FODMAPS.. you know Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides , Monosaccharides and Polyols? Well maybe you don’t but shortly your mind might be blown.
These sugars and sugar alcohols have been identified as compounds that, in some people, do not digest properly due to the short chain composition of the sugars and the person’s sensitive digestive tract. The result is the presence of these compounds in the colon or large intestine where bacteria have a hay day.
We’ve all used or heard the term “healthy bacteria”- the natural occuring bacterial flora in colon that assist in homeostasis in the body. These bacteria -along with us-need carbohydrates to sustain life and they l-o-v-e FODMAPS! The presence of these sugars and sugar alcohols in their undigested form in our large intestines provides a Thanksgiving feast for our gut flora which in turn produce- you guessed it- gas. The colon can then become distended with hydrogen gas and fluid absorbed by the sugars. People suffering with this condition can also experience diarrhea and/or constipation as well.
These symptoms are often experienced in people suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome- affecting 1 in 10 Americans, or 35 million of us. Often going undiagnosed because of the generally accepted it’s-just-a-stomach-ache excuse or because of a mis self diagnosis of gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance.
This condition is one of the reasons I became a nutrition major. I was in my early twenties and felt constantly like never endingly- bloated. I would eat dinner with my boyfriend early in the evening and then feel tired and pudgy in what felt like minutes later, not feeling like being around him much at that point most nights he became concerned and brought up the idea that maybe I was suffering with IBS? His friend had IBS and experienced similar symptoms on a regular basis and was receiving treatment while seeing improvement. I became curious about the idea and later began researching the condition- as all do with the ever-to-accessable Google. The stars seemed to align- I was tired, bloated, gassy, often avoided italian food because of the onions and garlic and not loving my current experience with food.
At that point in my research I discovered that IBS is more commonly diagnosed in young women- generally experiencing a stressful lifestyle with a loaded schedule of school and work- that sounded like me! The websites simply said to try an elimination diet and focus on limiting the stress in experienced in the daily grind. I think at that point I stopped drinking milk and likely took up a relationship with my yoga mat.
Sue Shepherd, PhD and RD was on the team that discovered the benefits of a low FODMAP diet after her initial discovery of the fructose malabsorption diet in 1999. Her research is now respected worldwide and is published in medical journals internationally! Go Sue!
So lets get down to it- if we think we might have IBS or might benefit from a FODMAP diet what are the next steps? Well lets be honest here- self diagnosing isn’t always a great plan and dietitians are great resource when we’re feeling off in our digestive abilities. I’ll point you in that direction first- seek out a dietitian, get their opinion on your symptoms and find out if there are further tests that should be completed prior to changing your diet. These might include hydrogen breath tests, colonoscopy, gluten intolerance tests or blood panels. It’s important to have supervision while modifying our diets so as not to induce vitamin and mineral deficiencies by cutting out entire foods or food groups- so seeking a professional’s supervision is a solid plan.
I began by eliminating the high FODMAP foods in my diet and monitored my symptoms. This is is called an elimination diet and can be done by removing a suspected trigger food and seeing how you feel after two weeks- if no improvement add the item back into your diet and remove the next item, again monitoring symptoms and discontinuing the food or reintroducing the food if no improvement is seen. Below is a list of foods that are high in FODMAPS and a list that is low in FODMAPS. Dietetic professionals generally like to help patients focus on the foods that they can eat so as to encourage and not discourage them from continuing to enjoy foods. On that note have fun with it! Try new recipes with the FODMAP eating style in mind- try new vegetables that you may not have eaten in the past, be adventurous opt for the almond milk ice cream and dairy free milk in your ice coffee!
Change doesn’t have to be a scary thing and if we keep our mindsets on the positive we can take control of our health and experience the most vibrant and energized selves.