There are plenty of diets out there with acronym names, some of which lack scientific support (think: the HCG diet, GOLO), and others that are legit (for instance, DASH). This acronym diet, “FODMAP” falls in the latter category: the low FODMAP diet is rooted in science. That is, if you’re seeking a diet solution for unresolved digestive ills, namely irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—which is the most common GI disorder, impacting about 10 to 15 percent of people. More and more research suggests following a “low FODMAP” diet could help alleviate unpleasant symptoms like gas and bloat.
What Are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharide Monosaccharide and Polyols, and they are a group of carbohydrates that are slowly and poorly absorbed (thus causing GI upset) for many people suffering from IBS.
Fermentable is code for gas. While that’s a slight oversimplification, it accurately describes the types of carbs: FODMAP carbs are what the microbes in your intestines eat. The microbes break down the FODMAPs, and that creates gas. Oligosaccharides (namely fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides) are found in wheat, onion, garlic, legumes and ingredient additives like chicory root extract and inulin. The D stands for the disaccharide lactose—in milk, cottage and ricotta cheese and yogurt. M in FODMAP is for monosaccharide and refers to fructose—found in larger quantities in apples, pears, agave syrup and high-fructose corn syrup. The A is for “and.” P stands for polyols, which are sugar alcohols used to sweeten sugar-free gum and mints, and also are naturally in stone fruits, blackberries, cauliflower and button mushrooms.
The Low FODMAP Diet is an elimination diet: you start first by eliminating all of the foods that contain these types of carbs. It’s actually a much longer list than what is outlined above. After you take FODMAP-rich foods out of your diet, and eliminate them for a period of time, you slowly re-introduce them into your meals. The purpose of the re-introduction is to ID which, if any, FODMAP-rich foods trigger your GI symptoms (because people are typically sensitive to some FODMAPs, not all of them). Then those trigger foods can be minimized, or eliminated altogether, and the other FODMAP-rich foods can be added back into your diet.
Does a Low FODMAP Diet Work?
For the most part, the research suggests that yes, a low FODMAP diet will help improve your IBS symptoms. For instance, a study published earlier this year found that adults diagnosed with IBS and on a low FODMAP diet for a month lessened their bloating, gas pain, and diarrhea. They also improved their day-to-day quality of life.
However, the body of research on FODMAPs is still very new, and eliminating FODMAPs isn’t the only solution for IBS sufferers. That same study also found that there isn't much of a difference in symptom improvement when compared to eating a healthy diet like that suggested in government dietary guidelines. In fact, a low FODMAPs diet is actually the second line of defense for IBS. The go-to “treatment” is a dietary trial of boosting fiber and ‘cleaning up’ your diet (aka eating healthier).
There’s also a growing body of research that suggests a low FODMAP diet could help with other GI conditions, such as quiescent (or inactive) IBD, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), or in people with celiac disease who don’t get complete symptom resolution on a gluten-free diet. Reducing FODMAPs may also help endurance athletes that are prone to GI distress during exercise.
Follow The FODMAP Diet with Oversight from Your Health Professional
There are, of course, cons with such a restrictive diet. It can be easy to fall short on key nutrients, such as fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin C and other antioxidants (more on that below). It’s also a way of eating that’s not easy to stick to, nor is it intuitive. Thus, this is a diet that you should attempt with supervision by a registered dietitian or other health professional that’s very familiar with and experienced in a low FODMAP diet. Also, if you only have occasional bloat or GI upset, it’s important to talk with a doctor and rule out other intestinal conditions, as well as colon and ovarian cancers, before you trail a low FODMAP diet.
Get Familiar with What Is Low FODMAP-Friendly
Because there are many nuances to this elimination diet, being familiar with what’s low in FODMAPs is crucial. Take, for example, soy: firm tofu, soy sauce, and edamame are all low FODMAP foods (and two of those are also delicious, healthy plant-based proteins), but silken tofu, soy milk, or soybean flour made from whole soybeans are not low FODMAP.
It’s also important to plan how you will get nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin C, and fiber, which a low FODMAP diet has been found to be low in. For calcium, lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, and lactose-free yogurt (made without other FODMAP ingredients) are great ways to get your fill of the bone-strengthening mineral. To keep up with vitamin C needs, look to oranges, pineapples, strawberries, and kiwifruit. You can get a fiber boost from those C-rich fruits, too, which are also solid sources of fiber, as well as white potatoes with their skin on.
Hemp Seed-Based Ingredients and FODMAP
This is also where hemp and hemp-based products are valuable: hemp seeds (as well as chia seeds) deliver ample fiber. Our V-70 Hemp Heart Protein is also an easy way to add calcium to your diet: there’s nearly 5½ percent of the daily target in about 2½ tablespoons. Plus, our Roasted Hemp Seeds deliver 4 percent of the daily value for calcium and 3 grams fiber in a 3 tablespoon serving.
If you’re a food product developer thinking about addressing the fast-growing FODMAP trend, hemp seed-based ingredients can solve many of your food formulation challenges. With nutritious hemp seed-based proteins and oils, you can eliminate many of the ancillary ingredients and chemicals that make other plant-based proteins ‘work’ such as flavor masking agents.
To learn more about the advantages of hemp our innovative seed-based ingredients, go here.