Gut Sensitivity in Athletes and Non-Athletes- FODMAP’s


My next few articles will be dedicated to the gut and sensitivities that many of us may experience on a daily basis whether we are athletes or not. Today’s article will focus on FODMAP sensitivity which may be a leading factor in gut issues.

This article has been adapted from an article written by Ben Greenfield -

A recent study actually found that people with self-reported “gluten sensitivity” had actual zero bad gut effects from eating gluten and instead experienced complete elimination of their gut issues after they simply underwent a dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates – also known as FODMAP’s.

Specifically, researchers reported that:

“In all participants, gastrointestinal symptoms consistently and significantly improved during reduced FODMAP intake, but significantly worsened to a similar degree when their diets included gluten or whey protein.”

In other words, it may not be gluten (or, incidentally whey protein) that could be causing your gut to become upset, but rather the combination of these foods with FODMAP’s, or the presence of FODMAP’s all by themselves.

How could this happen?

To understand, let’s look into what FODMAP’s really are. Many of the foods that we commonly eat, even in a healthy diet, are what are called “high-residue” foods. This means that these particular foods, when being digested, leave a lot behind for bacteria to feed on, and when bacteria feed and proliferate, they ferment.

When bacteria is fermenting in your gut, the result can be bloating, cramping and gas.

So what kind of foods have a tendency to ferment more or ferment faster than others? These foods are the FODMAP’s referred to above.

FODMAP stands for “Fermentable, Oligo- Di- Mono-saccharides And Polyols”, and basically, these are sugars that you can’t actually digest – so they end up feeding bacteria, creating fungal overgrowth in your digestive tract, and throwing off the entire balance of the ecosystem in your gut (FODMAP).

Healthy gut

Sometimes, in addition to bloating, cramping, gas, constipation or diarrhoea, FODMAP’s can also create symptoms outside of your gut, such as depression, fatigue, headache or brain fog (which makes sense, since your body creates a significant amount of your neurotransmitters in your gut – commonly known as the brain-gut connection).

So what kind of foods fall into the FODMAPs category? You may not need to cut them out completely however you may find that when you consume high amounts of the following foods, especially eaten in one meal or one day, you get some significant gut issues…and when you eliminate these foods, you may find that you can eat gluten-containing foods just fine.

  1. Fruit, agave, and honey

Fructose is fructose-based fruit sugar and a monosaccharide (the F and the M in FODMAPs). Fruits that are higher in fructose also fall into this category (like melons and citrus fruits such as mango). Fruits high in polyls (sugar alcohols) such as apples, peaches and pears would also be included. Many sweeteners also contain fructose, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, and agave. And of course, fructose is a major ingredient in most gels and sports drinks, so if you find that sports gels mess you up, this could be why.

  1. Beans and lentils

Oligosaccharides are short strands of simple sugars and all beans and lentils fall into this category. Maltodextrin, which is found in many, many sports gels, is also an oligosaccharide.

  1. Wheat, onions, and cabbage

Wheat is also an oligosaccharide, and in addition, contains sugar called fructan. Wheat is found in many sports bars and energy “chews”, and fructans are also found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower, onions, scallions and garlic.

  1. Dairy

Lactose, the sugar found in dairy (especially unfermented forms of dairy such as milk, as opposed to yogurt or kefir) is a disaccharide. You’ll also find large amounts of lactose in many post-workout recovery beverages.

  1. Sugar Alcohols

Examples of sugar alcohols, which are found as an ingredient in many packaged or processed foods, are xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol. You’ll commonly find these in sugar-free or “health” foods, and also in items such as diabetic candy, toothpaste, and chewing gum.

But as you may already know from personal experience and pure common sense, sitting down and eating an entire plate of sautéed onions is probably going to give you gas (due to the fructan content that you just learned about).

You also probably wouldn’t eat a few bowls of beans and lentils, or drink a smoothie made of 4 or 5 apples, and expect to not have something funky going on in your gut.

But in the same way that baked beans and apples can cause an issue, you can also create a major gut upset by consuming 50-100 grams of fructose and maltodextrin per hour from sports gels during an endurance event, downing a wheat-filled energy bar each afternoon at work, or sucking down lactose-laden recovery shakes after a workout.

There’s not really a good test for FODMAP’s aside from simply eliminating the big triggers from your diet and observing how you feel. This is basically an “elimination diet” strategy. So if you have gas, bloating, indigestion and other problematic gut issues, you can print the chart and try a low FODMAP diet for a week, and see what happens.

If you need more information to guide you and support through the process this is an area I can assist you with or 0402309997.

References for this article are available on request.


Larah “Lowfodmap” Brooklarah

Wow this lady continues to amaze everyone she meets! I met Larah in January this year when I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of her weight loss journey. Larah is the subject of a documentary on weight loss when dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) from high FODMAP’s foods. Larah weighed 89kg, was an emotional overeater, did very little exercise and found it very difficult to lose weight. In just 10 months she has lost 18kg and is  just 6 kg off her goal weight! Larah no longer turns to food when she is stressed with a positive outlook on life and loads of energy. Larah exercises 6 days a week and is loving it! Recently we walked the 17km Warrie circuit and will film Larah climbing Mt Warning which for her is an incredible challenge as she is extremely fearful of heights and the chain descent.

As part of the weight loss journey Larah had a metabolism test which has served as a guide for us on managing her nutrient intake and the best type of exercise for her metabolism.


I asked Larah some questions to discover how she has managed to achieve such amazing results.

How do you maintain your current weight?
Watch what I eat and exercise at least 1 hour per day 5 days/week.

Do you diarise, journal, count calories or use an app to track your daily diet/exercise?
I used to put all the food in an app called EasyDietyDiary, I did that for 6 months, it helped me a lot to watch my calories, I was more conscious about eatin something, if I knew my dietitian was going to check my diary. I should really keep on doing it, but I guess it all takes time, time that I don't have at the moment

Do you follow a particular diet plan or set of principles? Such as Paleo, low carb high fat, no processed, whole foods, vegan etc.
Healthy mainly low FODMAP

If you over indulge how do you get back on track?FODMAP
Move on, don't dwell on it, it has happened, just move on and learn to make better choices next time

How do you include "treats" in your diet?
Except some exception where I may have a bit of something that it's not meant to be for me (like making dessert for guests), I will try to have 'healthy treats' most days, 85% chocolate, lactose free yoghurt with chopped strawberries, tblsp crunched peanuts and a few dark choc chips.

What is the most important thing for you about staying healthy?
1. Feel and look younger
2. Being able to do active things for longer
3. Don't get sick with preventable diseases due to bad lifestyle choices

Do you use any non-diet strategies for maintenance of a healthy weight, if so what do you do?
Try to keep my stress level down, meditate, go for walks, listen to motivational speakers, pray

If you exercise are there any particular strategies that you have found work best for your body?
Keep it short and painful, interval training
Larah has researched low FODMAP’s extensively and has her own website and recipes. Along with Clare (naturopath and film maker) she has put together a 21 day free low FODMAP smoothie challenge and you can check out the details here.

If you would like more information such as recipes, tips, giveaways, etc.

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