What is a Low FODMAP Diet?
Put simply, FODMAPs refers to certain sugars known to trigger digestive problems.
The acronym 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 are 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
- And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however, they don’t lead to intoxication!)
A low FODMAP diet, or FODMAP elimination diet, refers to a temporary eating pattern that has a very low amount of these sugar compounds. The aim of this diet is to eliminate digestive symptoms by eliminating all FODMAPs, then reintroducing them gradually to see what’s triggering the symptoms.
This diet can be beneficial for managing symptoms for people who have gastrointestinal disorders such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder (FGID)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Certain auto-immune conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Other health issues triggered by certain foods.
Low FODMAP diet is a first-line treatment
Research in this area still has a way to go, but scientific consensus is that a low FODMAP diet should be the first dietary approach for treatment of recurrent gastrointestinal issues.
Most of the research has been on patients with IBS, which is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. Around two thirds of IBS patients report their symptoms are related to food.
In one landmark study, almost 9 out of every 10 people on the FODMAP diet had huge improvements in bloating, stomach pain, flatulence and their overall symptoms. Another high quality study found IBS symptoms were reduced by 50% overall on the low FODMAP diet, with the greatest improvements observed one week after implementing the diet (1, 2).