact you and which don’t. Just because some FODMAPs affect you doesn’t mean all do. 

The general recommendation is to eliminate the FODMAPs listed below for at least two weeks — ideally three to four weeks. Unfortunately, this diet only works if you fully commit to it, meaning that you eliminate all foods and not just some. While this may seem daunting, focus on the fact that if FODMAPs are an issue for you, this kind of diet can decrease symptoms in as little as a few days.

John Fornander/Unsplash

John Fornander/Unsplash

After you’ve completed the elimination phase, you can move into the reintroduction phase of the diet.

After the initial elimination phase, you’ll be able to move into the reintroduction phase. This is the phase where you reintroduce foods you want to evaluate (see if they cause symptoms). Make sure to evaluate one food at a time so that it’s clear what’s impacting you. Start by having a small amount of the food in question, waiting for two days, then having a larger amount of the food. This allows for a thorough evaluation. It’s helpful to keep a food journal to track this information.

After this reintroduction, you’ll have some valuable data to move forward with. If you discover there’s a specific food that severely upsets your digestion, you’ll likely want to permanently avoid that food. When it comes to other foods that only moderately bother you, you may be willing to include those in moderation. You can enjoy foods that cause no issues regularly. 

Foods to avoid during the elimination phase:

  • Fruits: Apples, applesauce, apricots, blackberries, boysenberries, cherries, dates, figs, pears, peaches, watermelon

  • Sweeteners: Fructose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol

  • Dairy products: Milk (from cows, goats and sheep), ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, soft and fresh cheeses (cottage, ricotta, etc.) and whey protein supplements

  • Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, shallots

  • Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans

  • Gluten Containing Grains: Wheat (bread, pasta, most breakfast cereals, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, crackers, biscuits, etc.), rye, spelt, barley

Harshal S. Hirve/Unsplash

Harshal S. Hirve/Unsplash

Foods to include during the elimination phase: 

  • Animal Protein: Meat, fish, eggs

  • Healthy fats: Avocado, coconut oil, olives, nuts, seeds

  • Fruits: Bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, lemons, lime, mandarins, melons (NOT watermelon), oranges, passionfruit, raspberries, strawberries

  • Sweeteners: Maple syrup, molasses, stevia

  • Dairy products: Dairy free alternatives (almond milk, cashew cheese, etc.) lactose-free dairy products, hard cheeses and aged softer varieties (brie, camembert, etc.)

  • Vegetables: Alfalfa, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, green beans, kale, lettuce, chives, olives, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, spinach, spring onion (only green), squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, yams, water chestnuts, zucchini

  • Gluten Free Grains: Corn, oats, rice, quinoa, sorghum, tapioca

*Keep in mind that these lists are not definitive and there are foods not listed here that are either high or low in FODMAPs.

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