Sometimes when we’re following a healthy diet plan, we have the impression that some foods can cause some digestive difficulties, like colic or even diarrhea. Yes, my friend, you should know that isn’t just an impression. A few food groups, called fodmaps, show exactly this property: inflammation of the intestinal mucous membrane, which leads to gas and discomfort.
“The FODMAPs (which stand for Fermentable Oligosaccharide, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines, and when that happens, they are instead fermented by bacteria, causing digestive problems”. This is what Laís Murta, a functional and sports clinical dietitian has told me.
I also talked with Patricia Davidson, a functional nutritionist who went into the details of the elements named FODMAPs. Take a look:
Oligosaccharide: found in grains and legumes, they can’t be digested due to the fact that they don’t have the right enzymes for that.
Examples: beans, grains, peas, lentils, chickpeas and soy.
Lactose: this is only a FODMAP when the levels of lactase are low in the individual’s organism, which can be influenced by factors like genetics, ethnicity (almost 100% of the Asians and American Indians have low levels of lactase) and intestinal problems.
Examples: milk, ice cream and desserts containing milk, condensed milk, yogurt and some soft cheeses.
Fructose: despite being simple sugar, the absorption of fructose is based on the activity of glucose transporters found in the small intestine walls. If a certain food contains higher concentration of fructose than glucose, its absorption can be affected, leading to intestinal discomfort.
Here are some of them: honey, fructose syrups (usually added to processed foods), agave syrup, concentrated juice, apple, mango, watermelon, sucrose (regular sugar, molasses, demerara sugar, brown sugar and coconut sugar).
Polyols: they’re found in the form of sorbitol and mannitol. Due to their slow absorption through the intestinal barrier, only a third of what is ingested is actually absorbed. For that reason, sorbitol is many times used as a low calorie sweetener in sugar-free foods, mainly sweets and chewing gums.
Examples: avocado, cherry, tangerine, plum, mushroom, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt as ingredients contained in processed foods.
Some of the symptoms of FODMAPs intolerance are: bloating, abdominal distension, constipation, colic and diarrhea. Besides, such inflammation can lead to the increase of the permeability of the intestinal mucous membrane, which is related to a super activation of the immune system. That, in turn, leads to food sensitivity and poor absorption of nutrients.
If you have the symptoms I mentioned constantly, then I believe this plan can help you. Big time. “The diet that leaves FODMAPs out has been effective in the treatment of inflammatory diseases of the intestines, like the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the Chron’s disease as well as the celiac disease, though there are many more” Lais points.
First of all, the idea is taking the foods rich in FODMAPs out of your diet for about 30 to 90 days. All this so that you can phase out the sensitivity in your intestinal mucous membrane. During this period, the individual takes supplements and specific nutrients in order to treat their intestines.
The nutritionist adds that, in general, some digestive enzymes are used in order to avoid that poorly absorbed foods get to the intestines, probiotics (bacteria that are good for you and your intestines), prebiotic fibers (which are food for probiotics) and, in some cases, glutamine, which feed enterocytes and colonocytes – intestine cells. Plus, through biochemical tests you can check which nutrients should be replaced, like zync, vitamin A, vitamin S, B12, folic acid.
By taking the FODMAPs out, the ingestion of foods rich in fat and protein is authorized. “The fat ingested during the adjustment stage has to be as healthy as possible, always giving preference to olive oil. As an alternative, you can use flaxseed, sesame, coconut and almond oils or even others, apart from sunflower, canola or corn”, Lais adds.
You should also include meats, fish and eggs. And remember: pick lean meats, have fish several times a week and the eggs only sometimes. “Once this stage is done, the foods are gradually reintroduced in small portions and in isolation, so that it is possible to identify which of them causes the discomfort”, instructs Thaís Barca, a clinical and sports dietitian at CliNutri.
Cans and Can’ts
Here’s an exclusive chart with the items that you can and can’t include in the FODMAPs diet.
|FODMAP Foods||Alternatives containing little Fodmap|
|Vegetables and Greens||Asparagus, artichoke, onion, garlic, French garlic, legumes, beet, savoy cabbage, celery, sweet corn||Alfalfa, bean sprouts, green beans, carrots, fresh aromatic herbs, cucumber, lettuce, tomato|
|Fruits||Apples, pear, mango, watermelon, nectarine, peaches, plums||Banana, orange, grapes, melon.|
|Milk and dairy||Milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, ice cream and other desserts containing milk||Vegetable milks (coconut, rice, almond), hard and well-cured cheese (half cured, parmesan)|
|Source of protein||Legumes (beans, grains, pods, peas, lentils)||Meat, fish, tofu, eggs|
|Cereals and bread||rye, wheat, hard-wheat||Gluten-free bread, oatmeal, rice, quinoa, gluten-free pasta, spelt, tapioca|
|Crackers and cookies||Crackers/other products similar to rye and/or wheat||Gluten-free crackers and cookies|
|Seeds and Oilseeds||Pistachio, cashew nut, Brazil nut, walnut||Almond, pumpkin seeds|
Now it’s up to you.
Dear reader, I know it’s extremely hard to take out foods we like so much from our diets. The abstinence thing is real. But here’s how I see it: If you have intestinal discomforts like we mentioned in this article, I think doing it is really worthwhile.
In the beginning it’ll be pretty hard, I know that. Can’t lie about it. But I’m positive you’ll feel better in just a couple of days. No colics, constipation or diarrhea. You’ll feel so great that the 30 to 90 days will fly.
So, to recap: the reintroduction of the foods should be gradual, with a group at a time. First fructose, lactose, sorbitol and mannitol; then the oligosaccharides. And one more advice: don’t go on this diet on your own. See a nutritionist that knows about FODMAPs and follow whatever they recommend.
If you go on this diet, please, make comments here so we know how the first days went and how you felt at the end of it. I’d love to hear from you.