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Q. What are FODMAPs?

A Fodmap is an acronym, and stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

Oligo = many

Di = two

Mono = one

Saccharide = sugar

For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these carbohydrates are poorly absorbed.

For this reason, researchers at Monash University developed the low fodmap elimination diet to improve IBS symptoms and fodmap tolerance.

FermentableMolecules are fermented = IBS symptoms
OligosaccharidesOligo = many, saccharide = sugar. Chain length sugar molecules such as fructans found in onion, garlic, wheat, rye, barley, inulin, some dried fruit & vegetables. Galactans are found in legumes, beans and some nuts.
DisaccharidesDi = two, saccharide = sugar. Lactose is made of two sugar molecules, galactose and glucose. This double sugar is found in milk, yoghurt, some cheese, cream, custard and ice-cream.
MonosaccharidesFructose is a single sugar, with high amounts in some fruits, juices, high-fructose corn syrup, honey & some vegetables.
PolyolsSugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol found in cauliflower, mushrooms, stone fruit & commercially sweetened foods such as mints and gums.

Q. How do FODMAPs cause symptoms?

A. Some fodmap foods draw water into the gut, causing diarrhoea. In people with IBS, some of these foods are not absorbed in the small intestine and can pass undigested into the large intestine. As a result, trillions of bacteria ferment the undigested food.

As with any fermentation process, gas and wind are produced, causing bloating, pain, abdominal cramps and sometimes nausea. Excess wind and gas can exert pressure on nerve endings lining the gut, triggering visceral hypersensitivity.

In others, gas production can contribute to constipation as movement of food through the gut is slowed.

Q. What is the low FODMAP diet?

A. The low fodmap diet is a three step process to determine which foods trigger your symptoms.

There is no blood test for food intolerance. Therefore, this evidence-based diet is used to work out food intolerance in a systematic way.

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Q. Is the low FODMAP diet also a Gluten-Free diet?

A. No.

Although found in similar foods, gluten and fodmaps are different components.

Gluten is a protein, found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats.

Fructans are carbohydrates, also found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale.

Some foods are not gluten free, but are suitable on the elimination phase. These include: oats, sourdough wheat and spelt breads, malt from barley, gluten as an ingredient, small amounts of wheat (up to ½ slice bread), glucose, dextrose and starch from wheat.

Q. When would you recommend the elimination diet?

A. Your doctor may advise you to follow a low fodmap diet to help improve your gut symptoms. It could also be suggested if you have an inflammatory bowel flare-up, or pre-surgery.

Whatever the reason for following, please ensure that you have guidance form a specialised Dietitian.

Research shows that staying on the elimination phase for too long is detrimental to gut flora, essentially starving bacteria of food (pre-biotics).