The Low FODMAP diet - please explain

What is the low FODMAP diet? Is it the answer to my gut problems? Find your answers below!

If you have experienced uncomfortable gut symptoms, such as bloating, increased flatulence, abdominal pain or changes in your bowel movements, chances are you have stumbled across the low FODMAP diet. And chances are, you also have a lot of questions.

The low FODMAP diet was developed by Monash University in Australia as a dietary intervention for individuals living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It was designed to be used as a short-term experiment to examine whether or not these FODMAPs may be contributing to your gastrointestinal symptoms. It is not a weight loss diet. It is not a lifetime diet. It is one tool people may use to learn more about their body.

So, what are FODMAPs?

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are different types of carbohydrates that are fermented (or digested) by a variety of microbes that live in our large intestine.

FODMAPs are found in a range of nutritious foods including certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, breads and grains. They are generally not absorbed into our bloodstream early in the digestion process like other nutrients from our food, so they end up in our large intestine. 

Here they are digested by the variety of microbes, that’s where the “fermentable” comes from. When your microbes ferment these carbohydrates they produce different gases that contribute to bloating. These bodily processes are not unique to individuals living with IBS. However, having IBS may mean you are more vulnerable to experiencing pain when your gut is distended and experience a different pattern of gut movements, which is what can lead to the uncomfortable symptoms.

Is this diet for me?

The low FODMAP diet has the potential to be particularly restrictive and should not be commenced without consultation from a dietitian that is trained in the area.

It can lead to nutritional deficiencies and can make your gut symptoms worse if followed without professional guidance, especially for long periods of time as dietary variety is so important for our gut health. We know that as dietary variety increases, so does the health of our gut bugs!

If you identify with any of the below groups it may be useful to speak with your health care team about non-diet approaches to managing your symptoms:

  • History of disordered eating/eating disorder
  • Pregnant
  • Infants and children
  • Older aged

The good news is, there are other less intensive dietary interventions that can be explored before attempting the low FODMAP diet. There are also a range of non-diet options, including yoga, meditation, gut-directed hypnotherapy, supplements and medications, which are shown to help with our gut health.

If you would like to learn more about how to develop a self-care plan that is personalised to your symptoms and lifestyle, please reach out to us here so we can connect you with our gut health Dietitian, Danielle.

Please note: Dietitians can’t diagnose gastrointestinal disorders and medical advice should be sought out if you are experiencing any new or changing gastrointestinal symptoms or patterns in bowel movements.

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