Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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What the heck is FODMAP?  The diet began in Australia in 1997 by a dietitian, Sue Shepherd, who developed it for people with digestive symptoms of bloating, excess gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea common in people afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome  (IBS), estimated to be 10-15% of the population as well as people diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).   It is an acronym for potentially tough-to-absorb molecules called Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharaides, And Polyols, which basically are all sugars.

There is emerging research that the FODMAP diet can be an effective treatment for the management of IBS symptoms. It is not considered a cure, but can in some people be a dietary approach to improved quality of life.

Food intolerances can be hard to determine and physicians should rule out other causes that mimic these symptoms such as celiac disease, celiac sensitivity, ovarian cancer, fructose intolerance, and bacterial overgrowths.  Once they are excluded, it may be worth it to talk to a physician about the low FODMAP diet as well as consult a FODMAP-trained registered dietitian or nutritionist.

This is not a diet one should attempt without some help due to the danger of not being properly diagnosed, or risking nutritional deficiencies.  Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, LD has written a helpful book entitled IBS- Free At Last. You may also visit her website at  Here you can download food lists of the offending sugars:  lactose, fructose, fructans (see my post), galactans, and polyols.  She offers worksheets to help identify what foods may be affecting you personally by trying a temporary elimination diet.  She says: “Usual diets in the U.S. are loaded with FODMAPs.  Doctors have pushed high-fiber diets and fiber supplements almost across the board and then wonder why the symptoms persist or get worse”.

First and foremost, see your doctor to make sure you do not suffer from a more serious gastrointestinal disorder – please do not self-diagnose.

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