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The Low FODMAP Eating Plan: Why You, Why Now?

It is already 2 weeks into 2018- how are those New Year resolutions going? Don't answer that- it doesn't really matter. I don't even make traditional resolutions, no over-promising here! Applying those SMART goals is a more realistic way to invite positive change into your life. Hope you've at least written down one and posted it on the fridge. So far, I've taken my first barre class (so much fun and challenging) and working toward my trail race (half marathon) at the end of February. SMART small steps (or plie!)

Over the course of the holiday season I had a few people tell me that they were feeling bloated and gassy. Besides the fact that most people over eat during the holiday season, it could also be the food choices that cause discomfort and abdominal distention. Or, if you have been diagnosed (or if you suspect that you have) IBS, you may find that modifying your intake may relieve some of your symptoms. You might have heard of the Low FODMAP eating plan by now. If not, I will give a brief introduction as to what they are and why they may be the culprits.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lays out the FODMAPs guidelines well. If you want more details, search under Monash University whose experts specially developed the low FODMAPs diet. They have an excellent app to help with grocery shopping, assessing recipes and meal planning. As 15% of the worlds population is affected by IBS, there is no need to wonder why this non medical intervention for IBS has been gaining speed.


What is a FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym for:

Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols

These short-chain carbohydrates are found naturally in many of the foods we eat. These particular types of carbohydrates share three important characteristics: they are poorly absorbed in the intestine, draw extra water into the intestine and are rapidly fermented by bacteria in the bowel. Depending on the quantity consumed and an individual's tolerance, FODMAPs can lead to increased gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Prior to starting any new diet, consult a medical professional to rule out celiac disease, cancer and food allergies or intolerances. If a FODMAP diet is prescribed, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist is especially important.

Four Types of FODMAPs

  • Oligosaccharides There are two different groups of oligosaccharides: fructans and galactans. Fructans are found in wheat products, onions, garlic, artichokes and inulin. Galactans are found in lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts and soy-based products.

  • Disaccharides The most commonly known disaccharide is lactose, which naturally occurs in milk and some dairy products and requires lactase, a digestive enzyme, for absorption. Milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, ice cream and puddings are all disaccharides containing lactose.

  • Monosaccharides Fructose is a monosaccharide found in fruits. Fructose absorption is enhanced when it is combined with sources of glucose, another type of sugar. Therefore, when it comes to FODMAPs, not all fruits are equal. Those containing equal amounts of fructose and glucose may be more easily tolerated. Some examples of higher-fructose containing foods that may cause gastrointestinal symptoms include (but is not limited to) agave, honey, mangos, watermelon, sugar snap peas and high fructose corn syrup.

  • Polyols Polyols are sugar alcohols found in some stone fruits (such as cherries and nectarines), apples and pears; in vegetables such as mushrooms and cauliflower; and in some sugar substitutes containing xylitol or sorbitol.

How the Low FODMAP Diet May Work

This diet starts with a low FODMAP period, usually ranging from six to eight weeks. Then, under a medical professional's observation (dietitian), a patient will gradually reintroduce certain FODMAP containing foods. During the reintroduction period, it is vital to keep track of signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal distress in order to help identify food offenders.

Reintroduction is important because over-restriction can cause harm too. Cutting too many fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins and dairy foods from the diet can lead to increased risk of deficiencies in nutrients such as fiber, minerals such as calcium, protein (for vegetarians or vegans) and vitamins A, C and D. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help manage the reintroduction phase by developing an eating plan that meets an individual's nutrient needs. Remember, this is a low FODMAP diet, not a no FODMAP diet; it is a highly individualized therapy that was designed to help manage symptoms, not to cure them completely.

If you're curious about trying this eating plan and want support, give me a shout!

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