FODMAPs: How can common, healthy foods, be contributing to your belly ache?
Wendy Milligan BHSc BSc(Hons) mNHAA
Naturopath & Nutritionist

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects at least 1 in 5 of us and can significantly affect our quality of life. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea and even depression and anxiety.  A dietary approach that can work well for IBS symptoms is known as the Low FODMAP Diet, this ‘diet’ has been demonstrated to reduce symptoms in approximately 75% of those suffering from IBS.

So. What exactly are FODMAPs?

The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are not completely broken down and absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. Essentially sugars, they exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel. The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are the cause of your abdominal discomforts such as gas, pain, and diarrhoea. Understanding how FODMAPs affect the gut and knowing how to eliminate them from your diet may be the key to keeping your IBS symptoms in check.

Lactose from dairy products, fruit containing high levels of fructose, coconut products, and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables, and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols are all rich in FODMAPs and can be difficult to digest for people with functional gut disorders. These foods can cause serious and painful symptoms in those with IBS.

What causes FODMAP Intolerance
While eating foods containing FODMAPs does not cause IBS, most people with IBS are FODMAP intolerant. So what causes FODMAP intolerance? In some cases, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), contributes to the development of IBS symptoms and FODMAP intolerance. Here the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the small intestine causes excessive fermentation of these carbohydrates, increasing gas production and allowing for the proliferation of uncontrolled gut bacteria. Additionally, certain individuals may lack adequate digestive enzymes and stomach acid to break down and absorb the fermentable sugars before they reach the colon, contributing to the osmolarity changes and bacterial fermentation that occurs in the large intestine. Emotional and physical stress are also known to be contributing factors to the development of IBS and could induce FODMAP intolerance for reasons not yet fully understood. Although we do know that stress alters the gut flora significantly and could be the reason why stress, FODMAP intolerance, and IBS are so closely linked.

How do you fix your symptoms?
As well as addressing gut bacteria, following a low FODMAP diet is an effective dietary intervention to help reduce chronic IBS symptoms. Research suggests that by eliminating FODMAP containing foods and avoiding gluten, a reduction in symptoms can be achieved. It must be remembered that a low FODMAPs diet is not usually a long-term strategy, common foods and food groups need to be avoided initially but the aim is to gradually re-introduce these foods back into your diet once the healing of your gastrointestinal tract has occurred.

If you experience gastrointestinal discomfort and would like to follow a low FODMAP diet, book an appointment with Wendy today.