Low FODMAP Diets – what are they and what are the benefits?

Low FODMAP Diets – what are they and what are the benefits?

FODMAP – strange word, but it is a shortened version of a very, very long set of words! FODMAP is actually an acronym for ‘fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols’. For a much simpler description, a low-fodmap diet restricts certain types of carbohydrates which would be detrimental to those suffering from IBS. This type of diet will offer relief from the classic, debilitating symptoms, such as bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

The diet is not a cure, make no mistake, but it can be a tremendous relief for sufferers. Millions of people throughout the world have benefited from a change to this style of eating. The fact that in the region of 80% of IBS sufferers have had success with symptomatic relief, does prove its functionality.

This diet is relatively strict and does take effort on the part of the sufferer. It’s a process, a diet that is done in stages which must be adhered to. Most people in these stages seek the help of a dietician, as it is probably one of the most difficult to follow rigidly. Once you realise what it entails, you will easily be able to continue along the right lines. Just remember, it’s not a quick fix, and whether you lose weight on it or not, is irrelevant to the issue in hand. Before a dietician starts to programme your diet, he/she will undoubtedly ask if you have had any tests by your doctor, such as this.

No two people are the same; your diet can be completely different or just a little different to others following the FODMAP regime, but there are certain trigger carbs that will generally appear in everyone’s list. Think about how great it would be to ‘get your life back’, which is eminently possible with FODMAP. Suffering in silence with IBS is no way to live.

It is extremely important to have an appointment with your doctor before steaming ahead with the plan, particularly if you have other food restrictions or a specific condition that may interfere with the diet, or make you feel worse. Examples are diabetes, gluten intolerance or even living a vegan lifestyle could cause problems for you. Once he/she gives you the green light, we do recommend the help of a dietician who can explain why they are helping you through the diet and for making the right decisions and potential meal plans.

How it works

This diet was originally created by Monash University in the United States, but there may have been earlier versions that never hit the headlines. Following their system has proved successful for many people and a lot of dieticians recommend their methods. It’s a 3-stage regime:

  • STAGE 1. Low Fodmap – in this phase, you only eat low fodmap foods. A dietician will supply you with a list or booklet on what foods you are allowed to eat. It is not an elimination diet, more of a substitution method.

  • STAGE 2. A period of time where foods are reintroduced into your diet, in a calculated way. This will demonstrate which foods are, or are not, triggers for you. It is done a group at a time, separately, while you continue on the low-fodmap regime at the same time. Timing is important, so working with a dietician will mean you don’t have to decide, they do the planning for you. It’s helpful as they will tell you the amount you should eat, and the order in which you should eat it. It may seem regimented, but for this to work, the stages must be followed. If you drift away from this, symptoms will show to this effect. Do expect the reintroduction phase to last between 6-8 weeks.

  • STAGE 3. This is where your diet becomes personalised, which your dietician will have worked out for you to get maximum benefit. It will show what foods were well tolerated, and what foods should 100% be avoided. After a couple of months, if the diet is working well, you may be able introduce some of the foods that you were avoiding, but you need to consult with your dietician.

The list of foods for each part of the diet is vast, as you can imagine. From the stages that you go through, your dietician will be able to pinpoint which particular group/s are causing the most grief for you, i.e. (As taken from the full meaning of FODMAP) fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, or polyols. As you can see, this diet is based on science, not on any form of ‘fad’.

Looking at success stories for FODMAP, it must surely be worth trying, if you feel you have the determination. There are no pills and potions or fad combinations, it is all based on fact. A well-qualified dietician could do wonders for you and your lifestyle.