Have you ever eaten a meal and experienced symptoms straight away? If you have, then you are not alone. Today we are discussing the timing of symptoms and helping you figure out if it’s FODMAPs, or something else triggering your symptoms. Alana Scott, Founder of A Little Bit Yummy, is your host and joining her is Lyndal Collins, registered dietitian from the Monash University FODMAP team.
This article will cover the following:
- FODMAP Chat session with Lyndal Collins from the Monash University FODMAP team
- How do FODMAPs trigger symptoms?
- If you have a high FODMAP food reaction – how soon should you expect to see symptoms?
- What factors trigger symptoms quickly after a meal?
- What strategies can you use if you are experiencing symptoms during or quickly after meals?
- What if you are convinced it’s FODMAPs triggering your symptoms?
- Are there other types of food intolerances that can trigger symptoms?
- Extra resources and final thoughts
Watch The Video
FODMAPs and the Timing of Symptoms
Host: Alana Scott from A Little Bit Yummy
Monash University FODMAP Dietitian: Emily Clarke
How do FODMAPs trigger symptoms?
When you eat high FODMAP foods, the FODMAP carbohydrates travel through the stomach and into the small intestine. FODMAPs are osmotically active, which means they draw water into the small intestine causing the intestine to stretch and distend. Next, the FODMAPs move into the large intestine, where your gut microbiome lives. Millions of healthy bacteria are waiting to break down any unabsorbed food. The bacteria ferment the FODMAPs as they eat them, creating gas which can lead to excess wind, abdominal distension, bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation) in some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Even people without IBS experience this FODMAP fermentation process and gas production. However, only people with a sensitive gut experience unpleasant gut symptoms. We know that people with IBS have increased nerve sensation (visceral hypersensitivity) in the gut and that their bodies respond differently to FODMAPs.
If you have a high FODMAP food reaction – how soon should you expect to see symptoms?
Reaction times will vary from person to person. FODMAP reactions happen in our intestines and mainly occur in the large intestine. This means we wouldn’t expect you to start experiencing symptoms from a FODMAP reaction until the high FODMAP food reaches the large intestine several hours later. FODMAP reactions can’t happen within minutes of eating a high FODMAP food, as that food will still be in your stomach.
Are there any situations where a FODMAP reaction can happen faster?
There are examples where a FODMAP reaction can happen faster. For example, if you have an empty stomach and eat something super high in FODMAPs in a liquid form (this could be a smoothie with lots of high FODMAP fruit and milk), then you might experience a reaction faster. This decreased reaction time is because liquids can empty from your stomach more quickly than solid food, which needs to be broken down by stomach acid.
Take home message: If you start experiencing symptoms in the middle of eating a meal or within a few minutes of having a meal, then it’s unlikely to be the FODMAPs in that meal causing the issue.
What factors trigger symptoms quickly after a meal?
The nerves that surround the gut are key when it comes to understanding gut symptoms. In people with IBS, these nerves are highly sensitive to normal digestive processes. So for some people, the act of eating and something being in their stomach, is enough to trigger those nerves and set off gut symptoms.
We also have a gastrocolic reflex when we eat food that helps food move through our intestines. This reflex is strongest first thing in the morning and is why you might need to have a bowel movement after eating breakfast or having your morning coffee. This reflex signals to your body that it needs to move the food in your digestive tract further through the digestive system to make space for the new food. For some people with IBS, this reflex can be overactive and can trigger the need to have an urgent bowel motion.
What strategies can you use if you are experiencing symptoms during or quickly after meals?
Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Eat smaller meals that are spaced evenly throughout the day,
- Learn what digestive processes are normal so you can reassure your body that it is okay,
- Implement mindful eating where you take time to sit down, chew your food, and enjoy the eating experience,
- Reduce stress and anxiety,
- Use strategies targeting the gut-brain connection to help calm the overactive gut nerves — for example, gut-directed hypnotherapy, mindfulness, and breathing exercises.
What if you are convinced it’s FODMAPs triggering your symptoms?
If you still think it’s FODMAPs that are triggering your reactions, then review the foods and drinks you consumed over the previous 24 hours. This food will most likely still be in your digestive system and will be pushed further through the digestive tract each time you eat a meal. Sometimes a fast reaction after a meal can be triggered by FODMAPs that were eaten earlier that have now reached the large intestine. A FODMAP-trained dietitian can help you review a food diary and identify any likely FODMAP triggers.
Are there other types of food intolerances that can trigger symptoms?
Understanding gut symptoms is complicated and there are other types of food intolerances that can trigger symptoms. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to discuss those in today’s session. If you are struggling to get good symptom relief, then get support from a FODMAP trained dietitian who specialises in gut issues. They can help you determine what foods are a problem for you and implement strategies to minimise symptoms.
Extra Resources and Final Thoughts
If you want to support the FODMAP work that Monash University is doing, then please download the Monash University FODMAP Diet App from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
We hope you’ve found this FODMAP chat session on FODMAPs and the timing of symptoms helpful, and we look forward to chatting with you again soon.