Low FODMAP Diet: Relief of Digestive Symptoms

You don’t have to have IBS to experience relief when following a low FODMAP Diet, even though Chron’s and IBS sufferers tend to do well with it. If you have been supporting your gallbladder for some time and still have issues with abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, distension, and excessive gas, you may benefit from trying FODMAPs for a while.

Living with inflammatory bowel diseases like Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis or other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Celiac disease is not an easy feat. It is painful, inconvenient, uncomfortable, even embarrassing for some. That is why a wide range of therapies have been suggested to help in symptom management – medications, bulking agents and laxatives, lifestyle changes, and diet. When you look up IBS Diet or Chron’s Diet, you will see lots of dos and don’ts and a long list of foods to avoid. One of the many diet options gaining popularity and expert support is the low FODMAP Diet.

What is FODMAP, and what does it stand for?

FODMAPs are found in a wide variety of foods we eat daily. They are either natural components or food additives to enhance the food’s flavor, appearance, or feel.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. This was a term coined by a group of Australian researchers from Monash University and eventually supported by experts worldwide. The publication of this new concept called the FODMAP Diet in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2005 led to its international popularity. Although it is not synonymous with the IBS diet or Chron’s diet, the low FODMAP diet has become a front-line therapy for patients with these conditions.

The researchers who put together this diet believed that the forms of carbohydrates belonging to the FODMAP group might worsen digestive symptoms and increase digestive permeability or leaky gut. Following a low FODMAP Diet is believed to help in the management of abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habit.

FODMAP Foods Explained

  1. Oligosaccharides

This category combines two common oligosaccharides implicated in numerous IBS symptoms, fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). These oligosaccharides have the same activity upon ingestion; they always pass through the gut and escape digestion. It may be beneficial because they can act as prebiotics, encouraging the growth of good bacteria. However, since they are also both poorly absorbed by the body, they trigger digestive symptoms, especially among those with pre-existing conditions.

Fructans are chains of fructose sugars bound together with glucose at the end. To be absorbed by the body, this chain needs to be broken down into monosaccharides, or simple sugar. However, we don’t produce the enzymes needed to break down the bonds in fructans. If taken excessively or in patients with pre-existing GI conditions, it may trigger abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and altered motility.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), on the other hand, are a galactose sugar chain joined together with glucose at the end. Similar to fructose bonds, the human body does not produce the enzyme needed to break the bonds between galactose sugars.

  1. Disaccharides

Disaccharides are one of the four chemical groupings of carbohydrates. As for FODMAP, lactose is the main type of disaccharide, and it only becomes a problem if the body does not have sufficient amounts of lipase to break it down. The chances of this happening is influenced by genetics, ethnicity, and other gut disorders.

  1. Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar and the simplest units of carbohydrates. Fructose is the most common FODMAP belonging to this group. Since fructose is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and insulin resistance, many manufacturers have tried to substitute fructose with other sweeteners. Unfortunately, these alternatives also fall under another FODMAP category.

  1. Polyols

The carbohydrates that belong to this group are called sugar alcohols. Examples are sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol. They are present in fruits and vegetables but are also used in artificial sweeteners. It is troublesome for individuals with GI conditions because the absorption of polyols across the intestinal barrier is so low and they are readily fermented in the gut. So they are not digested but instead remain to become fodder for bad bacteria, which worsens gut symptoms.

Common Misconceptions about Low FODMAP Diet

  1. It is Low FODMAP, not “No FODMAP.”

The goal of this diet guide is to keep the intake of high FODMAP foods at a minimum. If you have a GI or gallbladder condition and are worried about having attacks, please consult your doctor. You may have to follow a stricter diet and regimen.

  1. A Low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term food guide.

By self-diagnosing and prohibiting yourself from taking certain healthy and organic foods because they are high FODMAP, you are running the risk of nutrient deficiency. That is why the low FODMAP diet is not meant to be followed for a very long time. Instead, it serves as an elimination diet guide for those with digestive conditions. Moreover, some of the high FODMAP foods can be considered superfoods and well-tolerated by others.

  1. It is not necessarily gluten-free and dairy-free.

If you have Celiac disease or food sensitivities that require you to abstain from foods with gluten or dairy, be sure to do so.

Why are High FODMAP Foods Bad for Us?

High FODMAP Foods are often blamed for digestive symptoms like distention, gas and bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea. But why is this so? Here are some reasons why high FODMAP foods are bad for us:

Increased Intestinal Water Volume

Some high FODMAP foods draw too much water into the intestine since they are made up of chains of sugars that are considered osmotically active. Since they have a small molecular size, they can also deliver increased amounts of fluid to the colon. Too much water coupled with colonic gas production worsens gastrointestinal symptoms for individuals with visceral hypersensitivity.

Bacterial Fermentation

FODMAPS delivered to the colon from the small intestine are rapidly fermented. This releases gas and other chemicals that may affect intestinal permeability, trigger digestive symptoms or alter bowel habits for some people.

Affects Intestinal Motility and Permeability

Rapid fermentation and the passage of undigested FODMAPS and other byproducts affect the integrity of the stomach lining, especially within a susceptible host. FODMAPS may contribute to the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, leading to SIBO. In the colon, swelling or distention can affect hormones, aside from injuring the intestinal wall and impairing its barrier function. The increased death of epithelial cells may increase the likelihood for carcinogenesis or the development of cancer cells in the colon.

Systemic Effects of high FODMAP foods

Aside from the reasons stated above, other systemic effects are attributed to the high intake of FODMAPs. One is the increased risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux and increased heartburn. There have also been studies associating hormonal changes with motility patterns. Fructose malabsorption is also one of the possible factors causing depression.

FODMAP Food Chart
  1. Fructose
  • Fruit – apple, cherries, figs, pears, mango, pear, watermelon, dried fruit, Asian pear
  • Sweeteners – fructose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave
  • Drinks – Fruit juice
  1. Lactose
  • milk, cream, different types of cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, whey, mascarpone, custard
  1. Fructans
  • Vegetables – artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, fennel, garlic, leek, okra, onion, shallots,
  • Gluten – all forms of wheat, including spelt, kamut and triticale as well as barley and rye
  • Fruit – cherimoya, persimmon, watermelon
  • Others – chicory, dandelion, inulin, pistachio
  1. Galactans
  • Legumes – beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, soy beans
  1. Polyols
  • Fruit – apple, apricot, avocado, blackberry, cherry, longon, lychee, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, prune, watermelon
  • Vegetables – cauliflower, pumpkin, snow peas, bell pepper, mushroom, sweet corn
  • Sweeteners – sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol, xylitol

Advantages and Disadvantages of Low FODMAP Diet

Like any other diet guide, the Low FODMAP diet is not without critics. Many of these criticisms come from the fact that there are not enough studies to prove the efficacy of this diet for patients with gastrointestinal conditions. Some of the existing studies supporting this idea have also been questioned about their methodology, quality of evidence, and sample size.

The low FODMAP diet may also be a risk for nutritional inadequacies when followed to the letter and done long-term.

On the other hand, there are also multiple reasons why the low FODMAP diet has gained a following over the past 12 years. First, it is easily understood and biologically feasible. Second, the dietary principles are clearly defined and well-structured. Thirdly, it has been enhanced and updated regularly over the past decade, providing the latest and most accurate information on food composition and dietary principles.


In conclusion, the low FODMAP diet is not a foolproof solution and a promise of relief for those with gastrointestinal or gallbladder problems. It is more of a scientific food guide that may be used to eliminate possible dietary culprits that trigger various symptoms. Scientifically-based or not, the proof is in the pudding. If it seems applicable to you and your symptoms, try it for a few weeks and see for yourself.

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