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Is gluten to blame or could it be FODMAPs?

Are you steering clear of gluten? While gluten-free diets may be in fashion, for those suffering with digestive issues, another group of foods could be to blame - FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols).

FODMAPs are sugars that are not easily broken down by the body, which means they are tricky to digest. Bacteria preys on this undigested food, triggering a fermentation process that leads to cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation — similar to symptoms brought on by gluten in those who are sensitive. These sugars are not only found in processed food, but also in some nutritionally-sound fruits and vegetables.

Eating a low FODMAP diet can bring relief.

Our culture and diet

According to Dale C. Holly, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Piedmont, a cultural phenomenon is partly to blame for the high rate of digestive disorders in the United States. Americans eat a lot of wheat, which is a high-FODMAP food and contains a lot of gluten. Europeans, on the other hand, opt for alternative grains like barley, buckwheat, oats, spelt, and quinoa. He also says that processed foods are a staple in the United States and genetically-modified foods are on the rise.

“These foods were never intended for our bodies, so they are causing our systems to get out of whack.” Dr. Holly says.  “We need to be better stewards of our bodies. Don’t settle for fast food. The food industry will only change when we demand it to change.”


High FODMAP foods trigger symptoms and can include:

  • Onion, garlic, artichoke, cauliflower, mushrooms, soy beans
  • Fruits with high fructose, like apples, avocado, cherries, grapefruit, peaches and raisins
  • Processed meats and sausage
  • Grains made with wheat, barley or rye
  • Sweeteners like Agave and honey
  • High-lactose dairy, like ice cream, sour cream and buttermilk
  • Beer and wine, if drinking more than one glass
  • Fruit juices
  • High fructose corn syrup

FODMAPs affect everyone differently. There is no one-size fits all approach. The key is to know what foods trigger your symptoms and to limit or avoid them as much as possible.

Keep a food diary

If you suffer from any kind of digestive symptom, Dr. Holly advises not to ignore it.

“Food is designed to nourish our bodies, not cause discomfort. If you experience regular pain after a meal, it’s time to pay closer attention to what you are putting into your body. Keeping a food diary is the best way to do this,” he says.

For more health and nutrition tips, click here

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