By now, you've probably realized that certain foods make you feel great after eating them, and others make you feel like a pile of hot garbage. Most of us chalk this up to "eating badly" -- you eat a giant burrito with a side of chips and queso, you're going to feel a bit ill. Although this can be true sometimes, there are also certain foods within your meals -- even "healthy" ones -- that could be making you feel less than stellar.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. This is just a fancy, science-y term for foods that cause inflammation in your body and trigger digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach pain. A wide range of foods are considered to be high-FODMAP, and shockingly, most of them aren't even the "bad" foods that you'd expect.
Wait. First, what's the science behind this?
In a nutshell, foods that have high FODMAP levels are filled with short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are difficult for the small intestine to absorb. So, when the small intestine can't do its job properly, the digestive system sets upon these materials in attempt to ferment them with bacteria.
Quick and dirty -- let's get rid of this stuff before it causes any problems.
Fast fermentation = a higher volume of liquid in the abdomen, expansion of the intestines and finally, an increase in gas production.
Who invented the low-FODMAP diet?
It was originally intended for people with IBS; one study even found that a shocking 70 percent of people with IBS had improved digestive symptoms after trying low-FODMAP. That said, there is some research that suggests people without IBS could also benefit from low-FODMAP. Obviously, talk to your doctor about your digestive system and gut health before trying it.
Which foods have this so-called high-FODMAP?
Unfortunately, a lot of them. You can Google it for a comprehensive list of everything that can cause inflammation, but below are a few examples. Remember: this isn't an all-or-nothing scenario. You could feel gassy or bloated after eating one or a few of these foods just as easily as you could be affected by all of them.
How do I try low-FODMAP at home?
Again -- ask your doctor before trying any special diet. But, if you think going low-FODMAP could help you, it's all a game of restriction and reintroduction. Most dietitians recommend cutting out most or all of the high-FODMAP foods for a period of three-eight weeks. So, a month or so should do. See how you feel.
Then, slowly test which foods are causing reactions by reintroducing one at a time for three days each. Some foods may cause more of a reaction than others, so take note of which make you feel fine, which make you feel kind of icky, and which make your stomach blow up like a balloon. Most people can tolerate some high-FODMAP foods, so it's just a matter of figuring out which ones are fine and which trigger your digestive system in a negative way.
While you're in the testing stage, remember that there are some workarounds to keep eating your favorite foods without the bad side effects! For example, I have a friend who has a terrible FODMAP reaction to garlic. But...she loves garlic. How does one cook without it?! To get around this, she makes her own garlic olive oil by infusing oil with cloves of garlic ahead of time. The essence of garlic doesn't make her sick, only ingesting actual pieces of it does. The internet is full of tips and tricks like this one to help you adjust.