FODMAP is a diet that some specialists believe relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While the debate is strongly contested, there is much evidence to support the contention that FODMAP can help reduce IBS symptoms, even if it is not possible to cure it with this diet. 

FODMAP is a supplementary treatment to use alongside medications. As no medication can completely eradicate the pain, bloating and other unpleasant symptoms, FODMAP can help reduce the effects even more.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym that refers to a short- chain of carbs that are not absorbed by the small intestine. As the foods are not absorbed, the residue ferments the gut and causes many unpleasant symptoms. The acronym stands for Fermentable oligo di- monosaccharides and polyols.

Sensitivity to these carbohydrates is common in people with IBS and IBD and removing them from your diet can substantially reduce sensitivity.

There are four main components to FODMAP:

  1. Oligosaccharides
  2. Disaccharides, which include sucrose, lactose, and maltose
  3. Monosaccharides, the simplest form of sugars
  4. Polyols naturally occurring in some food types but are essentially the sweeteners used to replace sugar.

It is the combinations of these components that are indigestible by some.

The FODMAP diet

Low FODMAP is a dietary therapy that restricts food high in these carbohydrates. Research has proven that specific foods are responsible for the onset and worsening of IBS in approximately 80% of patients.

The primary action of the FODMAP diet is to reduce the amount of water in the intestine, which is the cause of diarrhoea; reduce the rate of absorption of carbohydrates and reduce the levels of faecal bacteria. This bacterium leads to the fermentation that creates the gases people with IBS pass more often.

Research into FODMAP is not conclusive, though there is a general acceptance that this diet will work and has been relatively successful compared to other treatments. A study by the National Institutes of Health indicates that a FODMAP diet resulted in a 44% decrease in abdominal pain, a 54% increase in stool frequency and a 32% decrease in bloating. While none of these numbers shows as 100% successful, it is still a higher success rate than some medications.

The benefits of a FODMAP diet

There are many applications of the FODMAP diet. First, and mostly, it is used to improve the quality of life of those with IBS and IBD. However, it is also used to help treat Ulcerative Colitis and brings some relief to those with Colorectal Cancer.

Some schools of thought suggest the longer you stick to a FODMAP diet, the better the results. It also impacts other digestive problems and reduces stress and anxiety, which improves gut health.

What happens if you eat a lot of high FODMAP foods?

The effects of FODMAP foods are not limited to those with gastrointestinal problems. The results of a high FODMAP diet can vary from person to person but can generally impact our food processing. While we are more aware of the impacts of these carbohydrates on our gut because they worsen IBS symptoms, we have all likely, at some point, endured some of the effects.

For instance, the high levels of water content these foods can produce are a direct source of diarrhoea. They also cause the presence of pro-inflammatory interleukins, which causes our stomachs to bloat. If you have ever eaten white bread and then bloated, this is likely why. For some, this bloating can be severe enough to cause stomach pain.

Basically, for some, these FODMAP foods are indigestible. Eat too many of them, and they bind with bacteria in your gut and ferment. Fermentation creates gases that cause you to bloat and increase your chances of flatulence.

Who should adopt a FODMAP diet?

If you suffer dietary complications, then a low FODMAP diet will help you. Initially, this would mean reducing all FODMAP goods from your diet for an extended time. If you see your symptoms improve, you know this diet is helpful.

You can then reintroduce foods to your diet to see what impact they have. While you can try to establish these patterns yourself, you may be better off doing this with a GP or a dietician if the symptoms are mild. It might be that a professional will want to supplement your diet with other foods while you investigate your triggers.

While this first stage is tough, as you cut out all your favourite foods, you can start to reintroduce your loves in small increments to evaluate their effect. Be sure to keep note of impacts, so you can evaluate your progress. Finally, you will be able to identify what will cause an effect and make a choice about how to control this in your life.

Published on Holr Magazine