What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), lactose and polyols (eg. sorbitol and mannitol). A detailed description of each of these, including the foods they are found in, is provided below.
A diet low in FODMAPs (“a Low FODMAP Diet”) is scientifically proven1, and is now used internationally, as the most effective dietary therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and symptoms of an irritable bowel. Such symptoms include excessive wind (flatus), abdominal pain, bloating and distension, nausea and changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea and/or constipation). A Low FODMAP Diet has also been proven, with solid scientific research2, to reduce symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and poor concentration.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for:
Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule.
Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule.
Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however don’t lead to intoxication!)
How do FODMAPs trigger symptoms of IBS?
When consumed in foods and/or drinks, FODMAPs can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass through to the large intestine, where two major events happen:
- The FODMAPs are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas.
- The FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, meaning that they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.
These two processes can then trigger symptoms including excess wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, or a combination of both.
Information about each FODMAP, and examples of foods that contain FODMAPs, are listed in the table below:
An estimated 35% of the Australian population have intolerances to one or more of the above FODMAPs3. However, not all FODMAPs will be symptom triggers for all patients. By controlling and managing the consumption of foods that contain the FODMAPs triggering their symptoms, individuals can significantly reduce or even eliminate their IBS-type symptoms.
How to treat IBS and IBS-type symptoms?
The Low FODMAP Diet is proven to be an effective dietary treatment for the vast majority of people suffering from IBS. Consuming foods that are “FODMAP Friendly” complies with the Low FODMAP Diet.
1 See the following research papers, amongst others:
- Shepherd SJ, Parker FJ, Muir JG and Gibson, PR Dietary triggers of abdominal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome- randomised placebo-controlled evidence Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 2008;6(7):765-771 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1542356508001511
- Halmos, EP, Power VA, Shepherd SJ, et al. A Diet Low in FODMAPs Reduces Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Gastroenterology 2014;146(1)67-75
2 See the following research papers:
- Ong DK, Mitchell SB, Barrett JS, Shepherd SJ, Irving PI, Biesiekierski JR, Smith S, Gibson PR, Muir JG. Manipulation of dietary short chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of hydrogen and methane gas production and genesis of symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 2010 Aug ;25(8):1366-73
3 Barrett JS, Irving PM, Gearry R, Shepherd SJ, Gibson PR Comparison of the prevalence of fructose and lactose malabsorption across chronic intestinal disorders Aliment. Pharmacol. Therapeutics 2009;30(2):165-74