What is FODMAP and why it could work for you

I began the low FODMAP diet 7 years ago, after being advised to start it by my Gastroenterologist after months of stomach issues, many tests and being in and out of hospital and unable to work. I went to see a dietitian who ran through the diet identifying what I could and couldn’t eat. I remember it being overwhelming at first, but I was desperate, so was keen to try anything. Luckily, I had been gluten free for over 13 years and wheat is considered high FODMAP, so that was one thing I was used to.

When working out what was high FODMAP, I realised I ate a lot of high FODMAP foods such as, apples, watermelon, yoghurt, and onion. These were exactly what turned out to be my ‘triggers’ – no wonder my stomach was is in so much pain. It was amazing to see how quickly I noticed a difference after being in the elimination phase for only a short period of time, I stuck with this phase for 8 weeks, just to give my digestive system a good chance to heal before beginning the re-introduction phase.

I was nervous about the re-introduction phase because I didn’t want to cause any pain. But I started to re-introduce foods one by one to work out my triggers and tolerance of different foods. I can say, following a low FODMAP diet has actually changed my life, it’s not always perfect, sometimes my stomach plays up or I eat something that doesn’t agree with me but this way of eating has allowed me to manage my symptoms.

 

So what is FODMAP?

FODMAP’s are a collection of short chain carbohydrates (sugars and fibre) that are found in certain foods that can be poorly absorbed in the gut by some people which can trigger Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms in some people.

FODMAP’s is an acronym standing for:

Fermentable

Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))

Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)

Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)

And

Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne and is recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for IBS.

The diet requires you to eliminate high FODMAP foods for a period of 2-6 weeks, depending on how your body responds.

What you can or cannot eat on a FODMAP diet?

A few examples of foods high in each of the FODMAPs are listed below. The list is not complete, and is subject to change as new data becomes available.

Excess Fructose – apples, pears, watermelon, mango, canned fruit, honey, high fructose corn syrup, dried fruit, fruit juice, dates, agave syrup

Lactose – milk, yoghurt, ice-cream, soft cheeses

Fructans – onion, garlic, artichokes, beetroot, brussel sprouts, cabbage (savoy), leeks, shallots, wheat, rye (eg bread, cereals, pasta, crackers, couscous, cakes, biscuits)

Galacto -Oligosaccharides (GOS) – chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, broad beans, kidney beans

Polyols –  sobitol, mannitol, xylitol, malitol, stone fruits (appricot, peach, nectarine

Most importantly – what you can eat. Examples of a few low FODMAP foods below:

Fruit – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, rock melon, banana, dragon fruit, oranges, grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi fruit, lemon, lime, passion fruit, pawpaw, pineapple,

Vegetables – Bok choy, carrots, capsicum, choy sum, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, chives, parsnip, pumpkin, spring onion (green part), tomato, zucchini, bean sprouts, common cabbage, red cabbage, celeriac

Milk– lactose-free varieties, rice milk

Meat, fish and eggs

Grains – gluten free breads and crackers, polenta, 100% spelt bread, quinoa, rice, millet

Sweeteners – sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup, vanilla essence

If all is going well, you can begin to re-introduce different foods into your diet to work out the type and amount of FODMAP’s that can be tolerated before experiencing symptoms. It’s important to remember the elimination phase is not a forever diet, the goal is to determine the type and amount of FODMAP’s an individual can comfortability tolerate. Everyone is different,  react differently to certain foods and can have different tolerances. So, remember your FODMAP triggers could be different to someone else’s.

It is recommended that both the elimination and re-introduction phase of the diet is done with guidance from a dietician, preferably a specialist in gastrointestinal nutrition.

If you are beginning a low FODMAP journey, my advice would be to work closely with a dietitian who specialises in gastrointestinal nutrition. Download the Monash University low FODMAP app, get yourself a diary and document what and when you eat, how your stomach feels and your bowel movements. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake or slip up, just document it and keep going.

The hardest thing about this diet is giving up some food groups, but there are substitutes! For example, if you like pasta but struggling to find a great gluten-free option, I highly recommend checking out Ceres Organics Sorghum Pasta as a great substitute. My biggest piece of advice is, don’t focus on the food you can’t eat, focus on all the delicious foods you can eat!!

 

For more information about the low FODMAP diet please visit https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/

Sources: https://www.monashfodmap.com

               http://shepherdworks.com.au

                the Monash University Low FODMAP App

Sarah has undergone a health journey since the age of 12 becoming gluten-free due to health issues. She follows a FODMAP lifestyle which has helped with managing her health. Follow her journey and discover delicious recipes on @thefodmapfreelife on Instagram or at thefodmapfreelife.com.