Continuing to discuss the gut, it is important that we understand that the symptoms we are experiencing might be messages that our gut is trying to tell us something. As we discussed several weeks ago, there is a distinct difference between food intolerance and food allergy, it is important to know that changes in our gut function are a symptom that something has changed that we need to pay attention to. One strategy for figuring out what foods might be irritating your system is to check for FODMAP intolerances. I find that this is a very systematic strategy for getting to the bottom of which foods are causing symptoms.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo, di, mono-saccharides, and polyls. These are names for classes of short train carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the gut. When people experience gastro symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain), it is often (not always) due to an intolerance to a food in one of these categories. By breaking down the food challenge by class, it is easier to get to the bottom of the specific foods that are causing the problems.
If you are experiencing digestive symptoms and are looking for a way to get to the bottom of them, a FODMAP challenge might be a good place to start.
FODMAP intolerance has a few characteristic symptoms to know before you start:
- Healthy food seems to irritate your gut. Whether fruit, veggie, nuts, or wheat, FODMAPs cross all categories of food that we usually think of as healthy. All fruits and vegetables contain fructose, and many contain polyls and fructans which can be problematic when breaking down in the gut.
- Your symptoms are worse in the evening than in the morning. That is because FODMAPs build up in the body until they are eliminated.
- You feel better after you eliminate. When FODMAP foods are out of your system, there is nothing to irritate the gut.
- There is no physical problem that a doctor can find. Colonoscopy, endoscopy, etc. They all come back normal. That is because what is going on in your body is not an anatomical problem, but a reaction.
- Food=bloating. Fructose should be absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. When that does not happen, the food moves into the large intestine where it is treated like a foreign substance and the bacteria to to work on it, causing gas, bloating, and constipation.
If these symptoms seem like you (or someone you know), take the FODMAP challenge. Start by eating only low FODMAP foods for a period of 2-4 weeks.
After 2-4 weeks, your system should be ready for the challenge. FODMAPs are broken down by categories and should be challenged as such. While carefully sticking to a low FODMAP diet, systematically add back foods in one category at a time. Some people can tolerate certain foods within categories and don’t tolerate others, so it is important to be very systematic. This process can take some time, but the outcome can be wonderful. Once you know which foods you are intolerant to, you avoid them and can live symptom free!
Make sure to see your doctor for testing before trying a low FODMAP diet as you want to make sure that there is nothing wrong that should be treated medically.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Read through the info above. If any of the symptoms match yours, make sure to visit your doctor for testing. After that, completing a FODMAP challenge is a great idea to get freedom from your symptoms. Remember to be systematic about your challenge. That is the only way to be truly sure about finding out which specific foods are problematic for you.