First up, what on earth is a FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym for – brace yourself – Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Put simply, they’re a group of sugars that can trigger some unpleasant symptoms for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) because they’re not absorbed properly in the gut. These include bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and even difficulty sleeping.
FODMAPs are in a lot of the food we eat every day, including breads, fruit and, vegetables, nuts and legumes. The Low FODMAP Diet works by identifying which foods are high in FODMAP and might be triggering somebody’s symptoms and suggests alternative foods that are low in FODMAP instead. The diet was developed by a team of researchers at Monash University and has received widespread global attention.
Which foods should I avoid if I’ve got IBS symptoms?
Some common foods that are considered high FODMAP include apples, garlic, onion, cow’s milk, honey, and mushrooms. But the good news is that there are plenty of low FODMAP foods to replace them with. Add these ones to your next grocery list – eggplant, pineapple, soy milk, strawberries, quinoa, dark chocolate, and macadamias.
Why has the Low FODMAP diet become so popular?
The diet has blown up over the past few years as a highly effective way of managing symptoms of IBS, which affects one in seven Australians, and generally more women than men. The team of researchers at Monash University also designed an app to help users easily identify foods that might be triggering them.
Jane Muir, Head of Translational Nutrition Science at Monash, says the diet has been effective on around three-quarters of people suffering from IBS symptoms.
Does it cause weight loss too?
Health gurus and social media influencers around the world are jumping on board, claiming it has many more benefits than just easing unpleasant symptoms, such as weight loss and clearing acne. While there is no scientific evidence that it assists with acne, Jane Muir says weight loss is a very possible outcome.
“I’ve heard this from a few people, because they feel well, they’re exercising more. They’re able to go out and go walking, and do all those things that they weren’t able to engage in before.”
However, the diet is not designed to be a weight loss program, and should not be relied on as one, warns Dietitian Caroline Tuck.
“Lots of foods that are reduced on the diet are really important and healthy foods that are high in prebiotics, which help the growth of good bacteria in your bowels,” she says.
Even for people with IBS, the diet is recommended only for short term use, and then with the help of a dietitian to help introduce food back into their diet so that they’re not missing out on key nutrients in the long term.
What are the other benefits of the diet?
Studies have shown that following a Low FODMAP diet can significantly improve your quality of life if you suffer from IBS. Aside from easing those tummy cramps and regulating trips to the loo, followers have reported less anxiety and stress, and generally more control over their life. Jane Muir says this is enormously empowering as it helps people feel much better about themselves and their condition.
Studies from Monash University also show that for women breastfeeding infants with colic, eating a low FODMAP diet is effective in reducing the crying period.
“Colic is very short-lived but it’s terribly distressing, so people are using this approach as sort of a guide as to what to eat when you’re breastfeeding,” says Jane.
And great news for those women who suffer from endometriosis – eating a low FODMAP diet can help ease the gastrointestinal symptoms that come with it.
Jane Muir says one of the most important things to do if you’re experiencing IBS is to keep trying different foods.
“Work out what you can and can’t tolerate, just keep trying to broaden your repertoire. That makes it less isolating,” she suggests.
Where can I get more information?
Caroline Tuck suggests seeing an accredited dietitian first to go about your FODMAP journey in the healthiest way possible. You can check out a full list of dietitians and find one near you on the Monash University website here.
To make sure what you’re hearing about the Low FODMAP Diet is credible, she also recommends using their other resources, such as this list of low FODMAP recipes and full FODMAP food list as Monash are the ones who developed the diet and who are doing first-hand food testing in the labs.
Stay tuned for more beauty news coming soon.