Gluten-Free 2.0 – Low FODMAP

Keen readers of the red tops will have read recent articles on our latest cultural import from Australia – the FODMAP diet. But what exactly are FODMAPs and will avoiding them make you look like Hugh Jackman?

Essentially, FODMAPs are sugars which cannot be digested effectively in some individuals and therefore linger in the gut, causing the bloating and cramps associated with stomach disorders such as IBS. So, cut out the FODMAPs, goodbye stomach cramps.

The science is clear cut – FODMAP avoidance is effective. This sounds simple enough, but identifying where these molecules are found is considerably more challenging with high levels found in onions, garlic, pears, wheat and apples while low levels are found in oranges, carrots and tomatoes.

To make matters even more complex, ripe bananas contain high levels while unripe contain low levels. Put simply, to undertake this diet, you really need to know what you are doing.

FODMAP meets gluten-free because of the avoidance of wheat.

However, while coeliacs avoid wheat for the gluten, IBS sufferers avoid it for the sugars. Those with gluten sensitivity complicate matters somewhat- while they often think they should be avoiding gluten, increasing evidence is showing that it may be the FODMAPs in the wheat which are causing their issues. These people may therefore benefit more from a low-FODMAP diet than a gluten-avoiding one.

Aside from the obvious overlap in terms of wheat avoidance, low FODMAP and gluten-free are chalk and cheese. While around a fifth of gluten-free consumers eat gluten-free for weight loss purposes, this is not a primary motivation for avoiding FODMAPs.

Although it may reduce bloating, weight loss is not the core goal here. Also, some followers forget that the diet is only intended to be temporary. A 4-6 week period of complete FODMAP avoidance is to be followed by a reintroduction phase where different FODMAPs are introduced into the diet gradually to identify what foods are triggers are for the individual.

This “test and learn” makes low-FODMAP a lot more difficult to follow than gluten-free, though for those still suffering with gastrointestinal problems despite going gluten-free, it is a small inconvenience to pay for resolving the pain and discomfort of IBS and associated disorders.

So is Low-FODMAP the new gluten-free? While it is likely to be an improvement for those who call themselves ‘gluten sensitive’ and is a welcome solution for those with IBS, it is perhaps not for the faint hearted lifestyler.


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