December 5, 2023

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What are FODMAPs?

The idea of FODMAP surfaced in 2005. At the time, there was no collective term for indigestible or slowly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates, so scientists coined term “FODMAP.” The low FODMAP diet was originally developed by a research team at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. They also established a rigorous food analysis program to measure the FODMAP content in foods.

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.” Yeah, don’t worry. There won’t be a test on that.

FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods, and most people eat high FODMAP foods everyday without any problems at all. In humans, FODMAP move slowly through the small intestine attracting water. When they reach the large intestine, gut bacteria is supposed to ferment the FODMAPs, doing the work acids in the small intestine could not do. A classic example is the skins of some beans. Those skins are not broken down in the small insestine and are passed to the large intestine. At that point, your gut bacteria is supposed to eat it. If all goes well, the skins are eaten and the worst thing you get is a little lower GI gas (farts). On the other hand, those skins can cause a host of other problems if your gut bacteria cannot properly process the skins.

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), those extra problems can range from just troublesome to really bad. The difference is that people with IBS can have problems with motility (the speed at which contents move through the intestines) and/or a highly sensitive gut wall. The extra water and gas in the intestines, causes the intestinal wall to stretch and expand, which results in common IBS symptoms such as pain, excessive gas, bloating, distension and altered bowel habit (diarrhea, constipation or both).

A person may be sensitive to one or more FODMAPs. Finding which FODMAPs a person has problems with is kind of a big deal. The person would start a rigorous FODMAP diet to cleanse the system, then slow re-introduce High FODMAP foods back into the diet to see if there is a reaction. A FODMAP diet is intended is for people with medically diagnosed IBS. If a medical doctor has not diagnosed your gastrointestinal symptoms, you should not be following the diet. You should not self-diagnose yourself with IBS. Instead, see a medical doctor.

On the other hand, you may notice that you have lower GI troubles when you eat a particular food. I have identified a few. Knowledge is power, as they say.

Here are a few more resources, for your convenience:

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