Clearing up the confusion about ‘FODMAPs’

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We often take our digestion for granted. In the gob, a few chops and gone! But what if too many of the wrong food choices and not chewing food properly, coupled with stress, gives rise to a digestive issue like belching? Remember the movie Ocean’s Eleven when Brad Pitt habitually consumed burgers without ill effects but by the end of the movie he couldn’t stop belching? This is so true (even for movie stars)!!!

There are so many ‘umbrella’ digestive issues and acronyms floating around it is no wonder we get confused by them. Here are a few:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ aka IBS
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth aka SIBO
  • Dysbiosis aka too many of the wrong kinds of gut bugs growing
  • Intestinal Permeability aka Leaky Gut
  • Harmful gut bug pathogens (which can only be diagnosed by specific testing) such as Blastocystis sp. Citrobacter, Helicobacter Pylori, Klebsiella.

All these digestive issues are influenced by several factors. For example:

  • The foods you eat
  • How well your digestive processes are functioning
  • How effective your liver, gall bladder and pancreas are working
  • How calm your nervous system is.

Added to the mix is whether you have a food allergy, food intolerance, or an autoimmune disease such as celiac disease or hashimoto’s thyroiditis or rosacea.

In our holistic practice located in Dee Why on the Northern Beaches we aim to treat the root cause of your digestive issues. We thoroughly assess your condition using a questionnaire, a referral for a stool analysis, or other specific gut condition testing. As a naturopath, I assess you using subjective (questioning) and objective (testing) protocols to help me tailor your gut healing program to your individual needs.  Questioning is quite detailed and explores symptoms, triggers and what relieves your symptoms. Looking closely at your dietary pattern and the typical foods you eat is of most interest, as are the nature and consistency of your bowel motions.

In some instances, particularly if you are suffering from excessive gas or ‘wind’, burping, reflux and bloating, it can be helpful to commence a LOW FODMAP diet for a few weeks or so. Whenever I mention FODMAPs, and go through the process, it can seem a little overwhelming, so thought I’d explain a bit more about it here.

FODMAPs isn’t a disease! FODMAPs is an acronym that symbolises groups of short chain carbohydrates (or sugars).

FODMAPs are basically the short chain carbohydrates (or sugars) which occur naturally in many carbohydrate containing foods including fruits and vegetables. These sugars are typically poorly absorbed by the gut, and hence may cause various symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, reflux and even pain.

FODMAP foods like dairy and wheat can aggravate other digestive issues and gut infections. Hence, the root cause of your digestive distress should be the focus, rather than just avoiding essentially beneficial ‘fodmap’ foods for long periods of time.

The acronym stands for:

  • Fermentable – the process where the gut bacteria ferment undigested carbohydrates to produce ‘wind’
  • Oligosaccharides – fructans & GOS found in foods such as wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes and pulses
  • Diasaccharides – lactose found in dairy like milk, soft cheeses and yoghurt
  • Monosaccharides – fructose found in honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups
  • Polyols – sorbitol and mannitol found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners.

For some people with digestive conditions such as reflux, abdominal bloating, flatulence or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, these foods can be problematic. Eliminating them for a short period of time may provide relief from symptoms while we are working on the root causes of your digestive issues.

FODMAP foods are however a very important part of our diet and should only be eliminated for a structured short period of time and re-introduced slowly as your digestive tract heals.

With any digestive issue, it is important to properly diagnose the problem so the root cause can be specifically targeted. This is especially important with bad gut bugs that may be present. We need to know what and where they are!

Sometimes, the issue can be resolved quickly in a few weeks. Other times it may take a window of 3-6 months, depending on what’s going on.

As a fully qualified naturopath in Dee Why, I provide a gold standard level of care that tailors a corrective digestive health program for your individual needs.

If you’d like more information, I’d love to help, so feel free to get in touch.

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