What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?FODMAPs; an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. The look of confusion I get when I explain what FODMAP stands for is priceless!

But what actually are FODMAPs? They are fermentable carbohydrate (sugar) molecules found within certain foods that are difficult for the body to digest in the stomach and small intestine. Poorly absorbed molecules in the small intestine are then passed through to the large intestine, which is where the problem begins. 

The large intestine is loaded with bacteria designed to digest foods that the stomach and small intestine can not. As food is broken down and fermented in the large intestine by our gut flora (bacteria), by-products such as gas are produced. And just like that you look like a pregnant woman by 3pm, and the stench coming out of you may just be worse than your not so fave Uncle Jeff.

Now let’s break it down and actually see what each acronym stands for and which foods they reflect (these food lists are not exhaustive): 

Fermentable…

Oligosaccharides 

Let me just start by explaining a monosaccharide, which is a single sugar molecule that cannot be broken down further, i.e. fructose or glucose – they are as basic as sugars can get. However, combine these two simple sugars and we get what is called sucrose or table sugar (1 part fructose + 1 part glucose) – cool huh? 

An oligosaccharide is a small collection of these monosaccharides (simple sugars). We call this group of sugars Fructans (when there are between 2 and 9 units) and Galacto-oligosaccharides (when there are more than 10 units) which like to hide in a variety of fruit, vegetables and grains. 

Common sources of oligosaccharides are: 

  • Garlic 
  • Onion, Spring onion (white part) and shallots
  • Leek 
  • Artichoke
  • Wheat, rye and barley
  • Inulin

I find this collection of sugars one that really turns my body upside-down and inside-out. These are the sneakiest of the bunch. They hide in cereals, pre-prepared sauces and many protein bars and shakes. If you find you are sensitive to garlic the way I am you will need to start sourcing low-FODMAP sauces. Sue Shepherd has a wonderful and tasty range here, or you can create your own. 

Another no-no I like to avoid is inulin, aka the galacto-oligosaccharides we spoke about earlier. Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that many companies use to build the fibre content in protein shakes and bars. Keep your eyes peeled peeps! 

Disaccharides

Disaccharides contain only two of the simple sugar molecules. Remember the previously mentioned example of table sugar (regular sugar)? Table sugar has 1 molecule of fructose and 1 molecule of glucose in equal parts. 

A common disaccharide is lactose. This can come in the form of:

  • Milk and Yoghurt
  • Icecream and other dairy desserts
  • Soft cheeses (ricotta, cottage and cream cheese)
  • Custard
  • Condensed and evaporated milk and milk powder

My body accepts lactose, hip hooray for me! But if yours doesn’t, some easy substitutes are oat, coconut, rice, almond or chia milks (to replace cows milk), soy or lactose free yoghurts, and replacing cottage cheese or soft cheeses with avocado is always a good idea! 

Monosaccharides 

AKA Fructose! This is the singular sugar molecule we have been speaking so much about! And the teeny little molecule can mess with your digestive tract something cruel. I suffer from fructose malabsorption so there are foods containing high levels of fructose I avoid like the plaque: 

  • Honey and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Apples, Watermelon, Pears, Peaches and Mangos!
  • Sugary cereals, cereal bars or protein bars/shakes.

I opt for low-sugar fruits and rice malt syrup instead of honey. I only use brown rice or whey protein isolate/concentrate that contains nothing but the protein itself and some natural flavouring such as vanilla bean pods, or I choose unflavoured. 

Polyols

Are also known as sugar alcohols. They are reduced caloric sugar molecules and because they are not completely digested, you get the taste but not the energy of these sugars. The issue with polyols is that they travel through the small intestine completely undigested until they reach the large intestine where bacteria feed on the sugars and ferment, causing bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhoea and nausea. 

Polyols come in the form of: 

  • Most ingredients ending in ‘ol’ – i.e. sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol etc. 
  • Some fruits: apples, apricots, avocado, cherries, nectarines, pears, plums and prunes. 
  • Some vegetables: mushrooms, snow peas, sweet potato, avocado and cauliflower. 

Please remember I am only an email away if you need any help, I can be reached through my Contact page. I would love to hear from you and hopefully we can get you over your digestive hiccup together!

Love,

The Nourished Blonde