What to know about your new diet
Our two-minute guide to one of the fastest-growing trends in dietary health.
What does FODMAP stand for?
FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.”
“It’s an elimination diet which involves reducing a group of carbohydrate foods which are easily fermented,” explains (med)24’s, Dr Riz Khan. When this fermentation occurs, it leads to excess fluid in the large bowel, leading to symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhoea.
Why have low FODMAP diets suddenly become talked-about?
“They have become popular because there is now good evidence to suggest that it is an effective non-drug treatment for some of the symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” says Khan.
What sort of evidence?
Papers like this one in the Clinical and Experimental Gastroentorology journal, Harvard Health’s advice that “(FODMAP) can reduce symptoms for the majority of patients”, and the NHS’s recommendation of FODMAP diets for certain patients.
Is it something everyone should try?
No. “As it is an elimination diet, it should be ideally be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional such as a dietician or doctor to avoid the risk of nutritional deficiencies,” says Dr Khan. Harvard Health’s advice is similarly straightforward: “The low-FODMAP diet is not intended for individuals without IBS, nor is it appropriate for everyone with the condition. It should be avoided by anyone with an eating disorder, as it may worsen food fears and diet restrictions.”
What if you think a low FODMAP diet could work for you?
As any exclusion diet comes with risks, be extremely careful about the advice that you’re being given. Dr Khan specifically warns about the proliferation of “nutrition” advice across social media, which gives “access to lots of medically-related material, some of which is not evidence-based or even written by medical professionals.” His advice is to “always check where the information has come from and whether it is backed up by high quality research and studies. This can normally be done by access to a well-respected science journal such as the British Journal Of Nutrition. The information here is very credible and everything is peer reviewed.”
And the first step after that?
Before embarking on any kind of exclusion diet, arrange a full consultation at (med)24. Dr Khan is our in-house nutritional medicine expert, and can discuss any symptoms that you are concerned about, any ongoing conditions and work out whether a low FODMAP diet may be suitable for you. You can contact Dr Khan and his team on +44 (0)20 3873 6322. For more on personal nutritional health, check out our guide to probiotics.