Don’t feed on FODMAPS if you want to fix your gut

30 October 2018 - 12:52 By Tanya Farber
According to experts‚ wheat‚ onions‚ apples and corn are the highest in FODMAPS. But they’re not the only ones.
According to experts‚ wheat‚ onions‚ apples and corn are the highest in FODMAPS. But they’re not the only ones.
Image: 123RF/Alinamd

Just when you thought you were safe‚ there’s a new diet kid on the block - and this one is quickly muscling out the trends of paleo‚ banting and other currently popular diets vying to be hailed as “the healthiest”.

It has the very unsexy name of FODMAP - an acronym based on things you're supposed to avoid - and what's most irritating for the shopper‚ yet least irritating for the bowel‚ is the fact that some of the foods touted as the healthiest things ever are now being thrown out in favour of this new diet.

All of a sudden‚ broccoli stalks‚ the darling of the banting diet‚ are now major crime culprits‚ causing havoc inside the gut. Carrots‚ on the other hand‚ were drawn and quartered by Professor Tim Noakes but are now the food item du jour.

Although the diet itself is not new and has been on the rise since 2016‚ in the past two months it has been experiencing its tipping point.

A recent article published in New Scientist said that “we’re finally starting to understand which foods are causing tummy troubles for so many‚ and the culprits challenge everything we thought we knew about healthy eating”.

According to Monash University‚ where much FODMAP research has been carried out‚ FODMAPS are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut and which can thus trigger symptoms in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. They are found naturally in many food and food additives.

According to the American Chemical Society‚ Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects around 10% to 15% of people‚ and although it isn’t a life-threatening disease‚ it makes their lives miserable - to the point that a survey found that the majority of sufferers said they would give up “fifteen years of their life to experience relief.”

Clinical trials are now showing that up to 80% of people with IBS have responded positively to the diet‚ according to the American Chemical Society. It is‚ however‚ Australia that’s leading the charge. Two groups in that country have developed certification programmes that provide logos for companies to use on their low FODMAP foods.

So who are the really bad boys?

According to experts‚ wheat‚ onions‚ apples and corn are the highest in FODMAPS. But they’re not the only ones.

Monash University provides the following user-friendly information for a diet which is rather scientific for a lay person to try and understand: the F and O stand for ‘fermentable’. This includes foods which cause gut bacteria to ferment undigested carbohydrates and produce gases in the process. This includes fructan-based food such as wheat‚ rye‚ onions‚ garlic and legumes and pulses.

Next up are the disaccharides. Think lactose: milk‚ soft cheeses‚ yoghurts.

Then there are the monosaccharides where fructose is found. To avoid these you’d need to avoid‚ inter alia‚ honey‚ apples‚ high fructose corn syrups and others.

Lastly‚ there are the polyols - populated with foods categorised as sorbitols and mannitols. These are found in various fruit and vegetables and are also used as artificial sweeteners.

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