Sometimes you’re so hungry and confused that you need a map to find the food you saved for later. Or sometimes, if you’re being a total bitch to yourself you like to hide snacks all over your house so you won’t eat them, to later frantically hunt them down like a pirate on a treasure hunt. What you’ll use then is a food map, but what we’re about to talk about now is FODMAPs.
Seriously, I can’t be the only one who’ve stumbled across this term on the internet and having my tiny head voice read “food maps”. Lazy reading obviously, but please tell me I’m not the only one? Either way, what is FODMAPs and why are we seeing this word thrown around every health blog as the new superdiet that will save your life while saving the depleting oceans? Okay, that’s no true, and by the way, our depleting oceans are a serious issue. I apologize for making a stupid joke about it. I do love and care deeply for our blue planet. By the way, if you haven’t, check out Blue Planet on Netflix! That shit’s amazing!
But, back to FODMAPs. What are they? What do they do? Should you try it? Read on to get a better understanding of what FODMAPs are.
What are FODMAPs?
The first thing we need to do is to break down this two-faced word. The word itself is a mouthful, so buckle up your seatbelt… FODMAPs stands for, again, get ready for it, Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. I told you it’s not exactly in the category of “baby’s first words”.
Most likely, that long word didn’t make things clear for you at all, so to make it simple, FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols, which for some people cause a bad reaction in the gut.
It goes down in the gut
Once again, some people, have a hard time breaking down these short-chain carbohydrate foods which are high in FODMAPs. High in FODMAPs means that these foods are more likely to cause a bad gut reaction in some individuals. How exactly does it work? In our gut, we have a million bacteria called the microbiome. Probiotics are another trendy health thing, and what they essentially are is healthy gut bacteria. Living, stable, high-income taxpayers who like sports and go clubbing on the weekend. Well some of them might be more into fine arts and crafts, but bottom line, they are a bunch of bacteria living in our gut to make sure we stay healthy.
Since these bacteria are actually living things they need to eat, and unlike us, they can’t be picky with what they get. What you eat, is what they eat. That’s where we have prebiotics, which are foods that feed the probiotic bacteria with healthy nutrients. Fruit, vegetables, fiber, fermented foods are all part of the prebiotic family. But, even some of these healthy foods can in some people cause a bad reaction to our microbiome. This is where FODMAPs come in.
What happens is that these carbohydrates don’t break down properly in the large intestine. The gut bacteria just don’t know how to break it down on the dance floor together with these short-chain carb guys, they get out of sync and the whole party is ruined. Essentially, what happens is that the bacteria produce excess gas due to the bioproducts of the fermentation process. And, don’t we all know what happens when we have an overproduction of gas in our system..? We get bloated, experience discomforts, or serious digestive issues.
Foods high and low in FODMAPs
It’s hard to point out exactly which foods have the highest amount of FODMAPs. Since everyone reacts differently to different foods, and the quantity of the food we eat can have an impact on our guts as well, we can’t say exactly which foods to avoid.
What some research has shown is that there are some common foods which can cause these symptoms, and they are apples, pears, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon, cereals, pasta, milk, and bread. You can find more complete lists here. But, remember that these are just a general list. Some of the high FODMAP foods will work fine in some people while some of the low FODMAPs might not.
Is it healthy?
I have to make it clear that you shouldn’t jump on this “diet” before you’ve actually been to a nutritionist or dietitian who specifically told you to try the low FODMAP diet. Since there’s a lot of restrictions on this diet it’s important to understand that you can get nutrient deficient if you just “try it out” with no actual reason behind it.
The low FODMAP diet is also meant to be a temporary diet, not a lifestyle change! The main reason people with gut problems get on this diet is to slowly introduce these foods back into their diet again so their gut bacteria learn how to break them down properly.
Then again, we all process foods differently. Just because you read that your favorite Instagram influencer is on the low FODMAP diet and is feeling super duper amazing, doesn’t mean that it’s a magical cure and will make you feel amazing too. When we read about these new diets, superfoods, and miracle juices on social media and on the internet, we have to put our professor glasses on and think about the sources. How reliable is this source? Is this an actual nutritionist/health coach giving this advice? Can they back up what they’re saying with proper research? Do I have digestive issues?
There is no one miracle diet, just as there’s no one size fits all. Of course, we have foods that are more nutrient-dense than others, but that doesn’t mean that they are healthy for everyone. That’s why allergies exist for example. If you do feel like you could be suffering from these digestive issues, book an appointment with a nutritionist or dietitian and see if the low FODMAP diet is actually something for you. Don’t just do it because Kim Kardashian might have mentioned it in the caption on her latest Instagram post.