First, I have no patience for anything in ALL CAPS, so we're calling this gastric distress Fodmaps. Second, it's an acronym for an impossibly long string of carbohydrates that can mess up your digestion and delude you into mistaking gluten as the culprit. Third, I'd spare you that conversation expect that Fodmaps is a hot topic in some bioscience circles at present. Not yours or mine, maybe, but we don't dissect intestinal tracts for a living. Fodmaps may be worth paying attention to if your plumbing regularly backfires. Microbiologists—some anyway—consider those numerous poorly absorbed or digested carbohydrates responsible for bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and cramping—most everything blamed on gluten, in other words, including fatigue.
The Australian team at Monash University led by gastroenterologist Peter Gibson that originally identified gluten sensitivity as an ailment reversed itself in 2013. In a second well-regulated double-blind clinical study the team discovered the true enemy of proper digestion to be short-chain carbohydrates, called Fodmaps. In Grain of Truth I interview Dr. Gibson at length. A straight talker, he makes no effort to rationalize his earlier findings. "We were wrong." Gibson tells me. "I suspect maybe as few as one-half of one percent of the population at most really suffers from gluten sensitivity." Popular opinion runs exactly counter to that view, but Gibson believes what he learns from biopsies, not from People Magazine. Books like Wheat Belly, he adds, use the science inappropriately. "It's much more likely Fodmaps create the digestive issues and fatigue that first appeared to be gluten-related."
Okay, but what are these Fodmaps (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols)? They're sugars—fructose, lactose, also fructans as in wheat and garlic, galactans as in beans and lentils, and polyols as in avocados and stone fruits. In some of us, when fermented in the large intestine they produce gas and other gluten-like reactions.
If you think you might be Fodmaps-sensitive the smart thing to do is simply to remove them from your diet. Good luck on that! however. Fodmaps show up everywhere, in pears, chocolate, soft cheeses, cashews, soy milk, grains, apples, apricots, guava, artichokes, snap peas, mushrooms, jams, pickles, prunes, pistachios—more than 45 fruits and vegetables. Which instantly disqualifies them as a fad. Who wants to walk into a supermarket or Whole Foods with a laundry list of Fodmaps items to avoid?
Food fads gain street cred by being simple one-stop shopping solutions. Fads thrive on simplicity: eggs or no eggs, fat or no fat, carbs or no carbs, depending on whether the food trend tide is flowing in or ebbing away. Keeping current matters. Today's blood booster may suddenly be outed as tomorrow's organ destroyer. Food fads can also can accommodate two simple words, like bone broth, so long as they are easy to memorize. Hyphenates like gluten-free qualify as well. Any ab-crunching bozo can remember that, even if they have no idea what gluten actually is or isn't. But Fodmaps? Fuggedaboudit! It's the pimply overweight kid with the zits in the schoolyard who nobody wants to befriend, even if he'll do your algebra homework for a 32 oz. Dr. Pepper.
If so inclined you can remove the most flagrant high-Fodmaps food offenders at few at a time—go online to find them—and note the results until you isolate the items that seem to cause distress. Reducing Fodmaps will not result in an overnight cure for anything. But the process, however arduous and even exasperating, in the end just might work.