Diet Nutrition

Should you be on a low FODMAP diet?

Suffer from tummy troubles like wind and bloating? You may need to cut back on consumption of FODMAP foods.

By Bronte Chaperon

It's not a topic regularly discussed by women, but apparently many Kiwis suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

According to Health Navigator New Zealand, IBS affects between 10 and 20 per cent of the population and is more likely to affect Kiwi women - oh goodie.

Symptoms often include excessive wind, digestive issues, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and trouble going to the toilet.

While IBS is more uncomfortable than it is dangerous, you definitely don't need to live with the condition - there are some lifestyle changes you can make.

Reducing your stress levels and staying active can help improve your bowel health but adopting a low-FODMAP diet is also recommended.

'What's a low-FODMAP diet', you say? We spoke to Lisa Donaldson, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Lead Dietitian at Voome, about 'FODMAPS' and making dietary changes.

For those of us who don't know, what are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for "Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols" – now you can understand the need for an acronym, right? They are (in simple terms) sugars and carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed and as such cause digestive problems. They are not necessarily 'unhealthy' foods – that is why it can be confusing. FODMAPs exist in foods like onion, garlic, apples, watermelon, avocado, mushrooms, milk, wheat and pears. When these are consumed in large portions, some people really suffer.

What foods should we avoid when on a low FODMAP diet?

FRUCTOSE: Watermelon, mango, apple, pear, honey
LACTOSE: Dairy milk, dairy icecream, ricotta
FRUCTANS: Garlic, onion, pistachios
GALATANS: Baked beans, whole soy beans
POLYOLS: Whole avocado, peach, cauliflower, button mushroom and whole corn cobs

Who would benefit from a low FODMAP diet? Any signs or symptoms?

If you are someone who gets bloated easily, feel windy or have a horrible time going to the toilet this is certainly worth trying!

If you suffer from IBS do you need to be on a low FODMAP diet forever?

No, it's not something you need to follow forever. The diet eliminates all the FODMAP foods, but once your tummy settles it's all about reintroducing the FODMAPs in small portions, identifying which ones are your individual triggers and finding your threshold. For example, I know that I am okay with an apple every two days… but if I have more than one every day I am in a world of hurt. I am so happy to know my threshold and triggers, so I can have certain FODMAPs in small portions and I am perfectly okay. If I have a week where I have eaten too many FODMAPs, my tummy lets me know! So when that happens, I just eliminate them all for a week and reset my tummy.

It seems that you had a personal reason for becoming interested in nutrition and a low FODMAP diet. Can you tell us about that?

That's right. I spent most of my childhood and teen years thinking a sore tummy was part of digestion. About 20 years ago I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and lactose intolerance. This diagnosis was the reason I became a dietitian. Although I felt much better without gluten and lactose, I knew I still wasn't quite right. Once I discovered FODMAPs and my individual triggers, my life changed. No more bloating, wind or irregular bowels! Life changing.

You've just launched a new Low FODMAP program. Can you please tell us about that?

So many people suffer from tummy troubles. Wind, bloating and just general discomfort. It's not a sexy topic but with so many people uncomfortable, we decided it was a good one to tackle. The Program omits all the key culprits that make many people feel awful – these are known as FODMAP foods. It can be really hard to navigate these foods, so we've done all the hard work and created a 4-week program with meal plans and exercise. Whether you are vegetarian or a regular eater, we have you covered. You can keep the program forever, so you can repeat it as required. It's loaded with instructional videos from me, to really help those following along.

Lisa Donaldson is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Lead Dietitian at Voome. Check out Voome's Low FODMAP Program led by Lisa.