As many of you are aware, a number of foods are triggers for digestive issues. With an increase in the number of food allergies, food intolerances, and chronic gut conditions, more and more of you are having to take a closer look at your eating behaviors and, in some extreme cases, restrict or eliminate certain foods altogether.
A FODMAP elimination diet is one such method used by doctors and registered dieticians to identify whether an underlying digestive condition exists. This elimination diet is used in particular for those with chronic symptoms as a result of irritable bowel syndrome. But following the diet can be an overwhelming task when you take a look at all of the foods that need to be eliminated from your diet.
“FODMAP” is an acronym for compounds found in certain foods, primarily carbohydrates. The acronym stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.” These specific carbohydrates are resistant to digestion. Instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream, they travel to the far end of your intestine where most of your gut bacteria reside. Your gut bacteria then use these carbs for fuel, and that produces hydrogen gas and causes digestive symptoms in sensitive individuals. The following sugars and compounds are what comprise the foods and compounds that should be eliminated in a FODMAP diet:
- Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar (sucrose) and most added sugars.
- Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
- Fructans: A smaller chain of the sugar “fructose.” Fructans occur in foods such as agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions (including spring onions), yacón, jícama, and wheat.
- Galactans: A smaller chain of the sugar “galactose.” The primary dietary sources of galactans are certain legumes, such as baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and soy products.
- Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.
A rather strange grouping of foods to say the least. Honestly, the easiest thing to identify are the foods containing lactose, which are dairy products. So how do you make using this diet easier? Try looking at it from the standpoint of what can be eaten rather than what needs to be eliminated. Looking around the Internet, you can find many pages with lists of foods labeled either “high” or “low” FODMAP foods.
The foods you can eat are found on the “low” FODMAP lists. This list, found on ibsdiets.org, is very comprehensive, breaking the safe foods down by food group. By focusing only on what can be eaten, the guesswork is removed. Not only that, you are viewing the diet in a more positive way – what you can eat rather than what you can’t eat. For the purposes of the weeks of eliminating trigger foods, pulling foods from the “what can be eaten list” only ensures the choices are safe.
Your goal is not to fudge and sneak food. The goal with this plan is to eliminate your symptoms and to isolate the foods that trigger them. Adopting the intention of healing the gut and overall wellness should be the focus, rather than looking at what can no longer be enjoyed. Additionally, this diet is for a purpose, and some of the eliminated foods may eventually turn out to be be safe to eat.
The initial stage of the diet, “restriction,” lasts from three to eight weeks. The length of the restriction is determined when you work with a healthcare practitioner. The second stage, “reintroduction,” requires the most work and patience. During this stage, high FODMAP foods, the foods avoided during the elimination stage, are reintroduced to the diet one at a time.
If the food can be tolerated after three days of consumption, it is a safe food. If not, it goes back onto the “avoid” list, never to be eaten again, at least not without known consequences. The second stage should be a guided stage with a doctor or registered dietician. At the end of the second stage, a “personalization” stage occurs where the diet is modified to meet your specific needs.
The FODMAP elimination diet is a path to wellness and feeling better. Furthermore, it is not something that needs to be done alone. Working with a professional to discover which foods are healthiest for your body and which ones to avoid is truly a worthwhile endeavor. Approach the diet with a positive attitude and the effort will be well worth the time and energy invested in yourself.
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