Bloating is one of the most common issues that many of us deal with.  Its causes can range from overeating, to having too much sodium in the diet, to conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Even for people who are not overweight, it can be frustrating to wake up with a flat stomach only to look like you’re 5 months pregnant soon after breakfast. 

Sometimes bloating has to do with the kind of food you eat.  FODMAPs, in particular, are worth examining when you can’t seem to pinpoint the cause of bloating.  But what exactly are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  They are a form of carbohydrates that we are unable to digest, so instead of being broken down by our digestive enzymes, they head straight for the gut where they are fermented by gut bacteria.  For most people this isn’t a big deal, but for people with FODMAP intolerance, these may lead to the production of hydrogen gas and bloating or even symptoms like cramps and diarrhea.  

FODMAPs can be found in lots of different types of food including:

  • Wheat – Probably the most common source just given all the sandwiches, baked goods and pasta that people consume everyday
  • High-fructose fruit like apples, grapes, watermelons and mangoes
  • Legumes like beans and lentils. Remember the rhyme “beans, beans the musical fruit….?”
  • Vegetables like asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, onions and sweet potatoes
  • Dairy – For the lactose-intolerant, we all know how quickly we sometimes need a trip to the bathroom after downing a glass of milk or eating ice cream. If you’re sensitive to dairy, then dial down consumption and try out some non-dairy options like coconut milk or nut milks, or shift to hard cheeses that may have less of an effect.
  • Sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol and maltitol that you may find in some sugar-free products

This is by no means an exhaustive list and you’ll notice that a lot of the food mentioned above – like the vegetables — are healthy, nutrient-dense food.  Some high-FODMAP “resistant starches” even serve as good prebiotics to feed gut bacteria and help to manage weight.  So unless you have established a FODMAP intolerance or are trying to manage conditions like IBS or GERD, there is no need to avoid these foods.  

If you suspect a FODMAP intolerance, one easy way to test it is to eliminate a certain type of food from your diet for a few weeks, then reintroduce it afterwards to see whether there is any effect on you. Wheat and dairy are a good starting point.