What Are FODMAPs?

You may have heard of a low-FODMAPs diet, often used for people with certain gut sensitivities like irritable bowel syndrome. The restrictive diet eliminates a certain type of carbohydrate from your diet entirely, with the goal of reducing gut issues like cramping, pain, constipation, and diarrhea. But what exactly are FODMAPs, and are they actually unhealthy? The answer is a little complicated.

FODMAPs—Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols—are fermentable short-chain carbohydrates and they're pretty common in almost every type of diet. These carbohydrate types include lactose and fructose, which most people know as dairy and fruit, but there are plenty of other grains and vegetables on the list of FODMAPs (via Harvard Health Publishing).

If you have gut issues, FODMAPs may make your problems worse, since they draw water into the gut, and if eaten in excess, can ferment in your gut and cause tummy trouble. The good news is that most people who try a low-FODMAPs diet to ease gut distress typically find that they can add most of these foods back in during a slow reintroduction period, and only a few will be off-limits for good (via WebMD). For instance, someone might realize that while eating fructose doesn't affect their gut, lactose gives them stomach cramps or causes bloating.

Should everyone avoid FODMAPs?

You may have noticed that while some foods that are eliminated on a low-FODMAPs diet aren't exactly healthy, many of the foods that contain FODMAPs are perfectly healthy for most people to consume. As Harvard Health Publishing notes, artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, garlic, onions, lentils, kidney beans, apricots, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, pears, and peaches all contain FODMAPs. And for most people, those fruits and vegetables are part of an extremely healthy diet. 

If you are going to try the low-FODMAPs diet, remember it's not meant to last forever, and should be done with supervision from a dietitian. "The low FODMAP diet is a temporary eating plan that's very restrictive," gastroenterologist Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D., told Johns Hopkins. "It's always good to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, but especially with the low FODMAP diet since it eliminates so many foods ... It's a short discovery process to determine what foods are troublesome for you."