About the Low FODMAP Diet
The Low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University in Australia as a means of treating IBS. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are short-chained carbohydrates (sugars) that may be slowly absorbed or incompletely absorbed by the gut. This slow or incomplete absorption leads to excess water build up in the small intestine and fermentation of FODMAPs in the large intestine, causing the buildup of gases. This can then cause the symptoms of IBS. Foods that are high in FODMAPs include the following:
- Dairy products containing lactose (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Wheat-containing products (pasta, cereal, bread)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, and soybeans)
- Certain fruits and vegetables
- Sorbitol and mannitol (found in artificial sweeteners)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects up to 1 in 7 adults. Although it is not caused by food allergies, IBS has been linked to certain food triggers and is widely treated through strict dietary measures. In addition to particular foods, IBS has also been linked to mood and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Symptoms of IBS include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Starting a Low FODMAP Diet
The most important step to take before starting a low FODMAP diet is consulting your doctor and obtaining a proper diagnosis for IBS. Some FODMAPs are required to maintain healthy levels of gut bacteria and should not be completely eliminated without careful consideration from medical and dietary professionals. Most individuals adhering to a low FODMAP diet begin by eliminating all foods high in FODMAPs before slowly reintroducing foods one at a time to determine which they are most sensitive to.
Low FODMAP Certification Programs
The FDA does not define or set standards for low FODMAP foods or which can be labeled as such. There are two organizations that currently certify products as appropriate for a low FODMAP diet, both based in Australia. They are:
- Monash University's Low FODMAP Certification Program
- FODMAP Friendly Food Program
While based abroad, these programs certify an increasing number of United States brands and products. As these certifications are still not commonplace in the US, consumers should always be cognizant as to which foods are considered high FODMAP and work with their doctor or nutritionist to meet their specific dietary needs.