You might have heard about the FODMAP diet from the internet or from a friend. This is not a lifestyle diet or a weight loss strategy; it is rather a dietary restriction designed for a specific category of people. Through this article, we will learn what FODMAPs are, how they benefit adolescents, and some of the things we should consider before choosing them.
What Are FODMAPs, And Why Are They Problematic?
FODMAP is an acronym coined by scientists at Monash University, Australia, for a specific class of carbohydrates that are a little hard for people to digest. The term FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are carbohydrate (sugar) chains found in the food we eat.
Scientists have found that our bodies find these carbohydrates hard to absorb or digest. When these carbs enter the small intestine, they are only partially digested compared to other non-FODMAP foods.
Due to this reason, the FODMAPs draw more water into the gut (osmotically active) to help increase digestion and absorption.
As the FODMAPs move from the small intestine to the large intestine (colon), they bring along the water that was drawn to the small intestine earlier. The extra water causes abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea.
Also, these carbs reaching the colon get rapidly fermented, producing gas. Gas is formed as a result of the gut bacteria working overtime to digest and absorb carbohydrates.
However, we should understand that for most people, FODMAPs are not a problem. It generally affects people with bowel disorders such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or functional abdominal pain.
People with chronic digestive ailments such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and inflammatory bowel disease are also said to experience similar symptoms in response to FODMAP foods.
What Is A FODMAP Diet, And How Does It Benefit Adolescents?
A FODMAP diet is a diet low in FODMAP designed to help people with IBS or other gastrointestinal disorders. The FODMAP diet temporarily restricts these carbohydrates to relieve the symptoms and give your digestive system a rest.
This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all high-FODMAP foods forever; instead, dietitians recommend following the three phases of the FODMAP diet, which are elimination, reintroduction, and integration.
They begin with the elimination phase, where the teens are advised to stop taking foods high in FODMAPs for a period of 2 weeks.
If the symptoms improve within this time frame, we may move on to the second phase, which is reintroduction. Here, we reintroduce one FODMAP at a time to identify which FODMAP is causing the symptoms.
Once they are all identified (final phase), doctors will then personalize a diet chart that avoids the FODMAPs causing the symptoms and integrates all other high FODMAP foods.
- Reduces pain and discomfort from IBS: Pain or cramping in the abdomen, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, straining, and soiling are the typical symptoms associated with IBS. Research has shown that 85% of teens with IBS benefit from a low FODMAP diet. The main goal of a FODMAP diet is to get the symptoms as close to zero as possible.
- Emotional benefits: Many teens with IBS have given positive feedback about the low FODMAP diet, saying that it has boosted their confidence as they no longer have to be weighed down by IBS. FODMAP diets also allow teens to enjoy more food items without worrying about the symptoms. They often report spending less time in the bathroom because of diarrhea or constipation, giving them more time to spend on their favorite activities and improving the quality of their lives.
Things To Consider
- Even though the FODMAP diet is not meant for weight loss, you can lose weight because it eliminates many food items. But for teens who are already underweight, losing more weight can be dangerous.
- Many high FODMAP-containing foods are highly nutritious, and some of them contain healthy prebiotic fibers that support good gut bacteria. Both of these are necessary for the growth and development of teens. Hence, people who can tolerate these carbs should not restrict them from their diet.
FODMAPs are not unhealthy, but they have the potential to worsen symptoms in teens with IBS and sensitive digestive systems. Under such circumstances, doctors may recommend FODMAP diets to alleviate the symptoms.
Though it is not a permanent solution, the chances of improvement are significantly high. However, it is detrimental to follow such restrictive diets in teens who are already healthy or are underweight.