What is FODMAP?

This is a common question, but the question itself should actually be what are FODMAPs? Simply put, they are sugars and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in your gut (bowel). In a bit more detail, FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccarides, Monosaccarides And Polyols.

Let’s look at each part of that, separately.

Fermentable means that when the FODMAP foods are in your bowel they are rapidly consumed by bacteria which then produce gas. It is this process that can lead to gut irritation and many other symptoms (perhaps why you’re looking at this page in the first place).

Oligosaccharides are short chains of sugars. They include Fructans, which is present in foods like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus and wheat, and Galacto-oligosaccharides, which are common in legumes like baked beans, peas, lentils, and soybeans. More crudely, think of them as “fart food!”

Disaccharides are made up of two sugars, and include lactose. This is the sugar found in cow’s milk (and milk from other mammals), ice-cream (sorry to say!) and soft cheeses.

Monosaccharides are single sugars, with the main one being Fructose. Fructose can be rapidly absorbed by the gut as long as there is equal amounts of glucose present. However, any food that has more fructose than glucose in it is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. This potentially allows the Fructose to make it all the way through to your large bowel where it is fermented by those pesky bacteria, creating lots of gas – this isn’t something that should be happening in a healthy gut!

And, lastly, we have Polyols. These are sugar alcohols like sorbitol, which is often used to sweeten chewing gum because it doesn’t cause tooth decay and is also present in stone fruits, and mannitol, which is present in mushrooms and cauliflower.

Understanding what is FODMAP is the first step to helping you identify whether you may be suffering from symptoms that are a result of eating high-FODMAP foods. It also helps you to start looking at choosing foods that fit well into a low-FODMAP diet, are gut-friendly, especially if you are intolerant to high-FODMAP foods. Which, of course, begs the question “How do I know if I’m intolerant to FODMAPs?” The answer to that is simple, and you can read about it in our blog here.