Not only is the FODMAP diet useful in helping IBS, it can also be beneficial for a range of other health complaints too. There are other specific diets, such as Ketogenic and Paleo that are also well known for helping with digestive complaints and general good health. Finding which suits you best is key.
FODMAP is an acronym for a group of mostly sugars that become fermented and are not well digested. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These include sugars found in fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
The FODMAP diet was created in Australia and was discovered to help IBS symptoms. What’s more, a very high carbohydrate diet was shown to be strongly associated with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and other digestive issues.
In my time as a Naturopath and Nutritionist, I’ve learnt that IBS symptoms, such as bloating, digestive cramps, swings from constipation to loose bowels, diarrhea and wind are often things people just put up with. While the symptoms may not be too troublesome, over months and years IBS can contribute to a more serious deterioration of the bowel, leaky gut and coeliacs disease. In fact, Leaky gut is common for those with IBS. These conditions have a knock on effect contributing to such a long list of illnesses, from migraines and headaches, to skin problems and inflammation in the body.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, spelt, and sometimes oats. These are the first foods to eliminate with IBS and bowel problems.
Gluten is found more in our food today than it used to be because of genetic engineering, which renders the gluten content in wheat to be much higher than previously. This is one of the reasons why our grandparents didn’t seem to have such a problem with gluten. Compounding this issue, processing and cooking methods are very different today.
Our grandparents also ate a lot less sugar, in all its forms. Today supermarket shelves are full of foods not only packed with sucrose but also fructose. Fructose is a lot more absorbable than cane sugar, so it hits our blood sugar balancing systems much harder, puts pressure on the liver and creates more inflammation in the body.
Sugar generally is very pro-inflammatory and creates unwanted acidity in our blood, which is why it is a major food that promotes disease and illness in our bodies.
There’s no doubt that many people with IBS who avoid gluten and most grains feel better. This is in part because of the inflammation it can create in the gut and body, such as with eczema and psoriasis. It is also found in high carbohydrate (high sugar) foods, such as bread, pastries and pasta.
During the FODMAP studies by Monash University, the participants significantly improved when they avoided gluten and whey (cow’s dairy proteins), and every participant worsened when gluten and whey proteins were introduced.
HOW DOES FODMAP COMPARE WITH THE PALEO AND KETOGENIC DIETS?
It’s interesting to note, such as the Paleo diet, and in particular the Ketogenic diet play important roles in reducing inflammation in the body. This inflammation contributes to skin conditions, like eczema, acne, psoriasis and other complaints, such as migraines and headaches, inflammatory bowel disease and IBS.
The Paleo diet is low in grains and dairy. This compares with the Ketogenic diet, which is low in grains, but not restrictive of dairy. The Ketogenic diet recommends healthy fats, such as butter and coconut oil. This is so we get our energy from ‘clean fuel’ rather than dirty, damaging foods, which come from high carbohydrate foods, such as bread and pasta, and in particular sugar and fructose.
The FODMAP, Paleo and Ketogenic diets all have in common a low level of fermentable sugars, which is in fact what FODMAP stands for. These sugars can create an unhealthy balance of bad to good bacteria in the body. The microbiom (or microorganisms in the body) that are essential for a good immune system and optimal health, can be thrown out of balance. If there is an environment that supports bad bacteria to thrive, when high sugars are present particularly in the gut, SIBO, thrush and candida overgrowth can thrive, contributing to more ill health.
Breads and cereals: wheat, rye, barley, biscuits and snack products.
Sugars, sweetners and candy: high fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar free candy.
Nuts: cashews and pistachios.
Corn is gluten free, but is also a high carbohydrate food that can contribute to a lot of digestive complaints, so I recommend keeping clear of it.
FODMAP FRIENDLY FOODS
There are low FODMAP food alternatives. However, simply by avoiding the high FODMAP foods listed above, you are doing a great job.
You can include grains such as quinoa, rice, and gluten free breads, which are fine. However, it’s worth noting, that in some cases I take people off gluten free breads and they can feel better. So in this it’s worth trying to see how you feel.
WHICH DIET IS BEST FOR YOU?
There has been a lot of hype around the FODMAP diet, and there are some really valid benefits to it. The main one that I believe stands out is avoiding gluten. It’s interesting that the Paleo and Ketogenic diets, also eliminate gluten. Keeping sugars low is also of great benefit to most people.
My word of caution in relation to the FODMAP diet is that getting sufficient healthy fats in our diets today is really important. So my diet of choice tends to be the Ketogenic diet, which encourages plenty of healthy fats, including dairy fats of a certain type.
If you are tackling IBS or wanting to follow a healthier diet, get in touch and we can talk through the best diet for you. I am a big believer in tailoring diets to specific needs. We can learn a lot from the FODMAP diet, but each of these diets I’ve mentioned have positives and negatives, and I would like to help you find the right diet for you. For pregnant women, or those with certain health issues, dietary changes should be done carefully and with guidance, so please get in touch before making any changes.