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Gut Health Focus: Low-FODMAP Diet

Find out what the Low FODMAP Diet is and how it can help alleviate symptoms related to IBS.

Learn who may benefit from this therapeutic diet and how to nourish your gut with everyday foods.

If you are keeping a pulse on all things related to gut health, you have likely heard about an up-and-coming approach called the Low-FODMAP diet. In fact, you may have also noticed products in the supermarket newly touting their Low-FODMAP status. ‘FODMAP’ is an acronym created from the names of different types of fermentable, small-chain carbohydrates naturally found in many foods, such as wheat, barley, rye, honey, mango, garlic, onion, kidney beans, pears and apples, to name a few. For someone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these carbohydrates can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and may trigger abdominal stress, leading to bloating, gas, abdominal pain and discomfort, diarrhea and constipation.

If you suffer from IBS or are concerned with maintaining a healthier gut, you’re not alone. According to food trends predictions for 2019, consumers will continue to be hyper-focused on digestion and foods that naturally promote a healthy GI tract and/or have been formulated to do so. A recent report by the Hartman Group, a recognized thought leader on trends in the food industry, claims that heart health has actually taken a backseat to gut health as consumers shift their focus towards lifestyle habits that promote regularity, nourish the ‘good bacteria’ in their large intestine and/or enhance the absorption rates of nutrients.

Taking a step back here, let’s first identify what the ‘gut’ is and why you may want to pay it a little more attention. In short, it’s the digestive system, that starts with your mouth, includes all organs involved in digestion, and ends with the large intestine. As research continues to connect gut health with a whole host of chronic health conditions including inflammation, depression, obesity, heart health, certain cancers, and of course, digestive issues, people can’t help but wonder what they can do to better the health of their gut.

What’s the point of the Low FODMAP DIET?

The goal of the three-phase, Low-FODMAP diet is to pinpoint the culprits of the digestive distress and devise a long-term eating plan that will improve symptoms. It is not intended to be anything more than a trial and is best followed under the supervision of a registered dietitian nutritionist who can explain high- and low-FODMAP foods and ensure proper nutritional needs are being met. In most cases, once the trigger-causing foods are identified, the individual can resume a more typical eating pattern. Research shows that up to 75 percent of individuals with IBS will benefit from the restriction of FODMAP foods.

For the vast majority of individuals seeking to improve the health and function of their gut, the low FODMAP approach is not necessary. Instead, try these basic habits to get started:

1. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes. Supplementation with pills or powders is generally not necessary if you are eating a well-balanced diet.

2. To nourish the ‘good bacteria’ that are naturally present in the digestive tract, regularly consume probiotic-containing foods such as yogurt, kefir (a yogurt-like smoothie), kombucha, fresh sauerkraut, miso (fermented soybean paste), kimchi, tempeh or aged cheeses.  Probiotics are similar to the bacteria already found in the body and food or supplement sources can help to restore and balance the ‘good bacteria’ with the bad.

3. Since prebiotics, a type of non-digestible fiber found in apples, bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus and whole-wheat foods, act as the food for the bacteria in your gut, it’s ideal to enjoy them in combination with probiotic foods to reap the biggest benefit. A few easing probiotic-prebiotic pairings include apples and yogurt, stir-fried tempeh and asparagus or a smoothie of banana and kefir.

It’s important to note that when increasing your fiber intake, do so gradually and with plenty of fluids to avoid bloating, discomfort or constipation.

For a collection of credible FODMAPS resources and information, visit: http://www.katescarlata.com/fodmaps-101/.

– Beth Stark, RDN, LDN