FODMAPs: Not Just a Fart Between Friends
Bloating, gas, constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea… If you suffer from digestive issues such as these, and if you’ve never heard of the FODMAP’s, then read on. Learning about them and experimenting with them can make a huge difference on your health, your comfort levels and your social life! The FODMAPs aren’t on the Paleo “Foods to Avoid” list, but they’re a definite “Maybe” for many people. For me, learning about them was a game changer.
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.
Essentially, they’re short chain carbohydrates and alcohols that the small intestine has difficulty digesting. This is true for all human beings. Because they’re not easily digested, the intestinal bacteria feed off them, producing hydrogen which ferments them. The fermentation produces gas and distention of the intestine.
Now, farts are always fun, especially those of others. But they’re a whole different story when accompanied by horrible odors, uncomfortable bloating, painful cramps, and either a blocked or gushing evacuation. All of these conditions indicate an unbalanced, poorly functioning digestive system. And because the digestive tract comprises most of the immune system, it’s possible that these are signs of more serious health problems.
The FODMAPs and Gut Bacteria Balance
The intestine is home to a multitude of bacteria. When these bacteria are in balance everything is fine. Our digestion is perfect. We effortlessly assimilate nutrients and eliminate harmful substances. But when environmental conditions (such as the food we eat) promote the over-proliferation of certain bacteria, all hell breaks loose. If the intestinal bacteria are constantly unbalanced, the risk is not only a little gas, but the possibility of developing serious problems such as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or SIBO, Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.
The FODMAPs can contribute in a significant way to the unbalance. The “bad” bacteria feed off them, permitting them to reproduce far more than they should.
Fodmaps Found in Common Foods
Unfortunately, the FODMAPs are found in a wide variety of common foods.
But adjusting the diet by reducing some and eliminating others may quickly resolve the digestive issues of a lifetime.
- Oligosaccharides include fructans and galactans
- Fructans are found in wheat, rye, barley, onion, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, chicory, leek, radicchio, the white part of onion, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel and in some probiotics
- Galactans are found in all legumes and beans, for example borlotti, peas, chickpeas and lentils
- Disaccharides are found in lactose
- Monosaccharides are found in fructose and in particular in fruit that has a higher ratio of fructose than glucose, for example apples, pears, fruit juice, watermelon, dried fruit, honey, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and agave nectar
- Polyols are found in sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol which are artificial sweeteners. Polyols are also found naturally in some fruits, including apples, apricots, avocados, peaches, pears, plums and watermelon, and in vegetables such as cauliflower and mushrooms.
Try Eliminating the FODMAPs and See What Happens
If you’re following the Paleo Diet then you’ll already be eliminating cereals, legumes, dairy products, refined sugars and alcohol. If your digestive problems have thus resolved, all good. If they’re persistant, try eliminating other FODMAPs such as cabbage, onions and garlic.
Elimination diets work because things become much clearer. Once you’re free of symptoms, reintroduce the ingredients one at a time. See what happens. If you explode like a balloon, you’ll know what’s causing the problem.
I know the idea of eliminating the FODMAPs from your diet as well as all the other Paleo recommendations sounds heavy, but it’s really not that bad, and I can reassure you, it’s worth it. After a lifetime of digestive issues, I can’t tell you how good it is to not be bloated and to not suffer from all those other horrible issues. It’s not a case of never eating garlic or onions again. It just means not necessarily eating garlic, onions, cabbage and peaches all in a row!
Continue to experiment. Be curious. You’ll discover exactly what works for you.
Milk and Dairy: Are They Good for Our Health? – It’s an interesting food group, this one. Well worth a read.
Alcohol and Excess Weight: It’s Not About the Calories – This is fascinating, and it’s all about alcohol being a toxin.
Muscovado Sugar – 7 Reasons Why I’m Okay with It – If you’re looking for an occasional sweetener, this is a top choice.