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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Penna

Stomach pain - FODMAPS

Updated: May 31, 2022

What can you do when the diet your eating is causing you stomach pain. Could it be related to FODMAPS?

For a significant portion of people around the world with digestive sensitivities, there is a class of foods that is healthy for your gut bugs yet cause a slew of uncomfortable symptoms. This class of foods is collectively known as FODMAPs – a mouthful of an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

Though the carbohydrates themselves don’t cause problems, they are easily fermented in the intestines by bacteria that may cause IBS or IBS-like symptoms in sensitive individuals. These foods include a variety of common day to day foods that many people cannot tolerate due to an imbalance of good bacteria. The most problematic foods include; apples, pears, asparagus, garlic, beans, as well as many dairy products that can be the exact trigger for a digestive nightmare.

Trouble is, it’s hard to determine which foods are triggers for your particular system.

To solve this, many doctors recommend following a low-FODMAP diet that temporary excludes these foods from the diet, allowing the digestive system to relax and the systems to settle.

The diet is designed to help people figure out their particular sensitivities through exclusion and then reintroduction of each food group over a few weeks. Once you identify which foods are giving you trouble, you can feel more confident in excluding these and enjoying alternative foods that feed and fuel your body's microbiome without causing unnecessary discomfort.

This certainly doesn’t mean that following a low-FODMAP diet means you can’t eat fibre or feed your microbiome well. While you may not be able to tolerate wheat (which is a Fructan), you can enjoy quinoa; if cauliflower isn’t cutting it, you can substitute with sweet potatoes; if you can’t enjoy store-bought hummus without blowing up like a balloon, it’s pretty easy to make your own, gut-friendly, low-FODMAP version.

The low-FODMAP diet is designed in three phases.

The first phase is an elimination diet in which you temporarily cut out all high FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks. It is important that you consult a trained practitioner who will ensure you are getting all of the nutrients you need, and to make sure you don’t stay on a restrictive diet long term. This is very important as the diet was not designed as a life-long avoidance of these foods and I see many people who have been following this diet for years, believing they can never eat FODMAP foods again.

The second phase of the low-FODMAP diet is the “testing phase”. With guidance, you systematically reintroduce each of the FODMAP categories of foods to determine which food or foods are causing your symptoms.

The third phase is the personalisation phase, in which you work with your practitioner to come up with a diet that accommodates your tolerances and intolerances. When I work with patients to create that diet, my goal is for them to have as varied a diet as possible, and not to exclude healthy, high fibre foods without reason.

If your healthy diet is causing you discomfort or pain, that’s a sure sign you should take stock of what is truly healthy for your particular system. With help, you can find the best way to make sure that you and your microbes are thriving.

Unfortunately, our general western diet includes a lot of processed and manufactured foods that are destroying our microbiome diversity. This, combined with daily life stress is often the trigger for the onset of problems.

I am often asked, 'Why did this happen to me?' When I am working with my gut-health-clients I tell them this did not happen over night and the problem is due to a multitude of factors that got them here.

A good case history often tells the story of why their gut health is imbalanced and determines where we go to correct the problems. 


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