What are FODMAPS, anyway?

FODMAP Questions and answers

What is the Low-FODMAP Diet?

The Low-FODMAP Diet is a program created by researchers at Australia’s Monash University to help people suffering from the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. By eating only foods low in FODMAPs (a type of carbohydrate—see below), some 75% of patients found a huge reduction in their symptoms. It is now considered one of the most effective treatments for IBS symptoms, and it involves no special medications or products, just a careful approach to cooking and eating.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are a class of carbohydrate that some people have trouble digesting. The word “FODMAP” is an acronym for the different sub-classes of carbohydrate included in the designation: Fermentable (which applies to all of them), Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharide and Polyols. Different people have different reactions to the particular sub-classes; some people might digest Disaccharides fine but have trouble with Polyols.

What are some foods that contain FODMAPs?

The list of foods that contain FODMAPs is long, and not always predictable. Broadly, though, it includes vegetables like onions and garlic; fruits like apples, pears, and basically all stone fruits; dairy products that contain lactose (which is not, it should be emphasized, all dairy); legumes like lentils, and gluten grains like wheat and rye.

Where can I find a list of low-FODMAP foods?

I’ve put together a handy list of high- and low-FODMAP foods here. Monash University also offers a useful app for iPhones, which I’ve found helpful when out shopping and planning meals.

Can I cook the FODMAPs out of my food?

I wish! Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work that way. Though are some workarounds, such as cooking garlic in oil to imbue it with flavour and then discarding the garlic pieces, there’s no way to get rid of FODMAPs by cooking or heating them.

How easy it is to cut out FODMAPs?

Short answer: easier than it might seem. The Low-FODMAP lifestyle can be intimidating at first. Most people find it hard enough to cut out lactose or gluten grains alone, but both at the same time, as well as a seemingly random assortment of fruits and vegetables? It seems tough, and for the first few weeks it can be. But you’ll soon find your habits changing, and—most importantly—if you indeed have trouble digesting FODMAPs, you’ll (probably) start feeling a lot better. This blog was started as a resource for people going through that transition. When I started, there were very few resources on the web, or places to find recipes, advice, etc. I’m hoping that by sharing my journey I can make it easier for others on the Low-FODMAP path to feeling better.

Do I need to stop eating all FODMAPs for life?

Definitely not. Researchers recommend that you gradually re-introduce individual categories of FODMAP foods after about 6 weeks. Some FODMAPs are prebiotics, meaning that they help foster healthy bacteria in your gut—the stuff you need! After the re-introduction period, you may not end up being able to eat everything you enjoyed before, but more likely than not, you will go back to consuming some. For more information, check out this great post on Monash’s blog.

Is the Low-FODMAP Diet the same as gluten-free diets?

There is definitely some overlap, but they are not the same. For one, you’re cutting out a lot more than just gluten, which is definitely more difficult, but on the other hand, you don’t have to be as strict about it. Remember, this is a LOW-FODMAP plan, not a NO-FODMAP lifestyle. You can consume a little—soy sauce, for instance, is fine—and not need to be as strict as people on the gluten-free lifestyle. Please note, though, that Low-FODMAP eating is not appropriate for celiac disease sufferers, who must completely exclude gluten grains. If you have celiac disease, do NOT attempt this. And if you have any doubt at all, make sure you check with a qualified physician beforehand.