What is the low FODMAP diet?

Fodmap is the term coined for easily fermentable, poorly absorbed carbohydrates that feed our bowel bacteria and cause gas and discomfort for many people.  The low Fodmap diet restricts these carbohydrates (fermentable oligo, di and mono saccharides and polyols) and can bring huge relief to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferers.

Professor Robin Spiller of the Nottingham Digestive Diseases Centre suggests that Fodmaps affect people differently and are particularly problematic for those whose bowels are hyper sensitive to stretch – that the degree of pain experienced depends on the sensitivity of the nerve endings in the bowel.

In their book ‘The Complete Low Fodmap Diet’, Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson point out that we all differ in our ability to digest and absorb different Fodmaps.   Absorption of the monosaccharide fructose is slow in all of us but very slow in some, some of us don’t have sufficient lactase to break down the disaccharide lactose and how we absorb the polyols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol differs from one individual to another.  These authors also emphasise that the effects of Fodmaps in the diet is cumulative so if someone is sensitive to lactose and fructose and has both at one meal the effect will be greater than if they were to only have eaten one of those foods at a meal.

The low Fodmap diet is quite a tricky one to follow as so many fermentable carbs are regularly eaten as part of a healthy diet but if you suffer from IBS or suffer from food intolerances it is well worth trying in order to relieve symptoms.  Once symptoms are minimized, ideally with the support of a nutritional therapist, you can then start to heal the gut and will hopefully experience an improvement to your overall health.

If you suffer from an irritable bowel it makes sense to try and reduce the Fodmaps on your plate.

Foods that are particularly high in Fodmaps:

(compiled from ‘‘The Complete Low Fodmap Diet’,)

The Oligosaccharide foods:

Nectarines, watermelon and white peaches

Artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots and spring onions

All gluten containing foods (foods containing wheat, barley and rye)

Chickpeas, lentils, beans

Pistachios and cashews

The Disaccharide foods:

All foods containing lactose – anything made with milk from cows, sheep and goats

The Monosaccharide foods:

All foods with a high fructose content – apples, cherries, figs, mangoes, pears, watermelon

Asparagus, artichokes, sugar snap peas

Agave nectar, honey

The Polyol foods:

Foods containing the sugar alcohols sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, polydextrose and isomalt – most often these are foods with artificial sweeteners but also include nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and prunes

With time (ideally having followed a low Fodmap diet for a couple of months) you can gradually reintroduce the Fodmap food groups one by one, individualising your diet by determining which carbs work or don’t work for you.


Read Alli’s other posts here