The FODMAPs Diet – What is it?
A couple years ago I saw some blog posts popping up about the FODMAPs diet. I didn’t think much of it since I wasn’t looking for any digestive help at the time. Over the past year one of my good friends has been following it with success and it sparked my interest. I looked into the diet protocol further and it does make a lot of sense. In fact, looking back at some of the foods I reacted to the most in terms of pain and bloating, I can see a lot of those were high-FODMAPs foods.
So What is a FODMAPs Diet?
Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols are carbohydrates that may not get digested and absorbed easily in the digestive tract. If you have good digestion, these carbs are absorbed in the small intestine. If you have poor digestion, these carbs travel through to the large intestine where bacteria ferment them, causing bloating and other digestive problems. If you have bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, they may also ferment there causing similar symptoms.
The FODMAPs diet basically encourages you to reduce the amount of high-FODMAPs foods you eat, and stick mainly to the low-FODMAPs choices. These carbohydrates are found in various fruits, vegetables, dairy and grain products. You can see a list here of foods to eat and foods to avoid(pdf). Note that meat and oils are not on the list and can be eaten in any amount.
How does it differ from SCD/GAPS?
SCD and GAPS are based on the idea that all di-saccharides and poly-saccharides feed bad bacteria in the gut. For someone with healthy digestion, the proper good bacteria are in place and should handle correct digestion of carbohydrates without bad symptoms. In someone with an imbalance of bacteria, the digestion process is compromised and these types of carbohydrates can’t be properly digested and absorbed. Avoidance of the complex carbohydrates reduces symptoms of bloating, diarrhea, constipation and pain. SCD allows all fruit since the carbohydrates are simpler and should digest and absorb without feeding bacteria, however FODMAPs seems to show otherwise.
FODMAPs focuses on certain carbohydrates that don’t digest and absorb as easily, while allowing ones that do. Some fruits and vegetables are not recommended, while most grains are. The FODMAPs diet, having a long list of foods that should be limited, is not considered as restrictive since you can still have most grains, a decent variety of fruits and vegetables, and some sugars.
What can I eat on FODMAPs?
Most berries, bananas, melons, oranges, lemon, lime
Lactose-free milk products (ie: SCD yogurt, hard cheeses, butter)
Meats and eggs
What should I stay away from on FODMAPs
Apples, pears, mango, watermelon, blackberries, cherries, apricots, honey
Onions, garlic, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, beets, artichoke
Gluten, wheat, rye
Legumes, beans, soy
Liquid milk, soft ripened cheeses
What does this mean for someone on SCD?
While on SCD, some people use foods like honey and applesauce as staples. I did, eating honey with yogurt and having applesauce everyday as a snack. It might be good to focus on other fruits as sweet snacks such as bananas, common berries, melons and oranges. Note that meats, eggs, dairy and oils are treated similarly on both diets.
If you really feel like you are not sensitive to things like rice and potatoes, you might do well on FODMAPs instead of SCD. I think it would be much easier to follow FODMAPs than SCD, and would provide more options for getting enough calories.
Following either diet until symptoms are reduced enough that you can eat again without discomfort is the first step. Regardless of which diet you choose, you need to be doing extra steps to improve and restore your digestion. Probiotics, bone broths, lots of nutrient-rich foods, reduced stress, and lots of sleep would be some good choices to make.