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What you should know about the FODMAP diet
The abbreviation FODMAP stands for "fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides and polyols". The cryptic name hides a nutritional concept that was specially developed for people with digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. A specialist in gastrointestinal complaints explains what to look for on the FODMAP diet.
FODMAP is a nutritional concept that avoids certain groups of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are difficult to absorb in the small intestine. These include, for example, fructose, lactose, fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides, sorbitol and mannitol. Hazel Galon Veloso is a gastroenterologist at the renowned Johns Hopkins University. The expert explains how and with which complaints a low FODMAP diet can help.
What is a low FODMAP diet?
The FODMAP diet is designed to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colon deficiency (SIBO) find out which foods are problematic and which foods alleviate the symptoms. "The Low FODMAP diet is a temporary nutritional plan that initially brings with it many restrictions," reports the specialist.
Only follow Low-FODMAP for a short time
"Low-FODMAP is not a diet that someone should follow for a long time," emphasizes the gastroenterologist. Too many foods are missing for a long-term diet. Instead, it is a short discovery process to determine which foods are causing the symptoms. If you fear health problems due to the change in diet, you should discuss with your family doctor whether a FODMAP diet is suitable.
Which symptoms can FODMAP help with?
Around every fifth person suffers from regular digestive problems. Typical complaints include, for example
- Stomach cramps,
- Flatulence or an abdominal distension.
First phase: waiver
In the first step of the FODMAP diet, all foods that have a high proportion of the hard-to-absorb carbohydrates and sugar alcohols are avoided. “We recommend that you keep this phase of nutrition for two to six weeks,” says Veloso. This usually leads to a reduction in digestive complaints and a regeneration of the intestinal flora.
Second phase: gradual reintroduction
In the next step, individual foods are gradually reintroduced into the diet to see which of them are problematic. "You can put a high FODMAP food back in your diet every three days, one by one, to see if it causes any symptoms," says the expert.
Third phase: elimination
If a particular food with a high FODMAP content causes symptoms, Veloso says it should be avoided in the long term. In this way, everyone can find out individually which foods are tolerated and which are not.
Which foods are high in FODMAP?
Which foods trigger symptoms and which do not vary from person to person. To alleviate IBS and SIBO symptoms, it is important, according to Veloso deshlab, to avoid all high-FODMAP foods first. These include, for example
- Milk and yogurt,
- Milk-based ice cream,
- Wheat-based products such as bread and baked goods,
- Beans and lentils,
- some vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic,
- some fruits like apples, cherries, pears and peaches.
Which foods have a low FODMAP content?
Instead, Veloso recommends using foods with a low FODMAP content. These include, for example
- Eggs and meat,
- certain types of cheese such as Brie, Camembert, Cheddar and Feta,
- Almond milk,
- certain cereals such as rice, quinoa and oats,
- certain types of vegetables such as eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini,
- certain fruits such as grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapples
High success rate
If you want to follow a FODMAP diet, you should get a complete list of all FODMAP foods from a doctor or a nutritionist. This could be worthwhile for many people with digestive problems, because studies on the subject have shown, according to Veloso, that such a diet reduces indigestion in 86 percent of those affected.
Who is the diet not suitable for?
"Those who are underweight should not try this diet on their own," warns Veloso. Although the FODMAP diet is not intended for weight loss, since many foods are initially lost, many people lose weight if they follow the diet. "Losing more can be dangerous for someone who is already too light," warns the gastroenterologist. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know (accessed: November 20, 2019), hopkinsmedicine.org