By Isabelle Huot
In the September issue, we briefly discussed the Low FODMAP Diet, which can help alleviate symptoms of intestinal distress caused by foods that can be hard to digest. Here’s what you need to know to make the diet work for you.
Developed by Australian researchers, the Low FODMAP Diet has been shown to reduce digestive symptoms for at least 75 per cent of those who follow it. It’s especially beneficial for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
FODMAP is an acronym that covers four groups of fermentable carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and can cause problems.
• Oligosaccharides. This category combines fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Fructans are carbohydrates found in foods including wheat, garlic, and onions. GOS, which are also carbohydrates, are found mainly in legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.
• Disaccharides. This group includes lactose, a carbohydrate found in dairy products such as milk, yogourt, and cheese.
• Monosaccharides. These include fructose, which is found in fresh and dried fruit and in honey and some breakfast cereals.
• Polyols. These include mannitol and sorbitol, which are found in some fruits (apples, pears, and stone fruit such as cherries) and some vegetables (green beans and mushrooms) but are also used as additives or artificial sweeteners in some dietetic sweets, such as sugarless chocolate, candy, chewing gum, and ice cream.
Foods to Avoid
These are the foods that cause the most symptoms in each category:
Fructans: garlic, artichokes, asparagus, shallots, onions, leeks (the white part), Jerusalem artichokes, wheat, barley, rye, pistachios, and cashews.
GOS: soybeans, beans (white, black, red…), hummus, and silken tofu.
Lactose: milk (cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s), kefir, buttermilk, yogourt, milk powder, ice cream, and soft unripened cheeses (ricotta and cottage cheese).
Fructose (in excess): figs, watermelon, nectarines, pears, apples, honey, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, rum, and cider.
Polyols: watermelon, apricots, blackberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples, plums, mushrooms, cauliflower, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and isomalt.
How to Use the FODMAP Diet
First, stop eating all the groups that might be causing symptoms for a few weeks, and then gradually (over eight to 12 weeks) reintroduce them, one group and one food at a time so you can judge how well you tolerate each one. In the end, you need to avoid only the foods or groups that trigger symptoms. Generally speaking, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to eliminate an entire group of carbohydrates from your diet.
Did You Know?
There are three subtypes of irritable bowel syndrome: IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, and mixed IBS (constipation and diarrhea). Recommendations vary depending on your symptoms. Meeting with a dietitian is a good place to start to get a better understanding of what dietary approach to take.
Choosing the Right Probiotic
Some probiotics reduce symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome, relieving abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. Talk with your pharmacist or your doctor. Because bacteria move through the intestine, experts recommend that probiotics be taken daily.