What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.

This is why people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive problems seek to have a low FODMAP diet. It has been found that a low FODMAP diet improves symptoms in about 70% of IBS patients. Not that the doctor told me this but on my research through the internet I’m seeing more and more about low FODMAP foods and how avoiding high FODMAP food can help with my problems and digesting food.

However it is a relatively new diet which makes it highly advisable to speak with a registered dietitian who knows the low FODMAP diet well. It is not as easy as an ‘eat list’ and ‘do not eat list’ especially when it comes to packaged foods (knowing how to read labels properly helps) and eating out.

It is essential when wanting to try this diet to seek professional help as it is individualised to each persons requirements and needs, in order to provide all the nutrients you require. The main thing to note is this is a very strict diet and not following it properly means it is unlikely to be effective.

Which now I know about this diet it makes a lot of sense, your gut is sensitive so you wouldn’t want to be putting pressure on it with the type of foods it finds hard to digest.

But how do I know if a food is low or high in FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that aren’t easily broken down and absorbed by the gut. This means they start to ferment in the gut relatively quickly, and the gases released during this process can lead to bloating.

They can be found in a range of different foods:

  • Oligosaccharides: e.g. fructans (found in wheat, rye and some vegetables) and galacto-oligosaccharides (found in pulses and legumes)
  • Disaccharides: e.g. lactose (found in mammalian milk)
  • Mono-saccharides: e.g. free fructose (found in honey, some fruit and fruit juices)
  • Polyols: e.g. sorbitol and mannitol (found in some fruits and vegetables)

A low FODMAP diet essentially involves restricting your intake of various foods that are high in FODMAPs, such as some fruits and vegetables, animal milk, wheat products and beans.

Although I have found a lot of conflicting comments, such as – yes broccoli is a low FODMAP food but it does cause bloating. So you really have to find out what foods suit you and in what quantities, going back to my very first post.

How do I restrict certain foods?

Restricting food, keeping to our example of broccoli, instead of a whole bunch of broccoli taking up quarter of the plate or having broccoli in several meals in the day, only have half a cup / two or three stems in the day.

This for me was very hard as I started off by having half an avocado everyday with eggs… not anymore, recommendation I found somewhere is to have 1/8 an avocado… 1/8!? that’s one mouthful, avocadoes are High in FODMAPs therefore avocadoes are not in my diet anymore however I did see myself improve from not having them every morning.

It is things like this where you are still not feeling right but you can’t think of what you are eating wrong because you have eaten them everyday where one can get blinded to what food is doing more damage than good. Avocadoes do have a lot of good properties but in the right quantities.

If you want to find out more, I have found www.lowfodmapdiets.com useful and you can download a useful FODMAP diet shopping list on the website too, if you do not have access to The Monash University Low FODMAP diet App (like me) where it gives you a recommendation of restricting certain foods from your diet to help know what foods are low in FODMAPs more easily.

A very interesting and super informative YouTube video from a lecture about IBS and the low FODMAP diet is useful to listen to, it is long (1hr20mins) but can have on in the background, looking at the video slides is not really needed.


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The Digestive System: Beyond the Stomach

The Digestive System: Beyond the Stomach

The processes that happen to our digested food once it leaves the stomach are the most important as this is where the nutrients from the food we eat is absorbed.

human_digestive_systemBelow explains how all of the components beyond the stomach fit together and their roles within digestion. I have put words in bold that refer to the picture above.

 

The duodenum (pictured in between the gall bladder and pancreas)

is the start of the small intestine and regulates the entering of chyme (stomach contents). As chyme enters it stimulates the release of cholecystokinin (no idea how to pronounce this one but all we need to know is that it is a hormone) secreted by cells in the duodenum.

As a result of this hormone the gall bladder, which stores bile that has been made in the liver, empties itself almost completely when it gets this message that food is arriving from the stomach. Between meals, it only lets out a dribble of bile. The bile travels down the bile duct to the duodenum. The pancreatic duct meets it there through a ring of muscle, or sphincter, controlling the release of bile pancreatic fluid into the duodenum.

The duodenum occupies a key position in the digestive system, linking the upper part of the mouth, gullet and stomach with the bowels. It lies just above the navel in a circle hugging the head of the pancreas. It also has a key role in the digestive process, as food arriving from the stomach is only half-digested so this is where essential digestion takes place. This includes starches and fats in particular but proteins are also incompletely digested. Fats at this point are virtually unchanged, it is only when it reaches the duodenum the digestion of fats can actually begin.

Digestive enzymes made in the pancreas, and bile manufactured by the liver, are both poured onto the part-digested food in the intestine, in response to an electro-chemical signal that fatty food is on its way.

First, bile acts on the fats in the food, breaking them down, then pancreatic enzymes, complete the digestion of the remaining starches, fats and proteins.

The enzyme lipase from the pancreas emulsifies the fats, breaking down the fat globules (known as lipids made up of fats and oils) into smaller globules (these are known as fatty acids and glycerol). Bile completes this process. It is only when globules are microscopically small that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. If this does not happen fatty diarrhoea will be a result.

Which brings us onto the middle part of the small intestine is the jejunum. Villi increase the surface area inside the jejunum, these finger-like projection are one cell thick with a good blood supply, designed to easily absorb digested food molecules quickly into the blood stream by diffusion. (Going back to my GCSE Science here!)

The final section of the small intestine is the ileum. Any further products of digestion are absorbed here and due to the bigger pores so can vitamins such as vitamin B12, minerals and salts. The main difference is the high abundance of lymphoid tissue, this is part of the immune system to protect the body from invasion in the gut. Our digestive tract has the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body and is key to protecting us from infection.

Fibre, water and vitamins carry onto be broken down further in the large intestine. Water that has been used in the digestion process is now reabsorbed in the colon and any undigested food and fibre is sorted in the rectum which is then eliminated through the anus (and we all know what happens here).


There’s a ton of more processes and I have tried to keep it as informative but also understandable for anyone to read as well. I hope this gives you an insight into how amazing our digestive system is and how important it is to treat it well and with respect.

Join in the conversation by commenting below and following on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to Find a Friend in Food.