What Are FODMAPs?

What Does FODMAP Stand For?

Simply put, FODMAPs is an acronym that stands for a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are indigestible or poorly absorbed by certain people.

As they travel through the gastrointestinal tract, they draw excess fluid into the small intestine and generate gas when they are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine (colon).

This fluid and gas build-up can lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as abdominal bloating and distension, pain, flatulence and nausea, as well as diarrheaconstipation or both.

While IBS is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which in part means that it’s not life-threatening, we do not want to understate the amount of pain and discomfort involved.

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

FODMAP's - What are they? - www.FODMAPeveryday.com

If you are living with IBS you know all too well that the abdominal pain and gut symptoms can keep you from living a full life. At times, you may not even be able to pull on a pair of pants due to excruciating pain or leave the house for fear of a sudden “accident.”

The Low FODMAP Diet

Researchers at Monash University in Australia discovered something very important:

A diet low in FODMAPs (or more commonly known as a “low FODMAP diet” or ‘FODMAP Elimination Diet”) has been shown to relieve gut symptoms in up to 75% of those with IBS.  

But how do you know which foods to eat and which to steer clear of as you embark on this elimination diet?

Let’s take it one FODMAP at a time, with an example of a small sampling of high FODMAP foods, which are common triggers for those who poorly absorb them:

Fermentable

This refers to the process (fermentation) by which bacteria break down organic compounds and use them for growth and reproduction. Poorly digested carbohydrates like the FODMAPs below are the perfect fuel for this bacterial feast!

Oligosaccharides

The “O” in FODMAP stands for oligosaccharides (sometimes referred to as “Oligos”) — a category that comprises both fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). This is a large and diverse category, populated with items from most of the major food groups.

This term “fermentable oligosaccharides” encompasses fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. Common foods that are high in these FODMAPs are wheat, onions, garlic, beans and cashews.

Disaccharides

The “D” in FODMAP stands for disaccharide, and it specifically refers to one particular disaccharide, namely lactose.

This refers to the double sugar, lactose, which is found in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, custard, puddings and certain types of cheese.

Monosaccharides

The “M” in FODMAP stands for monosaccharide. This is consistent with the rest of the acronym, which uses the first letter of the carbohydrate group each FODMAP belongs to, rather than that of a particular monosaccharide, which in this case is fructose.

This references the “simple sugar,” fructose. Fructose is a problem when it is present in greater amounts than glucose in foods such as apples, mangoes, pears, asparagus, agave and honey.

PolyolsThe “P” in FODMAP stands for polyols, but you may know them by another name - “sugar alcohols" - which is how they usually appear on the Nutrition Facts labels of packaged foods. The type of polyol/sugar alcohol found in a product, e.g.,  sorbitol or mannitol, can be found in the ingredients list.

More commonly known as “sugar alcohols,” these compounds are neither sugar nor alcohol. They do taste sweet, but they won’t get you drunk! Polyols occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and they’re also commercially produced and added to packaged foods and other items.

Two that occur naturally in food – sorbitol and mannitol – are found in apples, blackberries, peaches and coconut water, to name a few.

Commercially manufactured polyols such as xylitol, maltitol, isomalt are found in sugar-free gum, candy and other processed foods, as well as some dietary supplements and medications.

Unfortunately, you won’t see the terms fructan or disaccharide on a food label, so what can you do? Read How To Read Food Labels for the Low FODMAP Diet”

While there are many more high FODMAP foods to be aware of, the part we really want to stress is that there are vastly MORE foods that are low FODMAP and that you CAN eat! Click To Tweet

How To Follow The Low FODMAP Diet

Read about The Low FODMAP Diet and learn how FODMAP Everyday® can help you eat well and stay symptom-free.

Sign up for our Newsletter and get our Quick Start Series to help guide you step by step.

You should download the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App, which will give you access to a regularly updated list of foods and their FODMAP content. You can also download our FODMAP Everyday Low FODMAP Reference List on our Resource page.

We highly recommend you work with a low FODMAP trained dietitian when starting out on the low FODMAP diet. You can find one in our Registered Dietitian Directory. 

FODMAP IT Feature 2

Free Printable Low FODMAP Diet Description

Would you like a simple 2 page handout that you can share with your friends, family or clients? Or just to print out and have for yourself?

You can download one for free here.

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Downloadable pdf describing the Low FODMAP diet and its guidelines

Free Printable Low FODMAP Foods List


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Low FODMAP Food List