4 reasons why you should think twice before going low FODMAP
If you suffer from digestive issues, you may have come across the low FODMAP diet at one point or another (FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols). The low FODMAP diet has become popular among those suffering from conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the diet basically entails eliminating the five forms of carbohydrates – lactose, fructose, fructans, sugar alcohols, and galactans – then slowly adding them back in to narrow down which foods specifically were the culprits. Proponents of the low FODMAP diet argue that malabsorption of carbohydrates leads to gas, bloating, and issues with motility, therefore, these carbohydrates should be eliminated. Others argue that carbohydrates are not actually the root cause of the discomfort, but rather that this malabsorption is a symptom of something much larger that should be tackled head-on. The following are 4 considerations about going low FODMAP (and other ways symptoms can be alleviated).
1. Low FODMAP is a band-aid, not a fix.
Taking the low FODMAP approach to manage IBS/digestive symptoms is basically the equivalent of telling someone who is lactose intolerant to avoid milk – sure, they might feel a little better when not drinking milk, but the cause of the lactose intolerance was never addressed. Although many with IBS have issues with foods containing FODMAPs, FODMAPs are not the cause of IBS.
IBS is an inflammatory condition – reducing inflammation is the key to finding relief, not only from digestive symptoms, but from other symptoms caused by inflammation as well (such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, brain fog, headaches, heartburn, joint pain, or other inflammatory symptoms). Inflammation is at the root of the problem for many with digestive conditions… not carbohydrates. After the cause of the inflammation is tackled, FODMAPs are often well tolerated by a vast majority of those who had previously experienced digestive discomfort while consuming them.
2. It’s cheap and easy… for the health practitioner.
One of the reasons why the low FODMAP diet is often recommended by doctors and dietitians is because handing someone a piece of paper with instructions for a diet is a whole lot easier than doing the leg-work to get to the root of the problem. Although FODMAPs is somewhat “evidence based,” the studies just confirm that those with certain digestive conditions tend to have problems with some FODMAPs (and, as outlined in the previous point, FODMAPs are not the cause of the condition AND FODMAPs are often tolerated after the true cause is identified and remedied). It also boggles the mind how many practitioners blindly follow the rest of the herd – so few actually do their own research to get real answers and seek out better solutions (i.e. better outcomes) for their patients.
3. It’s difficult to follow.
FODMAPs are in a LOT of foods… even “healthy” foods. Most will likely view the low FODMAP diet as very restrictive and, as I mentioned before, the end results don’t really pay off for all of the effort put in (especially if you have other symptoms). On the low FODMAP diet, you will have to bid adieu to certain fruits (like apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, watermelon, and several others), certain vegetables (onions, garlic, cauliflower, green peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, etc), honey, certain grains (wheat, rye, spelt, etc), beans, legumes, lentils, dairy, and others. Imagine if you had to restrict this stuff for months or years while on a low FODMAP diet… not fun.
4. It doesn’t address other triggers.
Many, many, many IBS sufferers have food and chemical triggers that go way beyond those outlined in the low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet only addresses foods from the perspective of the types and amounts of carbohydrates in them and completely ignores other possible triggers for symptoms. Just about ANY food can trigger IBS symptoms (and everyone has DIFFERENT triggers), so most will likely continue to experience some digestive symptoms (and may even experience worse symptoms) as well as non-digestive symptoms while following the low FODMAP diet.
If you suffer from IBS, reducing inflammation should be priority number one. LEAP (which stands for Lifestyle Eating and Performance) is a diet that is completely individualized based on a blood test that identifies which foods and chemicals cause inflammation in YOUR body. Using a blood test (called the Mediator Release Test) to guide the diet helps to take the guesswork out of figuring out your problem foods (especially helpful since symptoms might not start for 3-4 DAYS after eating the offending food) – this means that the diet doesn’t have to be unnecessarily restrictive, making it more manageable to follow, and providing better and quicker results (which go beyond improving digestive health). Once the sources of inflammation are removed, the body can begin to heal.
For more information about LEAP and inflammation, visit http://getwellified.com/services/leap.