If you have irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel disease or simply digestive issues, you’ve likely heard of the low FODMAPs diet. You may know someone who’s done the diet or perhaps a doctor or specialist has recommended it for you. If you’ve checked out my blog, you’ll have read about the low FODMAPs diet there too. If you haven’t already read my article ‘What Causes IBS’, I suggest you have a look. I thought you might like to know more about what FODMAPs are all about and why you may want to consider giving it a go.
A low FODMAPs diet can be fantastic for many people with IBS to help reduce gut symptoms. Three out of four people with IBS will find some relief in their symptoms when following a low FODMAPs diet. I have supported many clients with a low FODMAPs diet and I know that for some people it can be life-changing.
I want you to know straight up that the low FODMAPs diet is a short-term investigative diet. It’s not a diet that you should follow for the rest of your life. It is NOT designed for, or advised to do for longer than six weeks. I’ve written a blog with more detail on this which you can read HERE.
Most of my clients will see significant improvements in their gut symptoms within 1-3 weeks of following a low FODMAPs diet and we then move through the food challenge process.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. This essentially refers to sugars and fibres found in some fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and milk-based products that ferment in the colon.
Just as fermented foods and drinks like beer, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir are bubbly and gassy, gas is produced by fermentation in our colon by our residential bacteria after feeding off these foods. Hence, FODMAPs are known as prebiotics – they’re poorly broken down in the gut and end up in our colon where our microbes, such as bacteria, use them as party food.
Are FODMAPs bad for you?
What is important to understand though, is that this gas production is not only normal for every person, but feeding our healthy gut bacteria is really important for health. For example, the production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate produced by bacteria in our colon from FODMAPs, is anti-inflammatory, protective against colon cancer, supports the growth of new health gut cells, assists digestion and bowel movements, and reinforces the gut’s protective lining… to name a few. It also even exerts potentially useful effects on metabolic disease, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and other health conditions.
It’s just unfortunate that when we have an irritable, sensitive, inflamed gut, the gas produced by our bacteria can cause discomfort, bloating and pain. Some microbes living in our gut cause more gas than others too. FODMAPs can also influence bowel movements, causing constipation and / or diarrhoea.
How does a low FODMAPs diet help reduce IBS?
By reducing the amount of these fermentable foods in the diet, there is less fermentation in the gut and the amount of abdominal bloating, discomfort and pain reduces.
Monash University are responsible for much of the research on FODMAPs and how a low FODMAPs diet can help people with IBS. They have a great short video HERE that introduces it nicely.
Should I try a low FODMAPs diet?
The research is clear, that reducing FODMAPs among people with irritable bowel syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease who have the symptoms I described above, offer relief more times than not. It’s great news! And I definitely see the results in clinic.
Once we get you feeling better, we can start to re-introduce these foods back into the diet in a systematic way to prevent the symptoms returning. Remember, a low FODMAPs is just the first step towards your healthier gut, it is not a longterm solution!
If you’d like to know more about the low FODMAP diet or are keen to try it, reach out to our team or book an appointment with our gut-focused dietitian. There’s no point in delaying help – I know how much gut troubles can impact quality of life. If you’ve already tried the low FODMAPs diet by yourself without an experienced practitioner supporting you, and you didn’t find symptom relief, don’t give up! I would be happy to work with you to see if fine-tuning the diet will help or to identify what other strategies could be helpful for you.