I don’t know about you, but sometimes, after certain foods, I feel a little bloated, but not because I’ve eaten too much (although that can sometimes be true :-0) – it’s more to do with what I’ve eaten rather than how much. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, even when I don’t get the bloat, my stomach still doesn’t look like this, but you get the idea – the tum is in need of some TLC!

So what could be irritating our guts so much that we end up with a little Buddha belly and the ability to power our own wind farm?! Well, whilst living in Melbourne, I visited various nutritional therapists and established that I had a lactose intolerance, as well as an overgrowth of bloat-making bacteria in my gut (eeuuww). One of the specialist dietician consultancies I visited was Shepherd Works who specialise in gastrointestinal nutrition for those of us with sensitive digestive systems and other nasties, such as coeliac disease, IBD, IBS, colitis and Crohns disease.

One of their areas of expertise is The Low FODMAP Diet, which is an acronym for:

Fermentable

Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and GOS)

Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)

Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)

and

Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt).

So what are FODMAPs?

I don’t want to blind you with science but “these are the complex names for a collection of molecules found in food that can be poorly absorbed by some people. When the molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine of the digestive tract, these molecules then continue along their journey along the digestive tract, arriving at the large intestine, where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there normally. The bacteria then digest/ferment these FODMAPs and can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which include abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence), abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both), and other gastro-intestinal symptoms.” Other contributing factors to symptoms include alcohol, excess fat, caffeine and stress, which can also impact negatively on the state of your intestines.

In what foods are FODMAPs found?
“A few examples of food sources for each of the FODMAPs are listed below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Excess Fructose: Honey, Apples, Mango, Pear, Watermelon, High Fructose Corn Syrup,
Fructans: Artichokes (Globe), Artichokes (Jerusalem), Garlic (in large amounts), Leek, Onion (brown, white, Spanish, onion powder), Spring Onion (white part), Shallots, Wheat (in large amounts), Rye (in large amounts), Barley (in large amounts), Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides.
Lactose: Milk, ice-cream, custard, dairy desserts, condensed and evaporated milk, milk powder, yoghurt, soft unripened cheeses (eg. ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone).
Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS): Legume beans (eg. baked beans, kidney beans, borlotti beans), Lentils, Chickpeas
Polyols: Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Cherries, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Mushrooms, sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), xylitol (967), maltitol (965) and isomalt (953).”

So what’s involved in The Low FODMAP Diet?

“Dr Sue Shepherd developed The Low FODMAP Diet in 2001 and has proven through her pioneering research that limiting dietary FODMAPs is a effective treatment for people with symptoms of IBS. The Low FODMAP Diet has been published in international medical journals and is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective ways to manage IBS.

The Low FODMAP Diet has two phases:

The first phase generally involves a strict restriction of all high FODMAP foods. This phase should be followed for 6-8 weeks only, then an expert dietitian should be consulted for a review appointment to learn the second phase.

The second phase is where the diet is liberalised to suit each individual – where the type and amount of FODMAPs are identified so that the longer term diet can be established.”

Word to the wise…

Whilst I have now mostly found my ‘inner peace’ when it comes to FODMAPs and know what I can eat without ‘bringing on the bloat’, the journey hasn’t been easy, involving a lot of fine-tuning, a specific diagnosis and ongoing consultations with the experts.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you should visit your GP in the first instance as it’s important to establish a baseline with which to commence any dietary changes and essential to eliminate the possibility of any serious health conditions. Once this has been done, you can then consult with a nutritional therapist for advice on how to fine tune your diet to suit your particular condition (if you have one!)

And remember, your stomach is actually a second brain that’s connected to your real brain and contains 100 million neurons that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. It can have huge repercussions if things are not as they should be – a healthy gut is key to both a healthy mind and body. So, if your belly is sending out an ‘SOS’, listen up, as it might affect more than just the ozone layer, if you know what I mean :-0

Where can you get help?

In Melbourne, as well as Shepherd Works, I also found help with Rocco di Vincenzo at Brunswick Integrative Health and here in the UK, I keep regular appointments with the Eatwell Pixie, Pauline Thomas – both of whom have provided invaluable support for my grouchy guts. All of these therapists offer Skype consultations.

You can read more about my home-made probiotics (good bacteria) in my previous blog post Introduce Some Friendly Bacteria To Your Digestive Tract and, I’ve nearly finished the book GUT by Giulia Enders so I will provide more insights on our insides in a future musing…

🙂

Article produced with reference to Shepherd Works