FODMAP – Can it help?

Each individual is different and some people may have more trouble than others breaking down and absorbing certain types of sugars and carbohydrates.  When this happens, it is because more sugars than desirable pass through the small intestine, into the large intestine, where they are fermented by bacteria.  This process can create bloating, cramping and abdominal discomfort.

These extra or certain types of sugars that get passed through are hard for some people to break down and absorb.  This is where elimination of certain types of foods temporarily, may help.  This approach can be done through a diet called FODMAP (Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyos i.e., sugar alcohols)

Below are specific molecules targeted within different groups and some examples of foods that are high or low on the FODMAP list:

Fermentable oligosaccharides (polysaccharides): fructans and galactooligosaccharides 

  • High: wheat, rye, barley, onion, garlic, artichoke, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, legumes
  • Low: corn, rice, quinoa, potatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, green beans,

Disaccharides: lactose

  • High: milk, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream
  • Low: lactose-free milk, almond milk, hard cheeses

Monosaccharides: fructose

  • High: pears, apples, watermelon, honeydew, papaya, star fruit, fruit juices, agave nectar
  • Low: blueberries, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, kiwi

Polyols: sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol

  • High: apples, apricots, avocados, foods sweetened with honey, sorbitol, mannitol, or maltitol
  • Low: dark chocolate, table sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar

If you were thinking of implementing such a diet, it would be best to consult with a certified nutritionist as myself or registered dietician, as eliminating things for too long can cause nutritional deficiencies or even milder effects as headaches, constipation, or loss of energy, to start.  Also, it can be confusing as not all sugars may need to be eliminated.  For example, sucrose, lactose, and maltose are all disaccharides, but lactose in particular, is more the problematic one.  Also, it is important not to restrict too severely or for too long.  It is important to slowly add foods back in after a certain period of time, according to severity of symptoms at start.  Below are some ways on how this is done.

Eliminating and Restricting:

I usually start people off with taking away the higher reactive foods as wheat, dairy and certain fruits. 

Reintroducing Foods:

After anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks of restriction, slowly bringing back foods in small amounts and only in one category.  For example, if thinking of bringing back in bread, don’t reintroduce dairy the same week.

There may be times when you need to go back to step one and spend a couple of weeks with a more restricted diet, just to let your GI system settle down again. Then you can start testing new foods again.

Journaling and Preparing:

Refer to a FODMAP list of foods and write down as many LOW FODMAP foods you can, so not to get bored and have variety.  This will help stay on the plan, especially if needing to go longer into that 6-week mark.  Journal along the way so that if no symptoms you can move into some more moderate FODMAP foods.  This will also make it easier into the transition of bringing foods back in, in general

A low-FODMAP diet requires patience to figure out, and it isn’t a magic solution that will solve all your digestive-health concerns. But it is a tool that can help you on a path to feeling better. 

Again, it is advisable to seek out a qualified professional in the area to help you plan, so that you are still eating nutrient dense foods, to offset any other side effects of an elimination type diet.  It’s always good to get advice from a doctor if symptoms were to not get better, as there maybe something else going on. 

On a side note, I would like to thank Charlie Ashmore, on adding to the discussion on a previous article I wrote “Vegan Vs Carnivores”.  The more information we have, the easier it is to make informed choices and a difference.

*If this article or any past articles leaves you with questions, the want to be a better you, the courage to take the first step to a happier you, than please contact me at: 

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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