what is the low FODMAP diet, and should I be following it?

May 12, 2022

If you have ever struggled from digestive issues or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) there is a fair chance you may have heard about or wondered if you should follow a low FODMAP diet.

So, what are FODMAP’s
FODMAPS are an acronym for Fermentable, Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide,
Monosaccharide and Polyols. These are all highly fermentable short-chain carbohydrates (sugars). They are found in a wide range of foods including fresh fruit and veg, legumes, grains, cereals, nuts and even dairy. It is believed that these sugars are not easily absorbed in the small intestine and therefore travel into the large bowel (colon) where they are quickly fermented by colonic bacteria. This fermentation process produces gas and draws water into
the bowel, and it happens to everyone! However, for those with IBS, who are believed to have a highly sensitive gut or may have motility issues, this can trigger symptoms such as pain, wind, diarrhea and/or constipation.

How does the low FODMAP diet work?
The FODMAP approach is not about excluding all foods that contain FODMAP’s totally from the diet. Instead, it looks at the total amount of FODMAPS consumed. This means that there is limit to how much an individual can tolerate. It is about finding your own unique threshold.

Should I be following a low FODMAP diet?
Firstly (and most importantly), the low FODMAP diet is only intended for those with medically diagnosed IBS, that is diagnosed by your doctor. It is really important that you do not self-diagnose (no doctor google!), as there are many potential causes of digestive symptoms that first need to be investigated and then ruled out.

For those with diagnosed IBS it is also important to understand that the low FODMAP diet does not ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ IBS, but it can provide symptom management and relief (which for some can be life changing). It is also critical that the base diet (which is stricter) should only be followed for 2-6 weeks, to allow symptom relief, before the FODMAP challenges are
commenced, under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist/dietitian with FODMAP’s expertise. This allows thresholds to be tested, so more foods can be gradually reintroduced back into the diet. The aim is to include as many foods as can be tolerated, rather than long-term exclusion. Remember unnecessary food restrictions only hinder gut health with diet diversity being one of the most important components of overall and gut health.