The FODMAP Approach

You may have noticed that some of the recipes I’ve been posting lately are noted to be “FODMAP Friendly.”  I figured that it might be a good time to talk a little bit more about what this means and why it’s worth mentioning.

FODMAP is an acronym that stands for a collection of carbohydrates in the foods that you eat (it actually stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, but you don’t really need to know that!!).  There is an ever growing list of foods that have these FODMAPS (and those that don’t,) but here are just a few examples of foods that do: wheat, onions, beans, cabbage, etc.

For people with IBS symptoms, FODMAPS can increase distention of the stomach and contribute to some of the other not-so-lovely symptoms.  Why?  These carbohydrate offenders are oftentimes poorly absorbed and are then used as “food” for the bacteria that naturally live in your gut (which also creates gas.)

So.

What’s the big deal?

Nothing.  Nothing for people who don’t have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, that is.  But if you have been diagnosed with this oftentimes debilitating disease, then this diet may be your solution.  There are several books (and dietitians!) to help you personalize the diet, with the basic principle of finding out (a) if lowering foods high in FODMAPS will help your symptoms, (b) how much of the foods with FODMAPS you can tolerate and (c) how to make your IBS as manageable as possible while keeping you sane.

My own personal story with IBS started when I was really little.  I remember having bad “tummy aches” and having to lie down after dinner (especially during the holidays.)  I remember thinking that I looked like I had a watermelon in my stomach by the end of the day.  My stomach would often feel as if it was at war with itself, gurgling and cramping and aching.  I even went through a period of dramatic weight loss in my teens, all because I felt better when I was hungry vs. when I had a belly full of food!

Fast forward to this past year, when I finally decided to give the FODMAP Diet a try.  I eliminated all of the high-FODMAP foods for two weeks and the end result was more than I could have hoped for.  Stomach distention?  Cramps?  Almost completely gone.  I had to give up a lot of my favorite foods (kale, brussels sprouts, baked beans, soy milk etc.) and reduce the amount I ate of some others (bananas, blueberries, nuts, etc.)  But it was worth it.

Because for once in my life, my stomach felt…

normal.

After an elimination diet, I’m still working on figuring out exactly the right amount of FODMAPS my body will tolerate and what kinds.  

And.  I’ll be honest.  This diet is a process.  But after the elimination phase (which is when you should feel the difference,) you will slowly reintroduce the foods one at a time so that you can make your diet as variable as possible for optimum health (and sanity!)  I don’t recommend doing this diet on your own; definitely get a dietitian and a gastroenterologist familiar with FODMAPS involved.

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend:

This website: Kate Scarlata 

This book: IBS-Free At Last

And this list of FODMAP foods to get you started: Shopping List

And, of course, always talk with your doctor before attempting anything new.  You shouldn’t do this diet unless you’ve been tested for other diseases such as Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, etc.  Get your doctor/gastroenterologist involved so that you know you’re on the right track towards better health!

(p.s. There are a LOT of websites for FODMAPS out there.  Be sure you know the source of the person authoring the articles of information, as the FODMAP Approach is an evolving science and it is ALWAYS a wise choice to stick with science-based research!)