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Most people can and do eat small amounts of FODMAPs throughout the day with no issue. However, on occasion, these tiny amounts can combine or “stack,” which can aggravate symptoms that are otherwise under control.
In the quest for good digestive health, you may consider trying a low-FODMAP diet. What is FODMAP? Simply put, it’s an acronym that encompasses a broad range of triggering foods, many of which are to blame for common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and stomach pain. FODMAPs are highly fermentable carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed and don’t completely digest in the small intestine, leading to all sorts of tummy troubles.
Eating FODMAPs on their own can be damaging enough, but some people may be “FODMAP stacking,” which might be worsening their symptoms. FODMAP stacking is when you eat multiple foods with small amounts of triggers that linger in the gut for too long, piling up and eventually aggravating symptoms. If you’ve been doing a great job at following your low-FODMAP diet plan but still notice occasional flare-ups, it could be that your body is stacking FODMAP foods that are triggering uncomfortable side effects.
All About FODMAP Stacking
For most people, it takes about 36 hours for food to travel from the mouth to the end of the digestive tract, but some foods linger in the large intestine longer than others. When FODMAP-friendly foods build up in the gut, it can have a confounding effect that can lead to common digestive issues, including diarrhea, bloating, gas and stomach discomfort.
Let’s look at an example of why this might happen. Let’s say you eat three low-FODMAP meals throughout the day, all of which have a small amount of the same FODMAP in them. For example, each meal may contain a tiny amount of the polyol sorbitol (found naturally in small quantities in berries, peaches, figs and other fruits).
In small quantities, a little sorbitol is OK. However, if your breakfast digests slower than your lunch and dinner, a large quantity of sorbitol can build up throughout the day and cause you to experience common symptoms and discomfort. Since trace amounts of FODMAPs are found in tons of FODMAP-friendly foods, this is bound to happen on occasion. But don’t stress! It shouldn’t throw you too far off track, and there are some things you can do to prevent it.
How to Prevent FODMAP Stacking
Even the most stringent followers of the low-FODMAP diet may accidentally stack FODMAPs on occasion, so don’t worry if this happens to you once in a while! But there are some simple things you can do to prevent it from happening, such as:
- Space out meals. Try to space out your meals with a couple of hours between each one. This will give your body a chance to properly digest small amounts of trigger foods before new ones are introduced. If you prefer to eat frequently throughout the day, try to keep snacks as low-FODMAP as possible.
- Try eating meals formulated by the experts, such as our diet plan with expertly developed IBS meals. ModifyHealth understands the compounding effect of FODMAPs, and our meal plan is designed to avoid stacking, so this can be a simple and effective way to prevent it from happening.
- Know which foods tend to stack up. Some FODMAP-friendly foods are a bit sneakier than others when it comes to stacking. For example, fruit can be high in natural sugars that can linger in the gut and build up throughout the day. Space out servings of fruit and other stacking-prone foods if possible.
Don’t Worry Too Much About Stacking
If you’re new to the low-FODMAP lifestyle, don’t stress much about stacking. Though it does happen on occasion, most people don’t find it to be disruptive enough to stop following the diet. Keeping it in the back of your mind as you meal prep and plan out your eating schedule can help prevent it from becoming an issue in your daily life.
Following a low-FODMAP diet is one of the best and most effective ways to treat IBS and other chronic digestive issues. Most people have great success with this approach, but it’s not perfect. Knowing a few key things to look out for can help you get the most out of your low-FODMAP meal plan so you live a more enjoyable life with fewer symptoms.