As you've likely already discovered, the things that you eat can have a direct effect on how you feel. Sometimes you'll eat something and feel like you can conquer the world afterwards, while other times you'll eat something that makes you feel less than stellar. And while feeling off doesn't always mean that there's anything wrong, if you're dealing with frustrating, painful, and potentially embarrassing stomach troubles, it might be because of what you're eating. Between allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities, it can be hard to know what's what, but the signs your stomach troubles are caused by a FODMAP sensitivity are important to know because you first might suspect something like a lactose or gluten intolerance, when it's really something else. FODMAPs deal with many more foods, so if you have a sensitivity to them, cutting out gluten or lactose likely won't be enough.
Even the idea of FODMAPs might be confusing or brand-new to you, unless you already know you have a FODMAP sensitivity or a doctor or dietitian brought it to your attention before. If you have a FODMAP sensitivity, it means that your body doesn't correctly absorb certain kinds of carbohydrates, namely some fibers and sugars, Leigh Tracy, RD, LDN, CDE, a registered dietitian at Mercy Medical Center, tells Romper by email.
"FODMAP is an acronym that stands for the certain kinds of carbohydrates that get malabsorbed — fermentable oligosaccharides, disacharides, monosaccharides, and polyols," Tracy explains. "These carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods and beverages including onions, garlic, honey, agave nectar, milk, wheat, barely, apples, and some nuts and beans." They're also found in other kinds of fruits and vegetables, some grains, other legumes, and sweeteners.
An elimination-style, low-FODMAP diet might be able to help you determine if your stomach issues are caused by a sensitivity, as well as give you greater clarity as to which foods might cause them — and how much results in a reaction. "The low-FODMAP diet has its pros and cons," Drew Johnson, co-founder of The Gut Program, tells Romper in an email exchange. "The diet can be hard to learn how to start and maintain, however, it is not a diet that you need to stay on forever. In fact, the diet is designed to help you heal your gut and ID the foods that are causing issues with you. It was not designed to be on forever. Once you ID the foods that cause you issues you can avoid them completely, or as your gut heals you can try them in low doses."
If you have certain health conditions, you might also be more likely to have a FODMAP sensitivity. "FODMAP sensitivity is common for people with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), IBS, Crohn’s disease, and colitis," Amanda Malachesky, a functional nutrition practitioner, tells Romper by email.
If you think you have SIBO (or any other condition), you should speak to your doctor about it. Jennie Miremadi, MS, CNS, LDN, an integrative clinical nutritionist, tells Romper by email that she advises clients who have reactions to high-FODMAP foods to get tested (in the case of conditions that have tests that can be done, like SIBO).
Knowing which signs you need to look out for can help you determine if you might benefit from addressing a potential FODMAP sensitivity or not.
1. You Feel Bloated
Bloating is one relatively common sign that you might be dealing with a FODMAP sensitivity, particularly if you eat a lot of high-FODMAP foods. There are also other things you might want to do if this is a symptom you experience. "I also encourage people to avoid gum chewing, using straws, and drinking carbonated beverages if bloating is one of their major issues," Dr. Ed McDonald IV, a board-certified gastroenterologist, trained chef, and the associate director of adult nutrition at the University of Chicago, tells Romper by email.
2. You Have Some Serious Stomach Pain
Stomach pain can, of course, be caused by a variety of different things, but it can also give you some indication that your stomach troubles might be due to a FODMAP sensitivity. Painful cramping and other less-than-pleasant feelings aren't unusual as a result of a FODMAP sensitivity, says Tracy. And again, cutting out some FODMAPs might help you figure out what's going on.
"Although the first stage of the low FODMAP diet is very restrictive since you’re trying to figure out which FODMAPs cause you the most GI symptoms, it does not mean you have to eliminate all FODMAPs," Tracy says. "You may be able to tolerate a certain amount of a FODMAP and feel fine. For example, you may be fine eating a small apple the size of a tennis ball, but might become bloated and feel uncomfortable after eating a very large apple. You may be able to handle a little garlic powder in chicken broth but not an actual clove of garlic in your food."
3. You Have Bouts Of Diarrhea
Diarrhea is another unfortunate potential sign of a FODMAP sensitivity, Johnson says. "FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that ferment in your large intestine when they are poorly digested," he explains. "This causes a few bad things to happen. First water gets drawn into the small intestine which can cause diarrhea." Then, the fermentation process can cause other unpleasant symptoms.
4. You Have Constipation
You might not think that constipation and diarrhea can both be symptoms of the same thing, but constipation is, in fact, another potential sign that you have a FODMAP sensitivity. "If you eat foods rich in FODMAPs such as apples, wheat, onion, garlic and watermelon (to name a few), and experience uncomfortable digestive symptoms, the next step would be to discuss with your doctor if trying a low FODMAP diet is right for you," Kate Scarlata, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and brand ambassador for FODY Foods, which specializes low-FODMAP foods, tells Romper by email. "Your doctor will assess for any alarm signs that warrant further testing."
5. You're Dealing With Some Gas
Gas, too, can be caused by many things, but a FODMAP sensitivity is definitely one such cause. Johnson says the gas comes from the fermentation going on in the gut. Gas can cause a lot of discomfort, so determining what sorts of foods might be having this effect on you — and why — can alleviate your discomfort and hopefully feel better sooner.
6. You Feel Lousy After Eating Certain Foods Or Taking Certain Supplements
"When clients are experiencing significant gas or bloating, or they report feeling a lot worse when they increase fruits, vegetables, or fiber supplements, I suspect FODMAP sensitivity," Malachesky says. "I also consider this when they present with constipation or diarrhea, or when they alternate between the two."
Feeling generally lousy after eating more of certain fruits, vegetables, or supplements doesn't necessarily mean that you have any sort of sensitivity, but it can be a definite clue that you do, so being forthcoming about that with your doctor or a dietitian or nutritionist can help you get to the bottom of things.
7. You Can Tolerate Sourdough Bread
Because these symptoms can also be symptoms of things like celiac disease or lactose-intolerance, you might initially think that gluten or lactose are the causes of your problems. But if your symptoms persist even once you remove dairy products and other foods containing lactose, or you can still tolerate sourdough bread, even though other types of breads result in symptoms, it might be a FODMAP sensitivity instead. As Monash University in Australia noted, sourdough bread is a low-FODMAP food. But sourdough bread still contains gluten, so if you can tolerate sourdough bread, it might be a sign that what you're really dealing with is a FODMAP sensitivity rather than non-celiac gluten intolerance.