FODMAP - carbohydrates with many faces

Many diseases can trigger permanent gastrointestinal problems. But what if one of the clearly diagnosable diseases such as celiac disease, wheat allergy or Crohn's disease is not the trigger? In this case, the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is often made by exclusion. This is a functional disorder of the intestine that manifests itself primarily through constipation or diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain and significantly impairs the quality of life.

As it is not a typical food intolerance or allergy, treatment is often difficult. In 2010, results of clinical studies that targeted very specific food ingredients were published for the first time under the topic of FODMAP. The acronym stands for the term "fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols" and refers to a group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols contained in foods that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and can be fermented by intestinal bacteria. It has been shown that an individually adapted low-FODMAP diet can help affected patients.

FODMAP contents

Oligosaccharides are polysaccharides that occur naturally in beans, chickpeas, cabbage and cereals (especially rye, wheat and spelt). In contrast, classic examples of critical monosaccharides and disaccharides are lactose in dairy products or fructose in fruits or as a component of household sugar. Well-known FODMAP representatives from the area of sugar alcohols are the sweeteners sorbitol, erythritol and xylitol.  FODMAP-rich foods also include many fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, mangoes, onions, but also avocados, mushrooms or artichokes.  Processed meat and grain products can also contain many FODMAPs. However, the content of FODMAPs can be partly influenced by various processing steps, e.g. by the fermentation time of doughs and thus their fermentation by yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. A long dough rest time can significantly reduce the FODMAP levels! Low FODMAP foods, on the other hand, are acidic fruits such as lemons, kiwis, berries and passion fruit, salads, carrots and sprouts, lean meat, fish, and low-lactose products such as hard cheese.

To which FODMAP Individuals react concretely, is very different!

In order to find that out, the 3-phase FODMAP nutrition concept offers solutions. In the first phase, the restriction phase, FODMAP-rich foods are completely eliminated from the menu. Then, in a second phase, the FODMAP-rich foods are gradually readmitted in order to test which foods are individually tolerated and in what quantities. It is therefore a matter of adapting the diet to one's own needs. In the third and long-term phase, a balanced healthy nutrition plan with as little as possible renunciation is targeted. This means that one only abstains from or restricts the consumption of foods that specifically trigger symptoms.

Exact causes for irritable bowel syndrome are not yet known. It is assumed that pathological changes such as mild inflammation of the digestive tract contribute to the clinical picture and that this can trigger the undesirable reactions towards FODMAP-rich foods. The substance group has an osmotic effect in the intestine, it attracts water, and can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria, producing gases. Both points lead to a stretching of the intestinal membrane, which can cause pain in sensitive people or irritable bowel patients. In principle, however, FODMAPs are not harmful to health. On the contrary, they can support the growth of health-promoting intestinal bacteria as beeing nutrition for them.

Due to the importance of FODMAPs for a healthy intestinal flora and to prevent deficiency symptoms in general, FODMAPs should not be completely eliminated from the diet. More beneficial is a medically supervised nutritional therapy, in which the individually different foods that can trigger or aggravate the symptoms are specifically identified. A good example of how personalised nutrition can have a positive effect on health and well-being...

The topic "Personalised Nutrition" concerns everyone! Take the chance to engage intensively with this multifaceted topic, get inspired and network at the third NEWTRITION X. Innovation Summit on Personalised Nutrition. On October 12, 2021 live in Cologne and as a livestream. Learn more at

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