If you’ve ever scoured the internet for a diet that’ll make you feel great (haven’t we all?!) and have better digestion, then you’ve probably come across blogs, cookbooks, and articles all about the Low FODMAP Diet. And chances are you stopped to ask, “What the heck is a FODMAP and why do I need to avoid it?!”
FODMAPs seem to be the latest trend in “what to avoid if you want to be healthy” – but not many people know exactly what they’re avoiding or why. If you’re wondering: “What are FODMAPs?,” “Should everyone avoid FODMAPs?,” or “Will a Low FODMAP Diet help me lose weight?,” read on for everything you need to know about the Low FODMAP Diet!
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. They’re all naturally occurring carbohydrates found in a variety of foods.
FODMAPS don’t get fully broken down during digestion, so they’re poorly absorbed in the intestine. Instead, they’re quickly fermented by bacteria in the bowel, which can result in gassiness and bloating in some people. They also draw extra water into the intestines, which could lead to diarrhea and cramps.
Where are FODMAPs found?
The four types of FODMAPs are found in a variety of foods that most people eat pretty often.
Oligosaccharides are found in wheat products, lentils, chickpeas, beans, soy products, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, and allium vegetables like onions and garlic.
The most common disaccharide is lactose, which is found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, ice cream, and most cheeses.
A sugar found naturally in fruit, fructose, is a monosaccharide that can be difficult to digest. When it’s found in combination with glucose, another monosaccharide, it can be easier to digest. So fruits and foods that are high in fructose, but lower in glucose, fall into the FODMAP category. Some examples are apples, pears, watermelon, mango, agave, and honey.
Polyols are sugar alcohols – not the kind of alcohol you’d find in a martini glass! Polyols are found in some stone fruits like plums and nectarines, and in sugar substitutes like xylitol and sorbitol.
Check out this pinnable list of low & high FODMAP foods:
What is the Low FODMAP Diet?
Now that you know what FODMAPs are, you could probably guess that a Low FODMAP Diet cuts out all the foods that are high in FODMAPs. If you have gas or bloating every once in a while, the diet might seem like a huge commitment in order to relieve those symptoms – and it is.
The Low FODMAP Diet was developed by researchers at Monash University as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a GI disorder characterized by chronic and relapsing abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. We’re not exactly sure what causes IBS and there’s no “cure,” so the best approach is symptom management – and that’s where cutting out FODMAPS, which can lead to IBS flare-ups, comes in.
Does the Low FODMAP Diet Work for IBS?
Before we get any further, it’s important to note that the Low FODMAP Diet was not designed as a long-term diet! When you read through the list of “high FODMAP” foods, you probably noticed that it’s pretty restrictive. No dairy, gluten, beans, soy, and limited fruits and vegetables – there’s hardly anything left to eat!
That’s because the Low FODMAP Diet is designed as an elimination diet. While working with a registered dietitian, you’d cut out all of these foods to see if your IBS symptoms are relieved. After several weeks (anywhere from 3-8 weeks), you’d start to reintroduce these foods one at a time to see which ones trigger IBS symptoms and which ones your body handles well. Maybe you don’t do well with dairy or stone fruits, but can handle soy and cruciferous vegetables, or vice versa. The reintroduction phase is crucial – there’s no point in cutting out specific healthy foods if your body has no problem digesting them. Everyone’s digestive system is different!
Because the Low FODMAP Diet is designed to help people individually discover what foods are distressing their GI system, it’s been shown to be highly effective in managing IBS symptoms. Several studies have found that following the Low FODMAP Diet with the help of a registered dietitian significantly reduces IBS symptoms.
Will a Low FODMAP Diet help you lose weight?
If you don’t have IBS but want to hop on the Low FODMAP train to lose weight, you might want to think again. The Low FODMAP Diet cuts out a lot of healthy foods that can help you lose weight (like many fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich beans and whole grains, and protein-rich dairy products like yogurt). These strict exclusions might be necessary if you have severe GI distress, but they won’t necessarily do you any favors when it comes to weight loss, and can even result in a diet that’s lacking in key nutrients (Ahem, that’s why it’s important to follow the FODMAP diet with guidance from a registered dietitian).
The Low-FODMAP Diet is pretty restrictive – but does it do any good for weight loss? https://ctt.ec/daA51+ @80twentyrule
Not all low FODMAP foods are healthy, either. For example, potato chips are low FODMAP, but binging on them won’t help you lose weight! Weight loss resulting from a Low FODMAP Diet can likely be attributed to cutting out any not-so-healthy foods that happen to be high FODMAP (like ice cream and refined grains), not to the FODMAPs themselves.
There aren’t any studies looking at the efficacy of a Low FODMAP Diet for weight loss, likely because, well, that’s not what it’s meant for. If you’ve got a healthy gut, stick to a balanced regimen that doesn’t cut out otherwise healthy foods!
Should you try a Low FODMAP Diet?
If you have ongoing GI distress or have been diagnosed with IBS, working with a dietitian to follow a Low FODMAP Diet might be beneficial. What’s great about the Low FODMAP Diet is that it isn’t one-size-fits-all. When you reintroduce FODMAP foods back into your diet, you’re able to discover exactly which foods work or don’t work for your body.
If you’re just looking for a healthy, balanced eating plan or for a diet to help you drop a few pounds, you can skip right over the Low FODMAP Diet. It’s designed to be followed for a short period of time to relieve IBS symptoms, not as a long-term guide for healthy habits.
Have you ever tried the Low FODMAP Diet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!