The New Food Map For Digestive Disorders

by Dr. Mecherl Lim 

MD (MA) Naturopath (ND), Holistic Kinesiology

There’s a new acronym in the dieting world: FODMAP. It’s  an acronym that makes life easier for anyone discussing this particular diet, because the words represented by the acronym are so difficult to remember, let alone pronounce.  FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.


One of the reasons this new diet is getting so much attention is that it seems to help those who experience the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Millions of people suffer from digestive disorders, and up to 20 per cent suffers at some time with IBS


While the word “bowel” is built into the name, IBS involves pain and discomfort anywhere in the abdomen, and includes such varied symptoms as diarrhoea, constipation, painful wind, belching, flatulence and bloating. If left untreated, over time it can lead to dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, social discomfort and could contribute to some forms of cancer.


Experts believe that IBS is the result of dysfunction in the muscles or nerves controlling the  organs of the gastrointestinal tract, which is  a lot more complex than it might first appear. A system of nerves runs the length of the digestive tract starting at the oesophagus and ending at the anus.  In fact, the number of nerves in the gastrointestinal  tract is exceeded only by the number  present in the spinal cord and brain!


While some experts ponder the source of the dysfunction, others are focusing on the role of diet in producing the symptoms associated with IBS. Poor digestion, malabsorption of dietary sugars (lactose from dairy and fructose from fruits) and food chemicals have often been considered triggers for IBS symptoms. 

Similarly, while dietary fat helps food and wind to move slowly through the stomach and small intestine of healthy individuals, it seems to really slow down food and wind transit in those with IBS. New research also suggests non coeliac gluten intolerance may play a role in those who suffer with irritable bowels.

One of the major complaints associated with IBS involves wind production. For example, IBS sufferers report more  wind, as well as wind that takes longer to dissipate from the small intestine that those without IBS.

As a result of the wind build up, bloating causes an increased abdominal size throughout the day, leading to discomfort and possible embarrasment- not to mention a wardrobe full of unattractive clothing with elasticized waistbands! 

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