What The Hell Does FODMAPs Mean? And Should I Be Following It?
The Debrief: This isn’t just another food trend you’re late to join, it’s actually got a purpose and might help if you have IBS.
Over the last few years, more and more of us have become alert to the various dietary requirements that extend beyond our own eating habits. Blame it on ‘clean eating’, blame it on the ‘Free From’ supermarket ranges, or on the fact that we just seem to be talking about it more. Regardless, as long as you’re not self-diagnosing yourself as gluten intolerant for the sake of your assumed health and a hashtag, understanding these things better can only be a good thing.
But, truth be told, when a new word slips into our vocabulary it’s easy to forget to actually take the time to work out what it actually means. You might have heard people refer to the fodmap diet over the years, but do you know what that involves? Or whether or not you should follow it too? Well, before you go throwing away everything in your fridge, here’s what you need to know.
What does FODMAP mean?
FODMAP is an acronym, don’t you know. It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Try saying that three tequilas down.
It’s basically a collection of carbohydrates that are difficult for your small intestine to absorb. They include things like lactose and fructose (which is an excess of glucose) that is found in various fruit, veg, milk and wheat.
What does it have to do with IBS?
So when you eat food containing FODMAPs, they don’t actually break down or absorb properly which can release gas or get ‘expelled together with fluid’, explains the IBS network. And by that, we think they mean they'll give you the shits. So, in short, FODMAP food can upset your tummy if it’s particularly sensitive and you have IBS, which will cause things like bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Doesn’t sound like a good time, does it? The good news is though that if you suspect you have a history of IBS or suspect you may have it (but always check with your doctor first, kids), is that a low FODMAP diet is known to ease and reduce the symptoms.
What’s a low FODMAP diet plan?
The oligosaccharides bit of the acronym refers to the stuff you find in wheat, rye, pulses and legumes (lentils, peas and beans). The D for disaccharides can be found in lactose, monosaccharides means things like free fructose which is sometimes in fruit juice and honey, and finally, the polyols bit refers to things that can also be found in some fruit and veg.
Following a low FODMAP diet basically would mean avoiding the things (like the ones above) that are known to cause stomach irritation. And yeah, it sounds like quite a lot to cut out of your diet but you might not necessarily have to avoid absolutely everything forever. For example, on the IBS network website, it says that the lactose bit only really applies to people who are lactase deficient. The long-term aim is to limit these difficult carbs to see if your symptoms improve and then gradually re-include them in your diet to essentially work out which foods are most triggering for you so that you can adapt around it as much or little as necessary.
Apparently, a low FODMAP diet is effective for roughly 70% of people with IBS so might be worth considering if you really struggle with the condition.
Is the FODMAP diet vegan?
Not necessarily. By definitely, FODMAP doesn’t specifically mention stomach trouble caused by eating meat or animal produce. If you are vegan and struggle with IBS though, cutting out a lot of your fruit and veg intake might be a bit daunting so definitely do your research before you jump into the FODMAPS diet all willy nilly. But if you were looking for some advice and recipes specific to vegan requirements as well as FODMAPs, then The FODMAP Friendly Vegan website and blog might be a good place to start to get your head around the sorts of things someone in a similar position is eating. Just don’t forget that your gut isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s, it’s not a one FODMAP diet fits all kind of deal.
Do I need to see a dietician?
I’m gonna say yes. Just because it might sound straight forward in writing, it’s actually quite a complex thing that takes a long time to work out. So the first point of call would be your GP and then they’ll be able to refer you to a dietician who can properly advise how to go about it. There’s loads of great advice online on websites like IBS Free and FODMAP Friendly.
What’s this about a FODMAP app?
Oh yeah, buddy. Didn’t they teach you that there’s an app for everything these days? FODMAP Friendly have launched a handy app with a full list of what to eat and what to not. There’s also one called FODMAP by FM which was developed in partnership with researchers from Kings College London and Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation trust. It’s £3.99 after your 14-day free trail but looks super useful and lets you search foods in UK supermarkets to find out what’s okay to eat and what’s best to avoid.
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