Low FODMAP diet
It may be March, but it’s still the beginning of the year, which means people are trying to stick to their “new year, new you” diet resolutions. One of the biggest diet trends we’re seeing these days is the low FODMAP diet. In fact, it was even ranked as the number 9 diet on Google’s “Year in Search 2018” review (with interest peaking in July 2018).
The diet, which originated at Australia's Monash University, was intended to help those suffering with GI issues (like irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS) by better controlling symptoms. These symptoms can include things like bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and more. Discovering a diet that could potentially alleviate these symptoms is a big deal, because, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), IBS affects up to one in seven Americans.
So what is a FODMAP? This acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. These are all short-chain carbohydrates. For some context, there are many different types of carbohydrates (long-chain carbohydrates, simple sugars, etc.), and each behaves differently during digestion and can impact people in unique ways. According to the IFFGD, it’s believed that these particular short-chain carbs may cause IBS symptoms because they ferment quickly in the gut (creating gas, which can instigate IBS symptoms) and are not well absorbed in the small intestine.
According to the IFFGD, some studies have shown that limiting consumption of high FODMAP foods can improve IBS symptoms and symptoms related to other gut diseases, as well. A low FODMAP diet is by no means a cure for IBS or other gut diseases, but it does seem to offer some drug-free relief to patients who are able to target trigger foods and limit those particular items. According to the NIH, more research should be done to better determine which patients among the IBS population will benefit from this diet, as well as more accurately quantify various foods’ FODMAP content.
Like all diets, the low FODMAP diet should be personalized to address an individual’s concerns, ideally with the help of a doctor and/or dietitian. There are breath hydrogen tests that help doctors/dietitians determine which types of carbohydrates are triggers in their patients, although these tests won’t pick up everything. It’s also important to consult a dietitian to ensure you’re still obtaining enough nutrients and keeping a healthy diet overall throughout the process. With their professional expertise, ideally, after a few weeks, one may be able to strategically re-introduce (or “challenge”) certain foods back into the diet (in limited quantities). Per the IFFGD, the goal during this challenge phase is to gradually increase quantities of trigger foods so they remain tolerated.
With all that said, it is important to keep in mind that FODMAPs are not unhealthy foods by any means. Many “high FODMAP foods” are actually considered prebiotics, which have been shown to be good for gut bacteria. Therefore, the IFFGD urges that the low FODMAP diet not be an elimination diet, but rather is meant to be short-term (6-8 weeks).
The low FODMAP diet entails limiting foods that are high in FODMAPs; foods low in FODMAPs should be more tolerable and don’t need to be avoided. Here are some examples of high and low FODMAP-containing foods per the IFFGD (note: this can vary based on A) where the food comes from in the country/world, and B) physicians’/dietitians’ differing clinical experiences):
- Foods high in fructose:
- Certain fruits: apples, cherries, mango, pears, watermelon, dried fruit
- Certain veggies: asparagus, artichokes, sugar snap peas
- Sugars: honey, high-fructose corn syrup
- Foods high in lactose:
- Certain dairy products: regular and low-fat milk and yogurts, soft cheeses, custard, ice cream
- Foods containing fructans and galactooligsaccharides:
- Certain grains: rye and rye products
- Certain fruits: watermelon, peaches
- Certain veggies: artichokes, onion, garlic
- Inulin (fiber)
- Polyols (Sorbitol, Mannitol)
- Certain fruits: apples, plums, pears, nectarines, watermelon
- Certain veggies: cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas
- Certain drinks: apple juice, pear juice
- Certain sweeteners: sugar-free gums, hard candies, and chocolates containing sorbitol,mannitol, xylitol isomalt, maltitol
- Certain grains
- Brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, gluten-free bread
- Certain veggies:
- White potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, cabbage, kale, summer squash
- Certain fruits:
- Blueberries, kiwi, papaya, oranges
- Certain nuts:
- Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans
- Certain seeds:
- Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
Label Insight's proprietary ingredient analysis capabilities allow us to understand which products are free from ingredients, such as high-FODMAP ingredients. Within the LI database, 15 foods make a low FODMAP claim out of 347,232 total active food and beverage products. Our database represents 81% of total sales dollars for food and beverage products sold in the U.S. There are 13,918 that don't make any statement on-package about being Low FODMAP but could. These products are found across 32 aisles, with high prevalence in the seeds, snacks, popcorn, fruits, vegetables, cereal, and rice shelves.
There are not any official FODMAP certifications/logos at this time in the US. A 2017 article published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology did note that “a generally accepted science-based definition of the analytical criteria for low FODMAP products suitable for a low FODMAP diet should be developed” and that “regulators should permit manufacturers of low FODMAP products to communicate the benefits of a low FODMAP diet on product labels and promotional material which will facilitate people with IBS' selection and use low FODMAP foods,” with the goal of improving patients’ adherence to the diet.
Other countries do have more regulations, claims, and certifications around FODMAPs. Monash University, where this diet originated, even has a “Monash University Low FODMAP Diet” logo that manufacturers can apply to have their products and/or recipes certified under. There are entire brands that are dedicating themselves to the FODMAP cause as well, such as Fody Foods, whose goal is to create “a world of delicious, gut-friendly, low FODMAP foods.”
One should note that gluten-free products, though wheat-free, are not always low in FODMAPs (many gluten-free products contain high FODMAP ingredients like honey, onions, garlic, etc.), so when shopping, looking for products with “gluten-free” claims is not always the best route. Instead, one should look carefully at the ingredient statement and make sure high FODMAP foods are either not present at all, or present toward the end of the ingredient list (meaning their presence will be minimal).
Find out how your portfolio of products stacks up against the low FODMAP diet that shoppers are looking for by contacting us today!