It has become very fashionable to follow a diet low in FODMAPs, but is it healthy for everyone? Our registered Dietitian covers when it is advised, and the unexpected implications this diet can have on your gut health.
What are FODMAPs?
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols. They are types of carbohydrates found in many different foods including wheat, dairy, legumes, beans and different fruits and vegetables.
Example FODMAP sources
|Fructans||Wheat, rye, spelt, garlic, onion, inulin|
|Lactose||Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream, crème fraiche, sour cream|
|Fructose (in excess)||Honey, agave nectar, pears, mango, apples, cherries, watermelon|
|Galacooligosaccharides||Chickpeas, beans, lentils|
|Polyols||Mushrooms, cauliflower, artificial sweeteners ending in -ol (e.g. xylitol)|
FODMAPs in the gut
The digestion of FODMAPs differs for healthy people and people with gastroenterological conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Some people with food intolerances do not properly absorb lactose and fructose, leading to unpleasant gut symptoms. However, the majority of us digest and absorb these FODMAPs with no trouble at all.
Other FODMAPs such as fructans and GOS are not fully absorbed by anyone, they pass into our large intestine and they are fermented by our gut bacteria. This fermentation process leads to gas production, if you have IBS this can cause excess wind, bloating and diarrhoea.
In most of us, this fermentation is healthy and may just lead to small amounts of wind – which is quite normal and a sign of a gut healthy diet!
Why avoid FODMAPs?
If you are one of the 11% of the UK population who has IBS, a diet low in these FODMAPs may help control symptoms (such as bloating, wind and diarrhoea). A low FODMAP diet should be guided by a registered dietitian, so seek a referral from your GP or look up a freelance dietitian here for further guidance.
If you are one of the 89% of the population who does not have IBS, you don’t need to avoid FODMAPs! While the low FODMAP diet is a breakthrough therapy for people with IBS, it is important to understand it isn’t a healthy diet for everyone.
Health benefits of FODMAPs
FODMAPs are actually types of fibre, and the fermentation they cause in the gut is essential for gut health. Studies have shown that there is a unfavourable reduction in gut bacteria following a low FODMAP diet.
If you do not have IBS, you should actually be following a high FODMAP diet, rich in fermentable fibres, which are key to a healthy gut and diverse gut microbiome.
We all need to aim to have 30g of fibre in our diet each day, this should come from a diverse range of plant foods including wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and beans. Did you know the average fibre intake is only 18g/day? Why not track your intake over a week to see if you meet the target?
If you have IBS, you should work 1:1 with your dietitian to understand how to optimise your fibre and FODMAP intake while keeping your symptoms under control.
Why follow a high FODMAP diet?
- High fibre intake, which is shown to reduce risk of colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic diseases.
- Fermentation by the gut bacteria produces short chain fatty acids which support healthy gut turn over and a diverse microbiome.
- FODMAPs are found in very healthy, whole foods, such as legumes, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, they come in a package with many micronutrients and other gut health boosting compounds such as polyphenols.
If you have IBS, a low FODMAP diet can help control your symptoms. Make sure you do this with the guidance of a registered dietitian, as restricting FODMAPs can impact your overall diet diversity and nutrient intake and have negative impact on your gut bacteria.
If like most of the population, you do not have IBS, you do not need to avoid FODMAPs – in fact, you should be increasing them in your diet to feed your gut bacteria and ensure you are having enough fibre and plant diversity which are linked to numerous health benefits.
The entire Liberto range contains FODMAPs and they are great ways to boost your fibre intake. Our shakes contain added inulin which is a prebiotic FODMAP fibre. Our pastas contain an impressive third of your daily target of fibre.
Got any questions? Drop us a comment below!