What Exactly is the FODMAP Diet?

The FODMAP diet is a short-chain carbohydrate-free diet. It leaves out food items that aren't easily absorbed by the intestines or are completely indigestible. What are its benefits? Keep reading to find out. 
What Exactly is the FODMAP Diet?

Last update: 19 November, 2020

Do you have an intestinal disease? Following the FODMAP diet can help improve your symptoms and even eliminate it. In general, this diet involves avoiding certain types of food that are difficult to digest.

Would you like to know what it is and how it can help you? If so, keep reading!

The FODMAP diet

The Low FODMAP diet is promoted by researchers from Monash University in Australia. This acronym stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” This is because these belong to a group of short-chain carbohydrates that the intestine has a hard time absorbing and some people just can’t digest them.

What’s the purpose of this diet?

The foundation of this type of diet limits foods that lead to certain intestinal symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal distension
  • Impaired bowel habit

You can also use this diet to improve issues such as:

  • Irritable colon
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease

You may also be interested in: Good Versus Bad Carbohydrates

What is the FODMAP diet?

The FODMAP compounds are present in food that contain fructose, lactactans, fructans, galactans or polyols, mainly in the following:

  • Wheat, rye, onions, and garlic are rich in fructooligosaccharides.
  • Legumes contain galactooligosaccharides.
  • Dairy products (mainly milk) contain lactose.
  • Honey, syrups, apples and other fruits contain fructose.
  • Light” food products usually contain sweeteners.
  • Pears and plums have polyols (sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, and mannitol).
Acceptable food in the FODMAP diet.
The FODMAP diet can help prevent certain gastrointestinal problems.

Types of food high in FODMAP to avoid:

  • Grains such as brown rice, oats, barley, rye, millet, and whole wheat;
  • Legumes like beans, chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils;
  • Vegetables such as garlic, artichokes, eggplants, broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, escarole, asparagus, lettuce, peppers, leeks, beets, and mushrooms;
  • Fresh and dried fruits like cherry, plums, raspberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, melons, blackberries, watermelon pears, grapes, olives, apricots, cranberries, figs, avocadoes, persimmons, and mangoes;
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios;
  • Milk and its derivatives;
  • Processed meats;
  • Sausages and lunch meats;
  • Refined sugar;
  • Drinks such as coffee, beer, spirits, soft drinks, tea, wine, packaged fruit juices;
  • Natural sweeteners like sugar, fructose, agave syrup, maple syrup, and honey;
  • Artificial sweeteners such as erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

How should it be implemented?

There are three stages to implement the FODMAP diet:

  1. The restriction phase usually lasts 6 to 8 weeks and is about strictly avoiding all foods rich in FODMAPs. This is to improve gastrointestinal problems.
  2. During the reintroduction phase, you slowly introduce the types of food you avoided in the previous stage. This is to determine the tolerance of each person. Also, it usually lasts between 8 and 12 weeks.
  3. Then, once the reintroduction phase is over, you can personalize your diet to maintain food variety and avoid unnecessary restrictions, while maintaining control over your symptoms.

What are its benefits?

As we mentioned before, this type of diet is recommended for the treatment of intestinal diseases. It has many proven benefits for people afflicted by irritable bowel syndrome, according to a study published in Gastroenterology. This is because it can reduce its symptoms by 76%.

In general, it improves the symptoms of this condition and reduces inflammation and abdominal pain by reducing the fermentable substrates of intestinal bacteria. It also helps with flatulence and normalizes the rate of bowel movements.

A man with a burning belly.
Following the FODMAP diet can help reduce irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

It also improves digestive symptoms in patients with a functional bowel disorder and those with organic gastrointestinal conditions. 84% of patients in a study showed an improvement in their digestive symptoms when they stick to the diet. Plus, after the reintroduction diet, more than 80% of patients can tolerate wheat, as well as whole milk, over 70% of legumes, and two servings of low-fructose fruits, all in the same meal.

There are many health benefits to his diet, but it also has some drawbacks. So, be careful with it if you suffer from constipation. This is because the diet is low in fiber and could aggravate your symptoms.bThus, you must work together with a dietitian or a nutritionist, as it’s a very strict diet that requires gradually reintroducing and customizing certain food intake.

Talk to your doctor for more information.

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