This article is from Pip Taylor’s book The Athlete’s Fix, which shows how to identify your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best.
FODMAPs is an acronym for a family of carbohydrates that cause cause GI distress in some people. FODMAPs stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.
When we eat foods containing carbohydrates, a portion is not absorbed or digested in the small intestine and instead passes right on through to the large intestine, where it ferments and produces short-chain fatty acids and gas. This is a normal process that occurs in everyone.
In fact, the short-chain fatty acids are an important part of a healthy digestive system because they provide fuel for gut bacteria and help protect the mucosal lining of the intestines. In some people, certain carbohydrates eaten in threshold amounts can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, distension, abdominal discomfort, and either diarrhea or constipation, or a mix of both.
The bacteria residing in your gut will determine how you handle and respond to these particular carbohydrates. For some of us, any amount is absolutely fine, while others can consume only a minimal amount before they encounter symptoms, the severity of which may range from mildly annoying to debilitating. For those facing less severe symptoms, it’s common to accept them—when you are accustomed to the discomfort it’s easy to assume that everyone else is dealing with similar feelings.
The types of carbohydrates that are most commonly malabsorbed in the intestine are known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). These are simply the technical names for the structure of the sugar molecules (saccharides is another name for sugar). All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose or sugar molecules through digestion.
FODMAPs are found in a wide variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, dairy, nuts, and seeds. Apples, pears, onions, garlic, wheat, and rye are among the common culprits. Since FODMAPs describe only certain carbohydrates, proteins and fats are free of them.
The Athlete’s Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.