This is hotly debated topic, what is FODMAP, what is it for, how does it work? All is explained below!
Having IBS and issues with bloating, cramps and malabsorption can really wreak havoc with your life, it can cause food to become a source of anxiety, it can destroy your appetite, cut you off from your social and ruin your confidence, not to mention feel powerless in terms of never knowing what to eat. The FODMAP protocol is designed to help you avoid specific sugars and fibres that either are poorly digested, are broken down rapidly by gut bacteria to create gas, or which can draw water into your intestines, these sugars and fibres are well defined, and there are clear cut ways to avoid them, it just takes a little know how and a little practice. Let’s look at what FODMAP stands for:
- F is for fermentable. The sugars and fibres that your gut bacteria love to eat and make lots of gas with, very quickly, leading to bloating and abdominal pain, and possibly reflux/nausea.
- O is for oligosaccharide. These are compounds consisting of fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. These are very poorly absorbed and difficult to digest for humans in general, and can be common sources of gastric distress. Sources include onion, garlic, legumes, pulses, wheat and rye.
- D is for disaccharide. These are two molecule sugars such as lactose, the sugar in dairy products, ice-cream, creams and milk would be the biggest offenders. High fat cheeses should be fine.
- M is for monosaccharide. Fructose is the main one here, it is well absorbed in the presence of glucose, foods usually have a mix of the two, but in high fructose foods, you may be prone to malabsorption issues, foods high in fructose will include honey, apples, watermelon and watch out for high-fructose corn syrup on labels (also known glucose-fructose, isoglucose, glucose-fructose syrup). Avoid juices in excess.
- A doesn’t stand for anything. It’s purely to make the acronym easier to say. Just FYI.
- P stands for polyols. These are sugar alcohol sweeteners that contain about 3 calories per gram (just nice to know they are not calorie free). These are not absorbed, and they can draw water into your gut, giving you the urge to go to the bathroom and potentially to have diarrhoea. These include sorbitol and mannitol, anything ending in –ol is most likely a sugar alcohol, unless you are drinking actual alcohol, which has 7 calories per gram.
How we approach it
The FODMAP protocol should be stuck to for approximately 4-6 weeks, sticking to lower FODMAP food options for this period of time, Monashe university have useful resources and an app that is quite useful and can inspire some recipes! After the six week period, you can start slowly introducing some of the trigger foods, basically anything that isn’t on the list. This should be done under the guise of a dietitian or registered nutritionist, as the nature of the low FODMAP diet can put people at risk of energy and nutrient deficiency, an expense for lower incidence of gastric issues. Taking a multivitamin, speaking to a doctor and getting a blood test to check your nutrient status prior to embarking on this would be a good idea. The main thing to note is that this diet is only designed for short term, the whole point is to include more and more items as your gastric symptoms allow, in increasing amounts.
Food lists (to include)
Low FODMAP carbs: Options include rice, potato, gluten free bread, rice noodles, gluten free pasta pasta/spaghetti, oats, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, popcorn, oat/rice/potato flours are fine, fruit is okay, but that is a separate category below.
Low FODMAP fruits: Banana (green), blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries (1 tbsp), clementine, grapes, guava, honeydew and galia melon (NOT watermelon), kiwi, lemon & limes (juice is okay too), mandarin, orange, passionfruit, papaya, pineapple, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry.
Low FODMAP veggies: Bamboo shoots, bean-sprouts, beetroot, broccoli (1/2 cup), Brussel’s sprouts (2), butternut squash (1/4 cup), cabbage (1 cup), carrots, chick peas (2 tbsp), courgette, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, green beans, ginger, kale, lentils (1-2 tbsp), lettuce, marrows, olives, parsnip, snow peas (<5 pods), peppers, potato, pumpkin, seaweed, spinach, sundried tomato (<4 pieces), sweet potato (1/2 medium potato), tomato, turnip, yam, zucchini.
Low FODMAP dairy: Butter, brie, camembert, cheddar, cottage, feta, goat , Monterey Jack, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta (2 tbsp), Swiss, dairy free chocolate pudding, margarine, almond milk, hemp milk, lactose free milk, rice milk (200ml), sorbet, soy protein (avoid soya beans), Swiss cheese, tempeh, tofu , whipped cream, coconut yoghurt, Greek yoghurt (small portions), lactose free yoghurt.
Low FODMAP nuts/seeds: Walnuts, pecan, pine nuts, brazil nuts, almonds, chestnuts, chia seeds, hemp seed, sunflower & pumpkin seeds.
Low FODMAP condiments: Butter, strawberry jam, maple syrup, marmalade, peanut butter, pesto, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, soy sauce.
Low FODMAP protein: Beef, cold meats, cod, chicken, egg, haddock, lamb, mussels, oysters, plaice, pork, prawns, Quorn, salmon, trout, turkey, tuna (avoid breaded or marinated options, flavour foods yourself as much as possible.
Low FODMAP drinks: Water, lactose free milks, lemonade made fresh, tea, coffee, gin, whiskey, wine, 1 glass sugar free soda max.
Sneaky things to avoid
- Sugar free soda or squash, chewing gum, mints. Check labels for sorbitol/mannitol/xylitol, these are sugar alcohols and can cause some gastric pain and diarrhoea in IBS sufferers.
- Avoid dried fruits; they have an increased concentration of fructose sugars as a result of the processing.
- Avoid anything with garlic or onion, garlic infused oil is fine.
- Gluten free pasta (100g/7 tbsp/3 handfuls)
- Gluten free spaghetti (100g/bunch 1 inch diameter)
- Brown rice/couscous/Quinoa (80g/5 tbsp)
- Buckwheat (75g/5 tbsp)
- Popcorn (40-50g)
- Potato (2 egg sized potatoes)
- Bread (2 slices wholegrain, 1 slice Maltese bread, 1 wrap, 1 small bread roll)
- Cereal (2 Weetabix, 40g cereals, 50g oats)
- Fruit (1/2 banana, 1 apple/orange/pear, 6-7 grapes, 10-15 blueberries, 3-4 strawberries, 2 dates, 1 cup of chopped melon/pineapple)
- Veg (1 handful broccoli/spinach/kale, salad veg, 1 carrot, 1 marrow, 1 cup of chopped pumpkin/squash, 2 tbsp peas/corn/beans)
- Seeds (1 teaspoon)
- Nuts (6-8 nuts)
- Oils/dressings/honey (1 teaspoon)
- Dairy (200ml milk, 125g yogurt, matchbox/thumb sized portion of cheese)
- Chocolate (2-3 squares, 2 cookies, 5-6 maltesers, small chocolate bar)
How can you add flavour to your food without risking side effects?
- Use garlic/onion/chili/herb infused oil. FODMAPs cannot infuse into oil, but you can get their flavour to, use these to keep your meals kicking!
- Use good old herbs and spices, these are all okay.
- Add a little salt, and a little pepper.
- Sauces like soy and salad dressings should be okay.
Thanks for reading, I hope you find this helpful!
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