A. Dr Sue Shepherd, low-FODMAP diet creator and expert in digestive health and dietary intolerances, responds:
The low-FODMAP diet has been scientifically proven to help ease the symptoms of irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS). These usually include abdominal pain, bloating, excess wind and unwelcome changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhoea or constipation, or both).
I developed this eating plan to help the one in seven people who suffers from IBS, and health experts around the world now recommend the low-FODMAP diet for this often difficult-to-treat condition. (Note: If you have any IBS symptoms, it’s important to have a health professional rule out other possible causes, such as coeliac disease.)
FODMAP is simply an acronym for the scientific names of five naturally occurring sugars.
Fermentable sugars are poorly absorbed in the small bowel (or intestine), so bacteria ferment them in the large intestine.
Oligosaccharides are sugar chains that include fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).
Disaccharide is lactose, which is a double sugar.
Monosaccharide is fructose, a single sugar. (The small intestine has trouble absorbing fructose only when a food contains more fructose than glucose.)
Polyols are sugar alcohols, which include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol.
When the small intestine has trouble absorbing FODMAPs, they travel through to the large intestine. Here, they not only attract water, but also become a food source for bacteria.
If you’re sensitive to FODMAP sugars, you should limit or avoid foods high in FODMAPs. Some common culprits include lentils, chickpeas, wheat, garlic, onion, honey, artificial sweeteners and some fruits (such as apple).