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What is the FODMAP way of eating?

You may have heard about the FODMAP diet, or your doctor or specialist could have told you to follow it. But what is it? And where do you start?
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) then it’s very likely this way of eating has been suggested or recommended to you. Around 15% of the world’s population – that’s 1 in 7 people – suffer from IBS. Monash University research showed IBS symptoms improve in 3 out of 4 people who follow a low FODMAP diet. Other research groups from all over the world have since shown similar results. Because of this, a low FODMAP diet is now recommended as the first treatment choice for people diagnosed with IBS.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are a group of sugars that are not completely digested or absorbed in our intestines. According to Monash University, when these sugars reach the small intestine, they move slowly, attracting water. Then, as they pass into the large intestine, FODMAPs are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas. This extra gas and water cause the intestinal wall to stretch and expand (so you may feel and look ‘bloated). People with IBS have very sensitive intestines, so this ‘stretching’ can cause a lot of pain and discomfort as well as bloating, wind and altered bowel habits such as diarrhoea and constipation.

Which foods contain FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are in many of our foods including wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes and pulses, dairy products, honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups, some fruit and vegetables and artificial sweeteners.

Initially, a FODMAP eating plan may seem overwhelming. However, there are still a wide range of foods for you to enjoy. Plus, your symptoms are likely to improve, making you feel a whole lot better and happier.

Typically, these benefits are usually seen within 2-6 weeks of following a low FODMAP diet. Of course, the diet does not cure IBS symptoms, it just helps people to live more comfortably with their condition.

Thankfully, there’s still an enormous amount of foods you can eat when you’re following this way of eating. While you should always seek advice from your doctor, specialist, or dietitian, this table will give you an idea of which foods to enjoy, and which to avoid. Please refer to the Monash FODMAP App for a complete list of foods which have been tested for FODMAPs.

Monash University also runs a certification program which tests and endorses retail products as being low in FODMAPs, including some delicious Leda Nutrition snacks. All certified Leda Nutrition products carry the Monash stamp of endorsement on packaging and are listed in the app.

Monash suggests following three steps when embarking on a FODMAP diet.

Step One
Follow a low FODMAP diet by swapping high FODMAP foods for low FODMAP alternatives. Ideally, keep a ‘symptom journal’ to track your progress and reactions to foods.

Step Two
This is when FODMAPs are reintroduced into your diet, although you only focus on one FODMAP group at a time. This can help to identify individual FODMAP sensitivities.

Step Three
Well tolerated FODMAPs are reintroduced back into the diet, while poorly tolerated FODMAPs restricted, but only to a level that provides adequate symptom relief. The aim is to establish a minimally restrictive, ‘personalised FODMAP diet’ for the long term.

For a guideline of the FODMAP way of eating, visit Monash University – About FODMAP