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What is FODMAP intolerance? Five symptoms you may be experiencing

If your body doesn’t deal well with certain carbs, you might have FODMAP sensitivity (also called FODMAP intolerance).

Published:

September 23, 2022

Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Erin Hendriks

Board-certified Physician

Published:

September 23, 2022

From Our Doctors
From Our Doctors
Nutrition
Nutrition

If your body doesn’t deal well with certain carbs, you might have FODMAP sensitivity (also called FODMAP intolerance). The acronym FODMAP represents a mouthful of different types of short-chain carbohydrates: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These carbs, mostly consisting of sugars and fibers, can trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

FODMAP intolerance happens when you aren’t able to properly digest or absorb sugars from these specific carbs in the intestine. The FODMAPS, or carbs included in this acronym, continue through the digestive system to the large intestine where they are fermented by the gut bacteria producing gas, bloating and other digestive problems

Top tell-tale signs of FODMAP intolerance

To get the right diagnosis and make sure you aren’t dealing with something like Crohn’s disease or SIBO, consider a visit to your doctor or gastroenterologist. You can start right away with a Salvo Health assessment to connect with a doctor. You may also notice some of these potential indicators:

#1: When you eat, you bloat

This happens when a FODMAP such as fructose fails to get processed in the small intestine. Instead, gut bacteria feed on it in the large intestine and let off gas, which can mean bloating, discomfort, and flatulence. Using straws, drinking fizzy, carbonated drinks, or chewing gum can add to bloating too. 

#2: You’re eating super healthy, but it doesn’t seem to matter

You might be very health-conscious and eat loads of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.. You might even be taking fiber supplements. So why do you keep getting horrible IBS symptoms? 

It could be because many of those fruits and veggies hold the exact kinds of carbohydrates your body can’t process. For most, traditional healthy eating is wonderful. For people with IBS, however, it’s best to avoid the kinds of fruits, grains, and vegetables whose natural sugars and fibers aren’t suitable. That doesn’t mean to cut out fruits and veggies altogether, but rather to eat only small amounts of them, or to focus on healthy foods that are also low FODMAP

#3: It’s tough to tell if you have gluten or lactose intolerance

People with IBS often get warned about lactose and gluten. If you go gluten-free and cut out dairy products, but still notice IBS symptoms, it could be FODMAPs that are actually at fault. One helpful test is to try eating sourdough bread, which is low FODMAP. If you can tolerate that, but suffer when you eat most other kinds of bread, this could signal a FODMAP sensitivity. If FODMAPs are the problem, you may still be able to enjoy certain dairy foods and breads. 

#4: You can’t figure out exactly what foods cause problems

You may not be able to find a clear pattern of “good” and “bad” foods, even if you keep a detailed food journal. To make things more complicated, certain foods can be tolerated in small portions, but become high FODMAP foods in bigger doses (like blueberries). And your body may handle FODMAPs better in the morning, say, before FODMAPs accumulate enough to cause trouble. There are also foods that have different FODMAP contents based on whether they are fresh or canned, for example (like artichoke and some legumes).

#5: You can’t seem to get away from the bathroom

Whatever you eat, you find yourself driven back to the bathroom with constipation, diarrhea, or even both. This could be because as your body tries to digest FODMAPs, it often pulls extra water into the small intestine. This can lead to diarrhea, among other symptoms.

How to tell if FODMAPs are to blame                                              

If you think you might have a FODMAP insensitivity, you may want to complete the FODMAP elimination process. Salvo Health doctors and coaches offer support with this process so you don’t have to go it alone. Their advice can guide you through FODMAP pitfalls and ensure you’re eating in a safe, balanced way throughout the elimination phase (and beyond!) In general, the elimination process contains these stages:

1. Cut out high FODMAP foods as much as possible for up to six weeks. Do your symptoms improve? 

2. Systematically reintroduce FODMAP foods by working through different FODMAP types for the next two months to see which are the most problematic for you and which you can tolerate. 

3. Design a personal eating plan that eliminates unhelpful FODMAPs while still tasting good enough and giving you enough nutrition to be sustainable in the long term. 

A few tips:

  • It’s ideal to work closely with a nutritionist, dietitian, or physician using a Whole Self Science approach
  • Keep eating good sources of fiber, since it can help manage both diarrhea and constipation
  • If your symptoms flare right after eating, it’s unlikely that your most recent meal is the culprit. It typically takes the digestive system several hours to work through a particular meal, so if you notice IBS symptoms right after eating, it might actually be the previous meal’s fault
  • Careful records will help you detect FODMAP patterns. FODMAPs sneak into unexpected foods (such as sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup in salad dressings), so don’t be too hard on yourself if symptoms strike despite your best efforts. The important thing is to get the right FODMAPs most of the time

Get more support from Salvo Health

At Salvo Health, our digital healthcare platform and virtual clinic provides you with continuous text-based support and care for your chronic condition. Imagine being able to text a board-certified Physician or Behavioral Health Coach to avoid flare-ups or manage your pain. Alongside messaging-based communication, members receive a customized Care Plan that can take account of how their symptoms can be managed, no matter what FODMAPs they can eat. 

Get immediate access to a coordinated Salvo Health care team, including a certified gastro specialist and board-certified health coach when you join Salvo Health today.                                              

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Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

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