what is the low FODMAP diet?

I was first introduced to the low FODMAP diet in 2013 after suffering with stomach pains, vomitting, and more for months, to then be diagnosed with a hiatus hernia. Personally, I’m still not 100% convinced that that’s the problem (still being tested) but either way, following a low FODMAP diet has improved my symptoms dramatically, and almost completely!

The FODMAP diet originated in Australia, but has since been researched further globally including the UK, and is now the commonly prescribed, and scientifically proven diet to help relieve symptoms for stomach issues ranging from IBS to Chron’s disease. And again, I’m no nutrionist but I have “preached” this diet to so many of my friends who have had gut related problems, and after talking to their doctor and trying the diet, the result for every single one following it has been amazing!

first of all, what does FODMAP stand for?

  • Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
  • Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
  • Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule – lactose and milk sugar (milk, yoghurt, ice cream…)
  • Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single sugar molecule (apple, honey, asparagus…)
  • And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (mushrooms, cauliflower…)

how can eating a high FODMAP diet affect me?

When eaten or drank FODMAPs can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass through to the large intestine, where two major events happen:

  • The FODMAPs are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas.
  • The FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, meaning that they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.

These two processes can then trigger symptoms including excess wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, or a combination of both.

so, what now?

Following a low FODMAP diet can be overwhelming at first, and when first presented with the comprehensive list of high FODMAPs to avoid I wondered how I was ever going to eat again. But following this diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat any of it; it’s all about finding out what works for you – what are your personal triggers and how can you adapt the diet to suit you.

For example my main triggers are: wheat, barley, rye, garlic, onion, mushrooms, apples, pears, mango, kidney beans, cashew nuts and sugar free sweets – which sounds like a lot, but there’s also a lot on the high FODMAP list that I can tolerate perfectly fine!

where do I start?

First of all, make sure you see a health professional before beginning; this shouldn’t be used as a weight loss diet or if you’re not suffering with IBS/ other gut conditions. Doctors and dieticians would usually start you off with the FODMAP elimination diet. This is a 6-8 week “learning diet” in which you cut out high FODMAPs completely to let let your body recover. After this, you can slowly reintroduce certain food groups into your diet and see how you react. The ultimate goal is for you to be able to eat the most varied diet that you can tolerate, rather than to restrict the diet with one-size-fits-all rules.

This diet really does take a lot of experimenting and patience, but if done right it really can be a game changer (and in my case – life changer)!