If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with IBS, you’ve likely heard of the Low FODMAP Diet. Your doctor may have mentioned that following this specific diet may reduce your IBS symptoms, which sounds great, but has left you wondering, what exactly is a FODMAP?
Breaking Down FODMAPs
The word FODMAP sounds ridiculous because it’s an acronym. It stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. If your brain just exploded don’t worry, I’ve got you!
Before we move any further, the first thing you need to know is that a “saccharide” is a sugar molecule. These molecules can stand alone or be bonded together into “chains.” When your dietitian talks to you about “short-chain” and “long-chain” foods, they are talking about how many molecules are bonded together as they float around in your digestive system.
This means a monosaccharide floats around on its own as a single molecule. A disaccharide, however, is two molecules bonded together. An oligosaccharide means there could be anywhere from 3 to 10 molecules bonded together. Just so we’re clear, FODMAPs are generally “short-chain” compounds.
You’ve been doing great, so stay with me! Polyols (the “P” in FODMAP) are long chains of alcohol sugars. These are not called a “saccharide,” they are called an “ol.” These can be massively long; bonding together hundreds of molecules at a time.
When looking for a polyol on a label, look for things ending in -ol (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, lactitol, and erythritol are common). Isomalt is also a polyol – this one is worth memorizing as it doesn’t conform to normal naming standards.
I thought I had this all figured out until I met with my dietitian for the first time. As it turns out the FODMAP groups are shorthand for several subgroups. Fear not, I said I’ve got you!
In fact, I made an illustrated guide to help you interpret what people are talking about. I thought this might be handy after my doctor, dietitian, and re-challenge booklet used three different terms to talk about the same food. Because why the heck not?
Here we go!
Now that you’re familiar with basic FODMAP groups, head on over to my next article: What is the Low FODMAP Diet? to find out how you can reduce IBS symptoms by finding your FODMAP triggers. Hang in there! Together we’ll get the Low FODMAP Diet down to a science
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