What are FODMAPs?

You certainly went across the word “FODMAPs” if you have some digestive troubles.

But do you know what FODMAPs means ? (spoiler alert: yes, it mean something!)

Let’s see what it’s hidden behind this acronym.

What “FODMAP” means

FODMAPs are sugars poorly digested by our body. They will be fermented by the bacteria hosted in our colon. This, is a natural and healthy process.

However, these fermentations can become excessive and may cause bloating and pain in sensitive people. FODMAPs can also, by osmosis effect, accelerate transit time.

FODMAPs are found in many foods

Let’s go deeper

Fermentescible

Our colon is naturally populated by billions of microbes. As human, we are not able to absorb many sugars because we do not have the right enzymes. When these sugars reach the colon, bacteria will use them as energy : this is the fermentation process. This fermentation induces the production of gas.

Oligosaccharides

“Oligo” means “a little” and saccharides refers to a chain of different sugar molecules. We cannot digest these sugars, only our bacteria can. There are two types of oligosaccharides: fructans including fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin, and galacooligosaccharide (GOS).

Disaccharides

“Di” means two, which means that a disaccharide is a sugar chain made up of two molecules. In “FODMAPs”, this disaccharide refers to lactose, the milk sugar, which is made of a molecule of galactose and glucose.

We have an enzyme that makes it possible to “cut” these two sugar molecules: the lactase. However, in adulthood, many of us no longer sufficiently synthesize this enzyme. This phenomenon is normal, and most of us are still able to eat hard cheese which contain little lactose.

Monosaccharides

Mono” means one, so monosaccharides are simple sugars.

In FODMAPs, monosaccharide refers to fructose. Fructose is present in some fruits and sweeteners, but also in some vegetables and cereals.

Fructose requires a carrier to be able to cross the epithelial barrier, and thus, to be absorbed. Its absorption depends on the concentration of glucose. When a food have in similar amounts of glucose and fructose, it is relatively well absorbed. On the other hand, if fructose is found is higher concentration than glucose (a phenomenon called “excess fructose”), the absorption is slow and incomplete.

Fructose malabsorption is not an illness or a condition. It is just a part of an individual’s physiology. Some people are not well equipped to absorb excess of fructose while others are.

And,

Polyols

These are alcoholic sugars. They are fairly easy to spot because their names end with – ol : mannitol, xylitol, erythriol, sorbitol.

Polyols are absorbed through pores in the epithelium of the small intestine by passive diffusion. The absorption of polyols depends on their size, the dose ingested, the size of the pores and the transit time (which varies according to people), as well as the presence or not of intestinal diseases (such as celiac disease).

Because polyols are poorly absorbed, they remain in the small intestine attracting water. The luminal water content increases, causing a distension perceived as painful in people with visceral hypersensitivity. In addition, they will be fermented in the colon by the bacteria. This results by the release of gas and bloating.

Polyols occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables. They are often used in food manufacturing as humectants(water-building agents) and artificial sweeteners (e.g. “sugar free” chewings gum). They can be identified by their food additive numbers: sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), maltitol (965), xylitol (967), isomalt (953).

 Carbohydrate familiesCommon food (not exhaustive)
OligosaccharideFructololigosaccharin including fructans, short chain of fructose (only 1% absorbed within or small intestine) Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) including raffinose and stachyose  Wheat, barley, onions, leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, cabbage, artichoke, peach, watermelon, rye Legumes, unfermented soybeans, cruciferous vegetables, beets  
DisaccharideLactose (galactose + glucose)Dairy products – except hard cheese: milk, condensed milk, powdered milk, milk drink, yogurt, drinking yogurt, milk dessert, fromage blanc, ice cream, melted cheese
MonosaccharideFructoseSome fruits,  fruit juices, honey, agave syrup, ultra-processed products
PolyolsAll those ending in –ol: sorbitol, mannitol, erythriol…Sorbitol: certain fruits, such as apricot, plums, avocado, apple, watermelon, cherry, mushrooms, sweets without sugars… Mannitol  : mushrooms, cauliflower, sweet peas, seaweed, corn, peas, E421… Xylitol  : potato, berries, mushrooms, corn, salad
Table showing the main FODMAP food for each category

Ok, now we know what the FODMAPs are, let’s see why are we talking about it!

Why do we talk about FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are responsible for many inconveniences, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A diet low in FODMAPs is highly recommended for people suffering from IBS.

What are FODMAPs?

Indeed, according to the Monash University, 75 to 80% of people with IBS who eliminate high-FODMAP foods see their symptoms improve!

I invite you to watch this video of Monash University explaining very well the effect of FODMAPs in our body.

Not sure if the low FODMAP is for you?

Let’s talk !

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