Far too many of us live with stomach issues that affect our work, our downtime and our life in general. And they can be difficult to pinpoint the source of — one day you might be fine and the next your stomach just won’t calm down.
The answer could lie in the compounds known as FODMAPs. What is a FODMAP? These fermentable carbohydrate compounds are present in a huge range of common foods, and many people have difficulty digesting them. FODMAP intolerance is associated with the conditions known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
If you’re looking for the missing piece to your tummy trouble, FODMAPs could be it. Here, we’ll point out six signs that could indicate you have a FODMAP sensitivity.
Why You Need to Ask Your Doctor About FODMAPs
First, an important disclaimer: The best way to identify and treat stomach issues is always by consulting a medical professional such as a doctor or licensed nutritionist. Only a medical professional can diagnose and prescribe treatment for IBS, IBD or SIBO.
Dietary professionals can also help you untangle the many possible causes of digestive upsets. Yes, FODMAP sensitivity might be the root cause of your stomach issues, but it also might be something like the gluten intolerance caused by celiac disease. Furthermore, some people are sensitive to certain kinds of FODMAPs but tolerate others well, which can make it challenging to understand which foods are safe and which aren’t.
How does a doctor or nutritionist determine which conditions and sensitivities affect you? These professionals will guide you through important tools like elimination diets, and they can provide you with key information like foods to avoid with IBS. Most importantly, never start a diet that drastically changes your food intake (such as a FODMAP restriction diet) without consulting your dietitian or doctor first.
Six Signs of FODMAP Sensitivity
- You get bloated and gassy after a meal.
Many people feel heavier and experience gas after eating, especially after a large meal. But if you’re so bloated that it causes you serious discomfort, and especially if your meal wasn’t particularly large or rich, food sensitivities could be behind your troubles.
If you’re experiencing a lot of bloating and gas, the first option is usually to try eating smaller portions and chewing more slowly. Substitute lean proteins and fresh produce for fried and fatty foods wherever possible, and avoid carbonated drinks and chewing gum. However, if these changes don’t produce results, you might want to ask your doctor about IBS and FODMAP sensitivity.
- You frequently have diarrhea and/or constipation.
Bowel movement problems, like diarrhea and constipation, are another potential sign of food sensitivity. FODMAP intolerance can cause undesirable effects in the gut such as the retention of unnecessary water in the small intestine, which causes diarrhea, or the lack of sufficient water in the same, which causes constipation.
If you’re experiencing recurrent bowel problems, especially ones that you can’t associate with eating a particular food, it’s time to talk about the possibility of IBS with your doctor. Remember, however, that not all IBS is FODMAP-related, and your doctor may also encourage you to try to eliminate other possible causes like alcohol, caffeine and stress.
- Fruits and vegetables sometimes make your stomach feel worse.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is often the recommended strategy for tackling stomach problems, but what happens when healthy eating actually makes your stomach worse? This can be one of the key signs of FODMAP intolerance since many of these otherwise-healthy foods contain high levels of FODMAPs.
Fortunately, there are tons of low-FODMAP fruits and vegetables out there to choose from, and even produce with higher FODMAP levels may be OK in moderation. Fruits like oranges, pineapples and strawberries, and vegetables like squash, cucumber and kale, are all excellent low-FODMAP alternatives.
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- You’ve cut out lactose, but you continue to experience stomach upsets.
Lactose intolerance is a common diagnosis for stomach problems, but many people continue to experience symptoms after cutting out dairy. Here’s the thing about lactose: It’s a FODMAP! That means that the same underlying sensitivity that makes you lactose intolerant might also be causing adverse reactions to other FODMAP-containing foods.
Again, medically supervised elimination diets are the best way to learn whether your body is FODMAP-intolerant. In the meantime, though, take comfort that you won’t have to cut out dairy completely. Lactose-free options are now widely available for things like yogurt and milk, and some cheeses like feta and brie are naturally low in lactose.
- Your stomach reactions don’t happen right away.
Timing is an important part of pinpointing the cause of gastric distress. Generally, if your stomach problems begin within five to 30 minutes after you eat, look at causes other than FODMAPs. Your body processes FODMAPs in the small intestine, and your food hasn’t yet reached this organ so soon after being eaten.
If, on the other hand, your stomach problems begin somewhere between 30 minutes and several hours after a meal, FODMAP sensitivity is a real possibility. Around this time, the small intestine begins to fill with the food it will digest, and bacteria begin breaking down FODMAPs. If you have problems with FODMAP absorption, this is when they’ll most likely begin manifesting.
- A low-FODMAP diet helps settle your stomach.
This one might seem obvious—if a diet low in FODMAPs is one that gets results, why not stick with it? However, it’s worth talking about how it works in practice, since cutting out FODMAPs means eliminating a lot of foods that are staples in the typical American diet. It can be a significant and challenging lifestyle change, even if it’s one that leads to improvements.
Thankfully, your options for low-FODMAP foods are actually wider than they’ve ever been. Low-FODMAP food delivery services provide all of the convenience of a meal kit subscription, with delicious pre-portioned entrees that come together quickly and easily. Plus, the internet is full of awesome low-FODMAP recipes created by people just like you who are learning to live their best lives without FODMAPs!