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Avoid FODMAPs In Your Diet for Better Digestion

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FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or symptoms including abdominal pain, gas, bloating, flatulence, burping, constipation and diarrhea, the FODMAP diet may help. The FODMAP diet entails limitation or avoidance of food components containing FODMAPs, which are fructose, lactose, polyols, galactans and fructans. These foods lead to excess water and gas in the intestines - the cause of most gastrointestinal distress.

Fructose is a sugar that is found in high-fructose corn syrup and honey. When fructose is presented to your digestive system alone, you may experience diarrhea due to it's tendency to pull a large amount of water into your small intestine. Fructose is also present in fruit. However, you will not need to worry about restricting all fruits on the FODMAP diet because fruits that have a 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose will not likely cause discomfort. Fruits that have more fructose than glucose in them are the ones that you will want to avoid. These fruits include apples, pears, blackberries, prunes, dates, papaya, watermelon, mango, persimmon, orange juice and canned fruits. Also avoid eating a large portion of any fruit.

Lactose is dairy sugar found in milk products from cows, sheep and goats. If you are lactose intolerant, which is a common condition, you may experience gas, bloating, pain and diarrhea after eating lactose products due to a deficiency of the lactase enzyme which is needed to digest lactose.

Polyols are in artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol. Artificial sweeteners may be used in chewing gum, mints and cough drops. Polyols are in stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, cherries and plums. They are also in cauliflower and mushrooms.

Galactans are carbohydrates found in beans and lentils, cabbage, soy and brussels sprouts. Your body does not have an enzyme to break down galactans, so it can cause gas, bloating and other troublesome gastrointestinal symptoms.

Fructans are similar to galactans in that you are unable to digest them due to lack of an enzyme for this. Most of the fructans in the American diet come from wheat, but they are also in onions, shallot, leeks and garlic.

FODMAPs are found in a plethera of foods in varying levels, and different people are affected by FODMAPs in different ways. In order to create an individualized plan for yourself, keep a food diary or make mental note of foods containing FODMAPs that you consumed prior to experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. For example, if you ate a bowl of ice cream prior to experiencing pain and gas, you are likely lactose intolerant. Or if you feel fine all day after eating cream of mushroom soup, maybe you are not lactose intolerant, and maybe mushrooms do not affect you in a negative way. While more research is warranted on the FODMAP diet, the aim of it is to create an individualized diet that allows you the freedom of a comfortable and healthy gastrointestinal system.

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Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D., is the author of Modern Guide to Food and Eating: Low Glycemic Recipes and has been in the healthcare field since 2010. She graduated from the University of California at Davis with a Bachelor's of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and received her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition from Loma Linda University. She currently works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and a writer. She has experience in all fields of nutrition working with a variety of demographic groups and is an expert in the field.

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