I've had the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome -- a gastrointestinal disorder -- for my whole life, but when I was younger, I didn't realize anything was wrong. My parents thought my cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea were normal because they had similar symptoms. So I thought it was normal, too. As I grew up, I pretty much just coped with it. It was inconvenient, but I did my best.
But three years ago, when I was 27, after having some minor surgery done, I had the worst symptoms ever...
The diet only limits carbs that are "Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols." No wonder they came up with an acronym!
For most people, FODMAPs are not a problem unless you eat too much of them. But some people are sensitive to them.
FODMAPs draw water into your digestive tract, which could make you bloated. If you eat too much of them, they can hang around in your gut and ferment.
These types of carbs are FODMAPs:
Fructose: Fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave
Fructans: Wheat, onions, garlic
Galactans: Legumes, such as beans, lentils, soybeans
Polyols: Sugar alcohols and fruits that have pits or seeds, such as apples, avocados, cherries, figs, peaches, or plums
Avoiding FODMAPs doesn’t help everyone. But in a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, about three out of four people with IBS had their symptoms ease right away after starting a low FODMAP diet and felt the most relief after 7 days or more on the plan.
Remember, FODMAPs aren't bad. Many foods that are rich in them encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Trying a Low-FODMAP Diet
If you have gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, you might consider nixing all five forms of FODMAP carbs (lactose, fructose, fructans, sugar alcohols, and galactans) for up to 4 weeks to see if it helps. If FODMAPs are the culprit, you’ll probably begin to feel better quickly.
You'll have many foods you can eat on this diet, but there's a steep learning curve about which foods are high in FODMAPs and what foods you could choose instead.
For example, these foods are high in FODMAPs:
Anything made with wheat, barley, or rye
Artificial sweeteners like in chewing gum
Garlic and onions
High-fructose corn syrup
Low-FODMAP foods include:
Almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens
There are many other foods on the high and low lists. So it's a good idea to work with a gastroenterologist and a dietitian who can help you limit FODMAPs with a balanced diet that meets all your nutritional needs.