4 Nov 2015

The low FODMAP diet and its application in East and Southeast Asia

Thai green curry. Image: Monash Dept of Gastroenterology
There is growing interest in using food choice/dietary change to influence clinical outcomes in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The low fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) diet is an evidence-based approach that is increasingly used in many Western countries, and holds great promise in treating IBS patients in East and Southeast Asia. However, the success of this dietary approach greatly depends on detailed knowledge about the FODMAP composition of food commonly consumed in that country.


The low FODMAP diet is based on restricting dietary intake of short chain carbohydrates that are slowly absorbed or indigestible and not absorbed during passage through the small intestine. These are collectively described as "FODMAPs" and comprise oligosaccharides (mostly fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides), sugar polyols, fructose in excess of glucose, and lactose in lactose malabsorbers. The general strategy of the diet is to avoid foods high in FODMAPs and replace them with foods low in FODMAPs, with long-term restriction limited to what is required to control symptoms.

The likely mechanism of action is minimisation of the stimulation of mechanoreceptors exerted by distension of the intestinal lumen with water from osmotic effects and gases from bacterial fermentation in those with visceral hypersensitivity.

While the content of foods associated with East and Southeast Asian cuisines has not been fully explored, major high FODMAP sources are frequently used and include onion, garlic, shallots, legumes/pulses, and wheat-based products. The review highlights how the diet is implemented, its efficacy, and troublesome (for IBS sufferers) ingredients frequently used in Asian dishes.

Reference (full text): Iacovou M, Tan V, Muir JG, Gibson PR. The low FODMAP diet and its application in East and Southeast Asia. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015 Oct 1;21(4):459-70. doi: 10.5056/jnm15111.
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