The Skinny on FODMAPS

Danielle Rehfeld
by Danielle Rehfeld
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The Skinny on FODMAPS

FODMAP.  It’s the newest nutrition buzzword flying around, but what in the world does it mean?  

Those who suffer from digestive issues — such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, distention, diarrhea, gas or severe bloating — may be reacting to specific foods called FODMAPs. Many FODMAPs are healthful foods that are great for people without a sensitivity to them. Danielle Capalino, MSPH, RD, author of the new book “Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach,” breaks down FODMAPs — and how they might be impacting our well-being.

The lowdown: FODMAP is an acronym that describes a group of fermentable carbohydrates that are difficult to break down and therefore can cause digestive stress.

F stands for Fermentable and refers to the following groups of short-chain carbohydrates or sugars:

O for oligosaccharides

D for disaccharides

M for monosaccharides

P for polyols

Capalino says these types of sugars — such as lactose, fructose and fructans — are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, so when they’re spending time in our system where all of our healthy gut bacteria live, these bacteria that are so integral to our digestive health begin to feed on the sugars, producing gases that cause discomfort and bloating.

What’s counterintuitive is that some of the healthiest foods are the biggest culprits. Apples, blackberries, cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas, wheat, rye, onion, garlic, pistachios, as well as whole milk and yogurt, and fresh cheeses such as ricotta and cottage are all on the list.

To the average person looking at this mix of foods, there’s no rhyme or reason to what might be wreaking havoc on your system. Case in point: tea. Fennel, chamomile and oolong teas all contain fructans and high FODMAPS. Other healthy foods on the FODMAP “no” list include asparagus, goji berries, figs, mangoes, beans and barley.

Capalino points out that many gluten-free ingredients are considered high FODMAPs.  

For example, certified gluten-free breads that contain apple purées, products that contain chicory root, cashews, yogurt and even natural sweeteners such as agave nectar and honey are high FODMAPs. The artificial sweeteners sorbitol and mannitol could also be causing discomfort.

When eaten alone or together in consecutive meals, these trigger foods are often troublesome.  A person with FODMAP sensitivities could be having a coffee with whole milk, a yogurt parfait with cashews and blackberries, a sandwich for lunch and a vegetarian plate of hummus, grilled asparagus and roasted cauliflower for dinner. This healthy daily menu for most people could be the cause for major discomfort in some.  A person may be sensitive to all or just one of the high FODMAP foods. So how do you figure it out?

This is a diet that requires supervision by a dietician or doctor. First step, after diagnosis, is to eliminate all high FODMAP foods at once. Slowly, high FODMAP foods are reintroduced one at a time by group, so individual sensitivities can be logged.

Once trigger foods are identified, it’s simple to omit them or make minor adjustments to your diet. For example, you can switch to a lactose-free yogurt or hard cheese such as Parmesan instead of ricotta. Draining and rinsing canned lentils and chickpeas can allow you to benefit from the nutrients of legumes without experiencing unpleasant side effects.

Capalino further states that individuals may want to pay heed to fried fatty foods, caffeine and excessive gum chewing. These can all trigger digestive discomfort.

Though it’s possible, eliminating and reintroducing FODMAPs may not result in weight loss (after all, potato chips are allowed on a FODMAP diet!), it’s simply a practical way to figure out which foods your body may be sensitive to.  

About the Author

Danielle Rehfeld
Danielle Rehfeld

Danielle Rehfeld is the founder and curator of The Inherited Plate. She caters, teaches private cooking classes and cooks with professional chefs and home cooks from all over the world to preserve and share their authentic family recipes, stories and special culinary knowledge. Follow her on Instagram @daniellerehfeld, @theinheritedplate, and on Twitter @daniellerehfeld.

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18 responses to “The Skinny on FODMAPS”

  1. Avatar Aidin Blockley says:

    I need to be on a low FODMAP diet, especially onion etc. For me as well as the isolating of trigger foods I can’t eat too many veggies in a day, makes it really hard when you’re trying to lose weight and gain muscle and just constantly hungry and unable to fill the gap other than with water

    • Avatar axethecouncil says:

      After cooking low FODMAP for my daughter for nearly a year I would be happy to suggest the green part of scallions in place of onion, garlic infused oil instead of garlic, brown rice pasta, and plenty of beef, chicken, and pork. It is definitely possible to eat well without the FODMAPS.

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    • Avatar Lcdlf says:

      Hey. Have you looked into Fodmap communities online? I’ve been low fodmap for two years now but only recently joined a fb group in which users share recipes and tips on finding low fodmap products (I now have onion free stock cubes and liquid stock – lifesaver!) and it could help you find new ideas for high protein meals? It is sad not to be able to bulk up on vegetables though, I rely on them a lot.

      • Avatar Aidin Blockley says:

        Thanks I’ll check it out. The dietician I saw started the low FODMAP diet and have plenty of products on shelves here in Melbourne.

        • Avatar Donna Torregrossa Lydon says:

          I live in Sebastian I’m looking for a dietician as well. Where in Melbourne can I buy products?

          • Avatar Aidin Blockley says:

            I’ve found plenty of products at Woolworths and Coles. My favourite product though is Cobram estate garlic or onion infused oils. Been a saviour for me.

      • Avatar Donna Torregrossa Lydon says:

        I need to join the Facebook. I have bad Ibs. Bloated and gassy all the time. Hours of pain . I don’t no what foods trigger my Ibs. I need to go on the Fodmap. I need help 🙁 I’m on linzess and what to get off the medication

        • Avatar john brenkman says:

          I found Linzess to be gut wrenching
          Instead I use one cap full of MiraLax each morning, that you can buy OTC from Costco
          The Dr instructions are to increase amount of MiraLax until you get diarrhea then back off until the diarrhea stops
          I have IBS-C

          • Avatar Carlyn Bettinger Rider says:

            How much miralax did it take to get diarrhea?

          • Avatar Donna Lee Jones says:

            I took 4 caps a day, 2 am, 2 pm, and that got me there pretty quick. Watch out for hair loss and stop if you notice any. It’s rare but possible, esp if you are older, like over 60.

      • Avatar Andrea LaCombe Jensen says:

        What Fodmap group would you suggest on FB?

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  3. Avatar Chappy says:

    The best thing I ever did for my body was to follow my doctor’s orders to go on a low FODMAP diet. My symptoms went away completely. I was no longer sick all the time. I have slowly added what I could back to my diet. I am lucky in that I do not have to be gluten free as well. Instead of joining communities, I started researching alternatives for items. FODY sells some amazing stuff. I get my taco seasoning and bbq sauce from them.

    I recently got a low FODMAP cookbook which recommended foods on my avoid list in small portions. That was a bad idea for me, but I hope it helps others.

  4. Avatar Cristofer Mattern says:

    My son’s doctor just suggested for him to go on a low FODMAP diet. Anyone know of any kids on this diet. And if so, any suggestions. My son is only 5. :o/ Please e-mail me at Cristofer1118@aol.com if you have advice.

  5. Avatar Priscilla Bergeron says:

    Hi, do you think it would be possible to add the Fodmap info in the Myfitnesspal? Honestly it would make my life, and many other people’s life easier! I’m into macro eating,I log everything I eating that app, being able to know the low / high Fodmap associated with quantities, and perhaps having the option of writing our symptoms, would just be amazing. It would simplify my life having all the info I need at the same place.

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