Swollen belly? Try the FODMAP diet, here's how it works

The FODMAP diet is the result of the work of Peter Gibson and Susan Sheperd of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and aims at the well-being of the intestine.

FODMAP diet: here are the foods to avoid or reduce

The FODMAP diet aims to resolve or alleviate the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including annoying abdominal swelling.

What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for "Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols", or oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, fermentable micronutrients. These are particular carbohydrates, or rather sugars with high fermentative power. To be more precise, this group includes fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols (such as xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol) which the intestine is struggling to assimilate and which ferment quickly in the intestine, producing gas and swelling. If you consume these sugars in abundance, you will notice a worsening of the symptoms related to Irritable Colon Syndrome (such as swelling, abdominal pain, spasms, constipation, diarrhea, colitis) while a diet that includes a low intake of foods that contain these sugars, contributes to a reduction of these annoying as well as common symptoms. The effectiveness of the low-FODMAP diet was also confirmed by a recent study from the University of Michigan. In any case it is important that this diet is done under medical advice, after appropriate tests to verify the presence of any intolerances, since it provides for the elimination or reduction of many foods and this must be done ad personam avoiding the do-it-yourself -te and following the indications of a professional on how to eliminate or reduce and then on if and how to gradually introduce these foods back into your diet. This is because after a period of time that can go from 2 to 4-6 weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the effects obtained with the FODMAP diet, the gradual and targeted reintegration of the excluded foods is carried out.

In which foods are FODMAPs found?
FODMAPs are found mainly in fruit, vegetables, cereals, milk, dairy products and legumes, in different quantities depending on the variety. Among the foods that contain FODMAP in abundance are:

  • Fruits: mango, watermelon, plums, peaches, apples, pears, nashi, persimmons, figs, cherries, apricots
  • Dried fruit: pistachios and cashews
  • Vegetables: onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, beetroot, celery, artichokes, shallots, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, mushrooms, snow peas
  • Milk and its derivatives: milk (cow, sheep, goat), yogurt, milk and ice cream desserts, milk powder, ricotta, mascarpone, cottage cheese, fresh and soft cheeses
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas
  • Cereals: rye, wheat, wheat, barley and related products (bread, pasta, biscuits …)
  • Honey, chicory coffee, sweeteners, additives

The complete list of foods with the scientific explanation of how FODMAPs work is found in the journal Gastroenteroly & Hepatology. Since FODMAPs are found in many foods, it is important to avoid eliminating these foods without consulting a doctor first. Furthermore, it should be taken into account that undesirable symptoms occur according to subjective sensitivity and that it depends on the amount of FODMAP ingested in the single meal and during the day.

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