FODMAPs – Simply explained!!


The diet with the weird name may help your IBS symptoms – and has now become the new buzzword, featuring in two well-known female magazines this month (July 2013).

The FODMAP diet is has some proof that it helps IBS sufferers. Avoiding these foods seems to reduce bloating, gas, constipation, and abdominal pain in IBS sufferers.

These foods have short chain carbohydrates and therefore can be hard for your small intestine to absorb. So the food ends up being digested by bacteria in the large intestine, ie your colon. This can lead to extra water in your bowels, gas, bloating, diarrhoea, and other symptoms of IBS.

 What’s behind the FODMAPs diet – how did it all start?!

A study by Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ, showed that a low FODMAP diet decreased “functional gut symptoms” for people with IBS, while a high in FODMAPs increased those symptoms. In other words, less FODMAPs consumed, less IBS symptoms for IBS sufferers.

To combat this Dr Sue Shepherd’s low FODMAP diet recommends the elimination of complex foods for about 8 weeks.

The low FODMAP diet has been used at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London and has been supported by research at King’s College London.

The NHS says that while the exact cause of IBS remains unclear, it is believed to be triggered by a range of factors including stress and issues with the immune system.

Sue has developed a dietary management approach which has revolutionised the management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (low FODMAP diet) – her pioneering research has contributed world-first information, and for which she was awarded the Gastroenterological Society of Australia’s Young Investigator of the Year Award in 2006.

Sue is also the director of a busy private dietetic practice (Shepherd Works), specialising in gastrointestinal nutritional conditions, such as coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome, employing twelve dietitians. See –

What does FODMAP stand for?

It is an acronym for…







All of these are carbohydrates. 

1. Fermentable – as they ferment in our intestines.
2. Oligo-saccharides – are fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.
3. Di-saccharides – are lactose.
4. Mono-saccharides– are fructose 
5. Polyols– are Sugar Alcohols.

2.   Fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides are poorly absorbed in all people so restriction of these helps most people with IBS symptoms.

Fructans can also be known as fructo-oligosaccharides and are chains of sugar fructose. In the real world this means wheat products, some vegetables i.e. onion and garlic and when they are added to processed foods and FOS, oligofructose or inulin.

E.g. (Artichokes (Globe), Artichokes(Jerusalem), Asparagus, Beetroot, Chicory, Dandelion leaves, Garlic (in large amounts), Leek, Onion (brown, white, Spanish, onion powder), Raddicio lettuce, Spring Onion (white part), Wheat (in large amounts), Rye (in large amounts), Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides.)

Galacto-oligosaccharides are chains of sugar glucose : beans and pulses.

E.g. (Legume beans, baked beans, kidney beans, bortolotti beans, Lentils, Chickpeas).

5.Polyols are sugar alcohols i.e. sorbitol and xylitol. These occur naturally in some fruits and some vegetables. They are also added as sweeteners to many low sugar products such as sugar free chewing gum, mints and ‘diet’ foods.

E.g. Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Cherries, Longon, Lychee, Nectarines, Pears , Plums, Prunes, Mushrooms, Sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol  and Isomalt.

There are two further groups, Fructose and Lactose. These two groups are not malabsorbed in everybody with symptoms and breath tests can tell you if you have a problem.

3. Lactose is something we all know. It is found in animal milk and milk products.

E.g. Milk, icecream, custard, dairy desserts, condensed and evaporated milk, milk powder, yoghurt, margarine, soft unripened cheeses (eg. ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone).

 4. Fructose can be found in large amounts in different foods especially in some fruit and honey. It is also added to many food products as a sweetener or flavour enhancer. So its time to start checking food labels in supermarket!!

E.g. Honey, Apples, Mango, Pear, Watermelon, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids

 These are,the main groups that when starting the Fodmap diet all sufferers must stay clear of for at least 6-8 weeks before entering the reintroduction stage.

Basically, the idea is to avoid all foods that are high Fodmap, the list is far too long for me to write on my blog!

Go to Dr. Sue Shepherd’s website,, for info on HIGH FODMAP foods and this website is good too:

However please, please go to your GP if you have any symptoms of IBS as this diet can really help and quite literally change your life! Ask for a referral to a dietician and insist on help for the Fodmap Diet. They will help you as an individual to help you get better and explain thoroughly what food you can eat, what you can’t, starter recipes to get you cooking good low Fodmap meals, snacks and brands that are good for you.

 More Sciencey stuff!


IBS food and cooking simple


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