FODMAPs: Yet More Foods We Need to Avoid?...Or Do We?
More and more patients have been coming in over the last couple years reporting that reducing FODMAPS in their diet has really helped them feel better.
I first learned about these potential problem foods when I switched to a more Paleo-TCM-fusion way of eating, and I remember thinking “oh great…yet ANOTHER thing that people are supposed to eliminate!?”
But is there something we can do to increase the likelihood of being able to eat these foods without problems? That’s the question I’m addressing in this article.
I have already myself dealt with eliminating foods; after all, I too am among those who has completely rid gluten and dairy from my diet.
I went into the whole gluten thing kicking and screaming (I was convinced it was a fad/gimmick until I actually STUDIED and RESEARCHED it and did advanced studies in auto-immunity). But I learned why gluten is a problem, and it made perfect sense: our gluten is not the same as the gluten humans ate until very recently in time; and the sheer amount of gluten in our diets, plus how butchered it’s become — in addition to all the other inflammatory foods we’re exposed to — has proven to be a disaster for many people’s health. (more on that here).
But these foods that contain FODMAPS? These are some of the healthiest foods we can be eating: everyday fruits and vegetables that – except for breeding practices that have changed them from their wild counterparts slowly over many years – they are about as natural and unadulterated as food can get.
How can it POSSIBLY be that these food categories we’ve eaten forever are somehow suddenly causing so much damage?
So I thought I’d write this article to give my thoughts on how this could be, and to give some hope to those who’ve found out that on top of everything else, they also must leave these foods out of their diet too.
Before I begin, I will state clearly that THIS IS NOT AN EDUCATED OR RESEARCHED OPINION. This is simply me musing on the current state of our food and our guts, and sharing a perspective that I’m hoping might possibly be true. If you find any of my information to be incorrect or you disagree, please feel free to email me links that might convince me otherwise, as I’m learning along with everyone else and simply sharing what I know up to this point.
First off, what are FODMAPS?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, disaccharides, momsaccharides, and polyols.
In other words, these are sugars and their related alcohols, and they happen to be hard to absorb in the small intestine.
These FODMAPS in common foods enter the large intestine when they’re not fully absorbed in the small intestine, and that is where gut bacteria ferment them, causing bloating, distention, and gas. In extreme cases, these symptoms can cause a diagnosis of severe bowel disorders.
What foods have FODMAPS in them?
While grains and legumes also have FODMAPS in them, for the purpose of this article I’m going to stick to the vegetables and fruits which contain them. Because unlike these fruits and veggies, by now I’m convinced that in our modern diet, grains and legumes are problematic enough already for so many other reasons that I don’t think we should be eating them anyway.
I did an extensive article series for why I believe grains cause more harm than good, so I will not address that here. I am also leaving dairy out of this discussion because while it also contains FODMAPS, there are enough reasons to leave dairy out of our diet also, which are beyond the scope of this article.
Here is the list (not exhaustive) of some common and healthy fruits and veggies which contain FODMAPS:
Fruits and sweeteners:
While the Wikipedia page on FODMAPs says ” Poor absorption of most FODMAP carbohydrates is common to everyone“, my question again is, but why did this suddenly become a problem?
My proposal for why FODMAPS have become such a big problem:
Like my argument in the grains article series, I am proposing that FODMAPs have suddenly become a problem because our guts are already so out of whack.
Many healthy and common foods contain chemicals that are not good for us on their own, but our bodies evolved over the years to deal with them without being harmed, while getting benefits.
Take broccoli as an example: it contains small amounts of a toxin called sulforaphane, which interestingly enough, is also the chemical that is touted as giving it its amazing cancer-fighting abilities. We eat this chemical all the time without problem.
Likewise, while FODMAP containing foods do pose digestive challenges, when a body is healthy and in balance, and the healthy gut flora is flourishing and calling the shots in our intestinal system, I believe (hope) that we are able to eat these foods and get the good out of them, while processing the bad in a way that doesn’t harm us…and maybe, like in the case of broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, even helps us!
Nowadays, our guts are so impaired by damage from things like: modern gluten/wheat, processed foods, medicines, chemicals like additives and preservatives, and the gut-flora-killing-built-in pesticides in GMOs (which don’t only kill the pests that are trying to eat the plant but research is starting to show kill our gut bacteria too!); that foods that were already difficult but not impossible for us to digest (the FODMAPS), are now impossible in these gut conditions.
We can no longer pull the immense good from the foods while dealing with the cons in the healthiest way possible.
So now suddenly having an apple at snack time is bad for us.
What’s wrong with this world!?! When an apple, or avocado, or blackberries are suddenly the enemy, this tells me our guts are seriously in trouble.
My proposal on how to fix this issue:
Heal your gut!!!
This means the 4 step process that is commonly used in naturopathic or functional medicine circles, known as the 4 R’s, and which I discuss in my “Leaky Gut” handout with my patients.
- Remove (damaging and inflammatory foods)
- Reinoculate (get those healthy gut flora back in charge!)
- Replace (some say this means with the healthy foods that were once crowded out by the junk, others say this relates to stomach acid and enzymes)
- Repair (with gut healing supplements).
Of course as an acupuncturist and herbalist I have the additional benefit of being able to employ these two modalities to help people heal much faster.
Perhaps once their guts are functioning at optimum health, and the truly bad foods for us (like junk foods and entire categories of foods that we did not evolve eating like grains, beans, and dairy) are out, people who now can’t tolerate FODMAPS will once again be able to eat these wonderful, nutritious, and anti-oxidant rich foods that I believe we MUST be OK eating when all is set straight.
I will follow this article up with my own specific version of the 4 R’s which I see work very well to help people’s digestion as well as other digestive/inflammation related issues improve. These, when combined with Chinese medicine, help people quickly get back into a state of health and great energy.
Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong with my theory, but either way, healing the gut is a way to set yourself up for good energy and prevention of most illnesses. So why not give it a go anyway!