By Dr. Megan Rigby, DNP and Nutrition Consultant, themacromini.com
Photo by istockphoto.com/torwai
Digestive discomfort is never pleasant, especially when you feel like you’re doing all the right things to maintain a healthy body. Nothing makes you feel more defeated like eating well and exercising only to feel like a hot air balloon. But what you may not realize is that your nutrient-dense diet full of plant-based goodness may actually be to blame for your belly bloat.
Not all fruits, vegetables, and grains are created equal, and your ever-changing gut microbiome may be struggling to break them down, even if you were able to tolerate them in the past. This battle often leads to unpleasant gas production within our digestive tract, causing the gut to become inflamed. If this sounds familiar, then it could be a sign that it’s time to dissect your nutrition.
Let’s Talk FODMAPs
The term FODMAP was founded by researchers in Australia at Monash University to describe specific classes of carbohydrates that can trigger digestive distress beginning in the small intestine.
When the digestive tract is stressed, these foods are not broken down properly in the small intestines and travel into the large intestine without proper absorption. When these undigested carbohydrates move through our tract, they negatively interact with our gut bacteria. Therefore, FODMAP intolerance is not due to an allergy or immune response, but rather an imbalance of the gut microbiome. When this occurs, the result is unpleasant bloating and fluid retention within the gut, as well as stomach pain, abdominal distension, and bowel irregularity.
So, what does FODMAPs stand for?
- Oligosaccharides (comprised of fructans and galactans)
- Disaccharides (milk sugar lactose)
- Monosaccharides (fructose)
- Polyols (sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol)
High FODMAP foods include the following:
Fruits: apples, cherries, pears, watermelon, banana, grapefruit, blackberries, nectarines, plums
Vegetables: asparagus, snap peas, garlic, onion, peas, soy bean, cauliflower, mushrooms
Dairy: ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, cow’s milk, ice cream, yogurt
Grains: rye, wheat, barley
Sweeteners: honey, agave, corn syrup, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol
Legumes & Nuts: pistachios, cashews, black beans, kidney beans, split peas
What to Do
If you think you may be plagued with a FODMAP intolerance, your best course of action is to follow a short-term elimination diet. Temporary elimination of high-FODMAP foods has been shown to provide relief of gut symptoms, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (but these foods can also affect anyone with an inflamed gut from stress, toxins, or antibiotic use).
The long list of high FODMAPs can seem daunting and intimidating, but the good news is that most people are not negatively affected by all these foods, nor do they consume them on a regular basis. FODMAP intolerance does not affect everyone the same, therefore, the elimination process should be treated as such.
3 Steps to Eliminating and Reintroducing FODMAPs
Food elimination has been deemed an effective plan when experiencing gut discomfort. Luckily this method has recently been incorporated into the American Medical System and gained attention among health enthusiasts. Research has shown this elimination plan is a positive way to rule out troublesome foods. Follow these steps to isolate the foods that may be behind your bloating and try the meal plan on the next page.
1. Food Journaling. Make a list of what high FODMAPs you eat daily and isolate those items.
2. Eliminate. Completely remove these foods from your diet for 4-6 weeks.
3. Reintroduce. Add ONE of the eliminated foods every 3-7 days and assess tolerance in your food journal. If an item is not tolerated, remove it again and move on to the next food item.
ONE-DAY LOW-FODMAP PLAN
Macro Breakdown: Protein 100 g, Carbs 135 g, Fat 60 g
Before Breakfast: Warm lemon water
2 hard-boiled eggs
½ cup oatmeal + 1 cup strawberries + 1 Tbsp chia seeds + ½ cup almond milk
100 g pineapple
1 oz almonds
4 oz shredded chicken
2 corn tortillas + 1 oz avocado + 2 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese + 2 Tbsp salsa
4 oz salmon
1 cup broccoli
1 cup sweet potato with cinnamon
Got nutrition-related health questions for Megan?
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