What are FODMAPs? - The Health & Wellbeing Studio

Written by Melbourne Naturopath Bianca Potenta

What are FODMAPS?

“FODMAP” is the acronym for groups of carbohydrates (sugars) found in variety of foods. These sugars are easily broken down by bacteria in our digestive system under a process called “fermentation”. The names for these easily fermentable carbohydrates are a little complex, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols…. Hence the acronym. BUT the crux of it is… that FODMAPS are a collection of molecules found in food that are poorly absorbed by some people.

Fermentable – Easily broken down by bacteria

Oligosaccharides – such as fructans found in grains and vegetables and galactans found in legumes.

Disaccharides – such as lactose (found in milk).

Monosaccharides – such as fructose (found in fruit)


Polyols – such as sorbitol (found in sweetened products)


IBS and the benefit of Low FODMAP

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder.’ Functional gastrointestinal disorders have persistent and recurring digestive symptoms due to abnormal functioning of the digestive system. They are not caused by ulcers, inflammation, thickening of tissues, lumps and bumps or abnormal blood tests – all of which would indicate a different condition. It’s for this reason that is it important you do not self-diagnose your symptoms. If you are experiencing digestive symptoms it is always best to speak to a Health Care Practitioner prior to starting any dietary changes or treatment.

IBS is characterised by abdominal pain/discomfort and bloating with altered bowel habits of diarrhoea, constipation or alternating between both.

Over the past 30 years, evidence has emerged that FODMAPs can play a role in IBS symptoms. This is because, for some, FODMAPS are poorly absorbed in the digestive tract. The FODMAPs remaining in digestive tract can draw water into the intestine and may promote altered bowel movements, such as diarrhoea, bloating and gastrointestinal pain. FODMAPs are also like ‘fast food’ for the commensal (normally occurring) bacteria and dysbiotic (imbalanced) bacteria that live in the intestines.The rapid fermentation of FODMAPs by these bacteria can increase the production of gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane, resulting in flatulence and bloating.

Adopting a low FODMAP diet has been shown to be beneficial in reducing these symptoms.  But it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone is affected by FODMAPs, which why it is important to speak with your Health Care Practitioner.


The Phases of the FODMAP diet

The most effective way to work out if FODMAPs might be contributing to your digestive symptoms is to eliminate all FODMAP-containing foods and keep an eye on your symptoms. If symptoms improve the next step is to challenge each FODMAP group one-by-one to work out the types of FODMAPs you are sensitive to, and the amount you may be able to tolerate. It is not generally recommended that you follow a FODMAP diet for life. Restricting a wide range of foods from your diet for long periods of time may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and should generally be avoided if possible. This why it is best to work with a health care practitioner when adopting and working through the phases of the low FODMAP diet.


How do I know if adopting the FODMAP diet is right for me?

The only way to know if the FODMAP diet is right for you is to seek the advice of a health care practitioner. If you have already started to eliminate FODMAP foods and your symptoms have remained the same this could be because:

  • There might be another cause driving your symptoms which needs to be further investigated


  • You may not be following the FODMAP elimination, rechallenge or maintenance phase 100% correctly

When working with a Health Care Practitioner they can identify the reasons for your symptoms. develop a plan and guide you through the best options to assist you.


© The Health & Wellbeing Studio Camberwell, Melbourne 2019


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