Think it’s Gluten? It May Not Be, Say New Studies involving FODMAPS (Plus Learn What a FODMAP is)


Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, funadium

A recent NPR article about wheat vs. gluten sensitivity caught our eye – specifically the acronym FODMAP. The term has received a lot more attention lately, as a food sensitivity culprit that’s commonly mistaken for gluten intolerance.

The gluten-free movement (other than becoming all-too advantageous for some food marketers) is prompting more discussions around food sensitivities and the need to understand more about what’s in our food. Naturally, we welcome the conversation when it comes to education and empowering people to make more informed choices.

Because we believe health should be easy to understand (some are still trying to figure out what gluten really is), below is a simple Q&A guide to FODMAPs so you can add an acronym to the brain and never be left out of the discussion at the cool lunch table again.

What is a FODMAP?

It’s actually not an It, so much as it is a They – as in, a group of poorly digested sugars. More specifically, a group of carbs called “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.” Hence the attractive acronym.

The key to that phrase is the first word, fermentable: these particular sugars can be easily fermented by the bacteria in your gut.

As listed by Stanford University Medical Center, FODMAPs encompass these sugars:

  • Fructose (Example: fruits, honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup)
  • Lactose (Found in dairy)
  • Fructans (Examples: wheat, onion, garlic. Fructans are also known as inulin)
  • Galactans (Examples: beans, lentils, legumes such as soy)
  • Polyols, a.k.a sugar alcohols (Example: sweeteners containing sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, stone fruits such as avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, etc.)

What do FODMAPs do in your body?

FODMAPs appear even in a healthy diet (we’ll get to the list of FODMAP foods soon). The science behind FODMAPs is that foods with these particular sugars are poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. The sugar that is then left behind is easily fermented by gut bacteria, resulting in the production of  gas. FODMAPs are also osmotic, meaning that they draw water into your intestinal tract.  This can cause digestive problems and throw off your gut health, especially in individuals with chronic gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What are common effects felt by those sensitive to FODMAPs?

The production of gas, as mentioned above, is one of the biggest reason for some of these effects:

  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

What foods do/don’t contain FODMAPs?

We are not suggesting to immediately go ahead with complete elimination. However, if you’ve experienced any of the side effects commonly associated with consuming FODMAPs, it may be an opportune time to take control and do a little experimenting with your diet under the supervision of a doctor by limiting your FODMAP consumption to see what works and how you feel.

Check out this chart below from Ben Greenfield Fitness – an easy print and hang on your fridge that can help as a daily guide:

FODMAP_Ben Greenfield

Do you have more questions about FODMAPs or other dietary issues? A 20-minute consultation with a WellnessFX nutritionist can help you with recommendations and a plan of action based on your own biochemistry.

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.