Is FODMAPS the Next Diet Trend?

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If you’re on the fad-diet bandwagon, you may have heard about the low-FODMAP diet. Some folks mistakenly think it’s a new way to lose weight. The low-FODMAP diet is actually used for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research has shown that the diet can help alleviate symptoms associated with IBS such as gas, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Here’s a more in-depth look to see if you could benefit from a low-FODMAP diet.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols — these are all the science-y names for the various types of sugar. According to Kate Scarlata, RDN, New York Times best-selling author, dietitian and low-FODMAP diet expert: “The low-FODMAP diet is a diet that temporarily reduces a group of poorly digested carbohydrates for two to six weeks followed by a careful reintroduction of FODMAP containing foods back into the diet in an effort to identify personal trigger foods. The low-FODMAP diet is an exploratory diet rather than intended to be followed long term.”

How It Works

If you suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating and abdominal pain, it’s important to be evaluated by your doctor or gastroenterologist to make sure you don’t have a serious condition, like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or anything else. Once the doctor makes the diagnosis, you need to work with a dietitian who specializes in FODMAPs. The first step is to eliminate high-FODMAP foods for two to six weeks. High-FODMAP foods include milk and some other dairy foods, apples, dried fruit, and cauliflower. The purpose is to determine your personal triggers, so a dietitian will work with you throughout the weeks to reintroduce FODMAPs and assess your tolerance. At the end, most people tend to find that they need to restrict only a few high-FODMAP foods in order to alleviate symptoms from IBS. Scarlata explains, “The low-FODMAP diet can be overwhelming, a bit confusing and possibly lead to nutritional deficiencies; working with a dietitian makes the diet trial a whole lot easier and likely healthier.”

It is possible for someone to lose weight if he or she follows a calorie-controlled, well-balanced low-FODMAP diet. The purpose of the diet, however, is not weight loss.

To find a reputable FODMAP dietitian, check out Scarlata’s registry on her website, or check Patsy Catsos’ registry on her IBS website.

Scarlata was kind enough to share one of her favorite low-FODMAP recipes for Pad Thai.

Low-FODMAP Pad Thai
Yield: 2 to 3 servings

4 ounces pad thai rice noodles

2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon homemade red Thai curry paste

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

3 large carrots, julienned

1 medium zucchini, julienned

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 lime, cut into quarters

Fresh cilantro or basil, chopped (2 tablespoons or so)

1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped

Cook noodles per package directions, rinse and drain well.

Add 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil and chicken to large nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat. When chicken is almost cooked through, add garlic oil, ginger, carrots and zucchini until veggies are al dente.

While noodles and chicken are cooking, prepare sauce by combining remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, red curry paste, brown sugar and vinegar.

Add cooked and drained noodles to chicken and vegetables. Turn off heat. Drizzle sauce over and gently mix. If sauce seems too thick, add some warm water to the dish.

Transfer mixture to a platter. Garnish with bean sprouts, fresh cilantro or basil, and nuts.

Squeeze 2 of the lime quarters over dish and reserve 2 for garnish on platter.

For additional low-FODMAP recipes, check out Scarlata’s blog or her books, 21 Day Tummy Diet and 21 Day Tummy Diet Cookbook.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.