What even is FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for: Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharide, Monosaccharides And Polyols (a bit of a mouthful, so let’s just say FODMAP).
These are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and can cause digestive distress in the form of: cramping, diarrhoea, stomach bloating, gas, and flatulence.
Low FODMAP diets can provide remarkable benefits as it can help people figure out which foods are problematic for them, and commonly help those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
How does it work?
The diet is a short discovery process which contains 3 steps to identify the trigger foods:
Once you’ve identified the foods that cause the unwanted symptoms, avoid this long term while enjoying everything else.
Should you try it?
Research has shown that the low FODMAP diet has reduced symptoms in up to 86% of people with IBS and SIBO.
Because initially, it can be very restrictive in the first phase, it’s important to ensure you are still getting a good balance of nutrition.
Is it possible to go on a low FODMAP plan as a vegan/ vegetarian?
Although it can be challenging, yes, it is most definitely possible to eat no meat and still follow the low FODMAP plan. Although some careful planning is necessary.
Top tips for vegans on the low FODMAP plan:
Beans are a common staple amongst the vegans, but unfortunately most are off limit with a few exceptions. If you want to add beans, 42g of chickpeas and 46g of canned lentils are low FODMAP approved. Other than that, stay away from beans for the first stage of the plan.
Soy is a great way for vegans to get protein in their diet, and comes in the form of tofu, edamame beans, soy milk and meat alternatives. But unfortunately, not all soy is created equal. When selecting tofu, stick with firm tofu, as silken or soft tofu is high in FODMAPs. Edamame beans are safe as a one cup serving. But soy milk is best avoided.
- Onion & garlic
Onion and garlic both contain fructans (oligosaccharides) and should therefore be avoided during the first step of the low FODMAP plan. Humans are unable to absorb oligosaccharides because we lack the enzymes needed to break the bonds between the chains of the molecule. And so instead of being absorbed and used as fuel, they travel through the small intestine to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria, this leads to IBS symptoms.
- Fruit & vegetables
It’s counter-intuitive to think that we need to be careful of the fruits & vegetables that we choose, but due to the varying levels of FODMAPs they contain, some must be avoided during the initial stage of the plan. However, it is important to remember that vegetables are part of a nutritious diet, and so instead of cutting them out, just choose the FODMAP-friendly ones.
Wheat is one of the biggest contributors of FODMAPs in the Western diet due to the large quantities we consume. The most common sources including bread, pasta, cereals and biscuits. Instead we can substitute these for our low FODMAP swaps: brown rice, oats, quinoa and buckwheat.
Sweeteners can be a hidden source of FODMAPs, and so it’s important to check for these sweeteners in your packaged food. Sweeteners to avoid: agave, high fructose corn syrup, molasses & added polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt). Instead, you can sweeten your foods with maple syrup, sugar, glucose, sucrose, and stevia.