Posted on 06/29/2016 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By Dr. Lisa Metzgar, PhD:
Many people suffer from gut imbalances that can affect their day to day living and their underlying overall health. Symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation can range from mild to seriously debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Carbohydrates and imbalanced gut bacteria are at the root of this problem.
Carbohydrates come in several forms ranging from long chain (resistant starches and high fiber foods that resist digestion and add bulk to our stools) to short chain (simple sugars that are easily digested). There is a class of carbohydrates called FODMAPs that can wreak havoc with the digestive system. FODMAP is an acronym representing low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These carbohydrates includes lactose, fructose, fructans, sugar alcohols and galactans.
FODMAPs are not a problem for most people if eaten in moderation, but there are some people that are highly sensitive to them.
A low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone.
So how do you know if your symptoms are a result of high FODMAP foods? First…I would highly recommend you see a nutritionist who can do specific tests to identify your gut imbalances. If you have a serious condition like IBS, then your doctor can help. If you just have mild symptoms of bloating, gas or diarrhea, you can try a low-FODMAP diet for few weeks to see if it helps.
Here are some tips to see if a low-FODMAP diet might help you:
- Try eliminating dairy for a couple of weeks. Dairy has the sugar called lactose which can be problematic for those who lack the enzyme lactase that digests this type of sugar. When you add any dairy back into your diet, you will notice the discomfort pretty quickly if you have problems digesting the lactose. If you find that dairy is a major problem for you, be sure to find good substitutes for those nutrients you will be losing by not adding it back to your diet. There are a lot of great lactose-free/non-dairy substitutes available these days such as almond and coconut milk.
- Some fruits are higher in fructose (the sugar found in fruit) than others. You can find many low-FODMAP fruits lists on the internet. An example is this list from Monash University of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Try limiting your fruit consumption to the fruits listed as low-FODMAP food alternatives such as bananas, grapes and oranges.
- Sugar alcohols can be a problem for many people. These are artificial sweeteners like mannitol, and sorbitol (anything with –tol at the end). They can have a laxative effect. Try eliminating all artificial sweeteners from your diet. This is a good idea in general…even if you don’t experience bowel discomfort from them.
- Try eliminating wheat from your diet. There is a class of sugars called fructans that are chains of fructose. Your gut lacks the enzymes called hydrolases that are needed to break the bonds and therefore it is poorly absorbed and can create those uncomfortable symptoms.(1) Wheat also contains gluten that can create gut imbalances. I personally recommend people limit their grains to whole grain rice like brown, black, or red rice or quinoa.
- Try eliminating beans for a while. Beans and legumes contain galactans that can be difficult to digest. If you must have beans, take a digestive enzyme like Beano to help digest.
- Along with a low-FODMAP diet, it has been shown that supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics is a very effective treatment for eliminating those uncomfortable gut disturbances.(2)
Remember FODMAPs aren’t bad for everyone. Some of the fruits and veggies high in FODMAPs are very healthy for you and help your beneficial gut bacteria thrive, which in turn might help your immune system and overall health. As always moderation is the key to every diet!