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When I first read about FODMAPS I was puzzled by this strange acronym. When you see what each letter stands for, it's understandable why the actual term is rarely used. And when you read what these foods do, you can see why you may have digestive problems after eating them.
FODMAPS stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides And Polyols.
People suffering with irritable bowel syndrome and similar digestive tract problems may want to take notice.
Many who have irritable bowel symptoms have been diagnosed, while others have struggled with digestive difficulties without knowing why they can't easily digest certain foods. FODMAPS are among the foods that seem to cause the most trouble.
Gluten-free is not enough
The discovery that gluten causes digestive difficulties in people with gluten intolerance has spawned an entire industry of gluten-free foods and diets. However, it's possible (and often probable) to eat a gluten-free food while inadvertently consuming FODMAPS. For instance, a person can eat a gluten-free muffin with a cup of juice and end up with intestinal cramps due to the fructose-containing ingredients in both foods.
Here are the offenders in FODMAPS diets
- Sugar alcohols (polyols)
University of Arizona nutritionists explain, "These compounds in food are poorly absorbed, highly osmotic and rapidly fermented by GI bacteria, leading to increased water and gas in the GI tract, which then leads to GI tract distention that causes changes in GI motility, bloating, discomfort and flatulence." https://www.health.arizona.edu/health_topics/nutrition/handouts/FODMAPs%20diet.pdf
What FODMAPS do to you
FODMAPS present these properties that cause problems:
- They are poorly absorbed in the small intestine
- They contain small and osmotically-active molecules: This effect can create a laxative effect.
- They are rapidly fermented by bacteria due to the chain length of the carbohydrate. Oligosaccharides and sugars are rapidly fermented compared with polysaccharides such as soluble dietary fiber.2
FODMAPS foods that are problematic
Here are a few (but not an exhaustive list) of the foods that contain FODMAPS and lead to digestive problems in sensitive people: milk, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, honey, fruit, artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, Brussels sprout, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, garlic, leeks, okra, onions, peas, shallots, wheat, rye and the artificial sweeteners sorbitol, mannitol and industrially-produced xylitol.
What to do about FODMAPS
As with most other food sensitivity issues, the best course of action is to identify FODMAPS foods and avoid eating them for a few weeks to determine whether your digestive health has improved.
1. Welter, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, Gale and Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD, "The Low FODMAPs Diet," Campus Health Service, University of Arizona, 2012
2. Gibson, Peter R and Susan J Shepherd, ADVANCES IN CLINICA L PRACTICE — Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach Monash University Department of Medicine, Box Hill Hospital, Box Hill, Victoria, Australia
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