Food Friday: Gastrointestinal Health, Bloating, IBS and FODMAPS

FODMAPS is the newest of the dietary buzzwords in the blogosphere today. If you struggle with bloating or irritable bowel symptoms, learning about FODMAPS may help.

FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides disaccharides monosaccharides and polyols.


FODMAPS include:

Fructose – fruits honey high fructose corn syrup, Etc.

Lactose–regular dairy products

Fructans-wheat garlic onion etc.

Galactan-Legumes such as beans, lentils, and soybeans etc.

Polyols-sweeteners like mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol; stone fruits such as avocado, cherries, apricots etc.

You will notice that a lot of the foods on this list appear to be what we normally consider to be healthy. However if eaten in excess or by those who are sensitive to this phenomenon, they can produce undesirable symptoms such as excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Such a situation is uncomfortable in and of itself but may also produce a systemic increase in inflammation.

According to the Stanford FODMAPS protocol, FODMAPS eaten in excess cause problems because they pull water into the intestinal tract, may not be digested or absorbed well and therefore could be fermented by the bacteria which reside in the intestinal tract. Fermentation produces gas and other by products which irritate the lining of the gut. This can produce increased intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome. This produces the symptoms of bloating, pain, excess gas, and inflammation.

This sort of thing can happen to anyone who eats these ingredients to excess. However, in those for whom this occurs easily and chronically, and for whom other disease is ruled out, it is called irritable bowel syndrome or IBS for short.

Click below for the Stanford FODMAPS protocol diet handout which will will elaborate on these concepts and give you a handy chart for foods to use and foods to avoid. 


Stanford FODMAPS protocol


Bear in mind that water and fiber are part of this equation. Either too much fiber or too little fiber can aggravate symptoms. You simply have to experiment to find your unique sweet spot. I think a good place to start is a small bowl of soft (not sticky) hot oat bran cereal every day. I have taken a page from the Giada DiLaurentis playbook and take my oatmeal with a little olive oil and kosher salt. This is pleasant in a popcorn kind of way and avoids the sugars that make symptoms worse.

On the other side, drinking plenty of water can fix a multitude of ills. Drinking water all through the day aids digestion, helping to avoid fermentation in the first place. It also flushes out any irritating by products of unwise dietary choices sooner rather than later. It resolves constipation and rehydrates after diarrhea. 

If you are really struggling with symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, excess gas, diarrhea and constipation, consult your doctor. Discuss the advisability of a low FODMAP diet for you. Remember that this is cutting edge thinking, and pertains specifically to FODMAP induced symptoms. Your doctor may discern other patterns in your clinical presentation that prompt him or her to check lab studies or imaging which they believe may be pertinent to your condition. If in the end, they think this would be helpful, try it with concerted effort for about 6 weeks. After that, you may find you can “ add back" desired items one by one, in small quantity. If your intestinal tract calms down and heals well, things that irritated you before may no longer do so.