This is an embarrassing topic that most are uncomfortable discussing, but we need to! Let’s talk about gas! Have you ever been in a meeting or out to eat with friends and not been able to hold your gas? Like, it’s seriously painful to hold it in? Yeah, me too. Of course, sometimes this is normal, right? Like when we eat “windy vegetables”, such as beans, lentils, and cruciferous vegetables. But when is that gas and bloating not normal?
What should you do when gas effecting your life?
If you are having significant gas and bloating on a daily basis, it’s time to start logging what you eat, in order to figure out the culprits. One thing you may find, is that your body is resistant to FODMAPs. You may have heard this term before and wondered “what the heck is that?” The low FODMAP diet is not a weight loss strategy or fad diet. Certain people, like those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or people who have frequent bloating, may not tolerate foods that contain FODMAPs. Current research has shown that a low FODMAP diet has emerged as a key player in the management of gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS.
What are FODMAPs?
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (polyols) that include fructose, lactose, fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides (fructans and galactans), and polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol). Short-chain carbohydrates are carbohydrates with chains of up to 10 sugars; which vary in their digestibility and absorption. Sugar alcohols come from plant products, like fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process, which allows them to provide fewer calories than table sugar (sucrose). This causes these products to be poorly absorbed and creates a laxative effect in the GI tract.
What is the problem with FODMAPs?
As you can see, the main problem with these short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols is poor absorption, specifically in the small intestine. This group of carbohydrates are also rapidly fermented by bacteria, which can cause gas production and distention. It is important to note that FODMAPs are not the cause of gastrointestinal disorders, but they absolutely may worsen symptoms. Individuals that suffer from IBS are very likely to see decreased flare-ups and symptoms, such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, when following a low FODMAP diet.
Which foods contain FODMAPs?
Here is a list of the foods to avoid when you figure out that a low FODMAP diet is for you:
- Fruit: apples, pears, Clingstone peaches, mango, sugar snap peas, watermelon, canned fruit in natural juice, large quantities of fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice
- Sweeteners: honey, fructose, high fructose corn syrup
- Regular and low-fat milk, ice cream
- Regular and low-fat yogurt
- Soft and fresh cheese, like cottage cheese and ricotta cheese
Oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans):
- Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beets, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, garlic leeks, okra, onions, peas, shallots
- Cereals: wheat and rye in large amounts
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, baked beans
- Fruit: apples, watermelon white peaches
- Fruit: apples, apricots, cherries, lychee, pears, peaches, plums, nectarine, prunes, watermelon
- Vegetables: avocado, cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas
- Sweeteners: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, isomalt, & others ending in ‘-ol’
This is not a comprehensive list. To get a complete list of which foods to avoid, as well as appropriate substitutes, here are some great resources:
If you feel like your gas or bloating has been effecting your life, my suggestion is to start tracking what foods you eat, to pinpoint which seem to be causing the problem. If the FODMAP foods appear to be part of the problem, cut them out to see if your symptoms get better. The best approach is to work with a dietitian to determine how to cut these foods out and when they can be slowly incorporated back into your diet. Resources:
Gibson, P. R., & Shepherd, S. J. (2010). Evidence‐based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: the FODMAP approach. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 25(2), 252-258.
Shepherd, S. J., Lomer, M. C., & Gibson, P. R. (2013). Short-chain carbohydrates and functional gastrointestinal disorders. The American journal of gastroenterology, 108(5), 707-717.