I feel obligated to contribute to the conversation starting around the low FODMAP diet. Not because I’m annoyed by all the publicity it has been getting lately, but because I have seen the amazing relief and impact it can have on an individuals’ life. Personally, I feel utterly spoiled by my iron stomach. It is a rare occasion if I have any form of indigestion after I eat, which is probably why I have have no issues trying new or foreign foods.
I unfortunately see the opposite side of the spectrum more often than not in my job as an oncology dietitian. Quick side note: I do both inpatient work and outpatient work on a daily basis. My inpatient caseload consists of mainly oncology, gastrointestinal (GI), surgical, and bariatric patients. My outpatient is solely oncology. I digress….
One of the worst and most complicated parts of working with oncology (and gastrointestinal for that matter) patients is truly the unknown. Yes, there is so much black and white in the medical field, yet so much gray area. Many of my oncology patients not only face the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, but also long-standing effects of complex surgeries, often taking out small or massive sections of the gastrointestinal tract. Some surgeries even applying direct chemo treatment to the bowels. Many of these patients recover beautifully and I am once again reminded of the art of science. But then there is a handful of patients who face life-changing gastrointestinal side effects, such as frequent bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or overall abdominal discomfort with food intake. THESE are my people.
The recent publicity surrounding the FODMAP diet shows promising results for individuals suffering from irritable bowel sydrome (IBS) or frequent bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal discomfort. FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols”.
- Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large intestine.
- Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain.
- Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule.
- Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single sugar molecule.
- And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols.
These FODMAP foods are types of short chain carbohydrates that can be digested differently in the small and large intestine. The FODMAP foods can cause fluid to be drawn into the intestines, as well as rapid fermentation, which leads to a gas-producing effect. As a result, the bowels distend and cause abdominal discomfort and bloating.
The diet is not meant to be long term. The initial diet is following a strict low FODMAP diet for about 6-8 weeks then slowly being able to incorporate some of these FODMAP foods back into the diet with the ultimate goal of following a modified low FODMAP diet that manages uncomfortable bowel symptoms. If you do plan on trying this diet, I highly recommend you see a dietitian that is specialized in this area.
So what are some of these high FODMAP foods to avoid…
Seems like a lot, however there are still so many low FODMAP foods…
As I said before, this diet is not for the weak at heart. It is clearly a challenge and requires self-discipline, as well as appropriate guidance by a dietitian. With that being said, I have seen individuals that have followed this diet successfully and have life-changing benefits, allowing them to enjoy eating again.
I have more great news. There is a company called FODY Food Co. that is the first North American company to bring low FODMAP diet-friendly food products (FODY foods). These products include salsa, pasta sauce, granola bars, BBQ sauce, trail mix, etc.
I had the pleasure of trying some of these products and I’m telling you…for someone that is not a fan of jarred pasta sauce, there’s is delicious. Check out some of their products and mission here. I paired their pasta sauce with a little roasted spaghetti squash…YUM.
I’m sure this is not the last we will hear of this topic so stay tuned for more information surrounding a healthy gut microbiome 🙂