What the heck are FODMAPs?

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So you’ve done everything right: you’ve ditched the refined sugar and processed food, you’re eating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, you’re exercising a couple of times a week and moving a lot every day. But you’re still suffering with abdominal bloating, gas, cramping and discomfort. What’s going on? The problem could be FODMAPs.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. In layman’s terms, these are sugars and sugar alcohols that are naturally present in many fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and legumes. These particular carbohydrates and sugar alcohols tend to be poorly absorbed by the small intestine, and as a result they pass on to the large intestine where they are fermented by the beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive tracts.

If you’ve ever made homebrew beer, kombucha or sourdough bread then you know what fermentation does — it bubbles up with gas. This can cause bloating, cramping, flatulence and other unpleasant digestive symptoms. I’ve found that for me personally, too many FODMAPs also can lead to fatigue and a return of my fibromyalgia pain.

Fortunately the fix is pretty simple: just stop eating so many FODMAP-containing foods! If you click here you’ll see a fantastic chart of high- and low-FODMAP foods that you can print out and keep handy for reference.

Because a low-FODMAP diet is fairly restrictive, I do not recommend avoiding FODMAPs as a matter of course. While there are hydrogen and methane breath tests available to diagnose malabsorption of two of the FODMAPs, fructose and lactose, the most low-intervention and cost-effective way to determine whether FODMAPs might be a problem for you is to keep a food and symptom diary. Write down what you eat and drink during the day and note any symptoms: digestive upset, fatigue, aches and pains, mood, sleep quality — anything and everything about how you’re feeling. Reference the chart linked above and note whether, on the days you’re not feeling so great, you’ve eaten a lot of FODMAP-containing foods.

If it turns out FODMAPs are a problem for you, don’t despair! There is very little chance you will need to remove all FODMAP-containing foods from your diet permanently. Simply being aware of what you’re eating, paying attention to your symptoms, and cutting back a bit on the FODMAPs when your symptoms are at their worst will likely keep your gut and the rest of you happy!

Want to dig a little deeper? Read more about FODMAPs here.

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What the heck are FODMAPs?