How does improving digestion affect your health and mood? There’s often a strong connection between our mood and how our gut…
In Part 1 of this series you learned that your diet can be modified to help you combat digestive complaints including constipation, excess gas and diarrhea.
None of these symptoms are anything to laugh at, because for some people, they can cause them much pain, discomfort and extreme frustration. Instead of just excess gas, they can be scared to leave the house because they can’t get themselves to the bathroom fast enough, or fear that their next gas bubble might turn into a “shart.”
Before you self-diagnose, and decide that you can combat these more extreme symptoms with diet alone, make sure you consult with a well-respected Gastroenterologist who can rule out any more serious issues such as Crohn’s disease or Colitis. Even have yourself checked for food intolerances that may be contributing to your problems – one that I highly recommend is the ALCAT food intolerance testing company: www.alcat.com.
However, if/when these intestinal diseases, inflammation and intolerances have been assessed and found not to be the sole cause of your issues, your doctor will probably suggest a dietary approach.
If your doctor doesn’t, you might have to look for one on your own instead of feeling even more frustrated and embarrassed.
As you learned in Part 1, a diet that is low in FODMAP foods might be the solution to your ailments.
I personally have been following a low FODMAP diet for 4 years (with some flexibility as my gut health has improved and irritation was removed) and have very little issues at all. I do still struggle with constipation at times (slow gut motility), but if I use a magnesium blend every night, I am much more comfortable (one I love is ColonRx by Designs for Health).
FODMAPs stands for: Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides & Polyols. (Don’t worry. There won’t be a test at the end to remember all these words!)
Look for additives such as sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), isomalt (953), & xylitol (967). There is no test for intolerance to these, but excessive consumption has a laxative affect that can worsen diarrhea condition & symptoms. Be wary of products labeled “sugar free” as the sweeteners can be substituted with sugar alcohols that can be tough on the gut.
Before following a low FODMAP diet, I used to think that eating an apple a day would keep the doctor away, and that avocados were a good source of dietary fat for me.
I was wrong. Both these foods are very high in FODMAPs. I also chewed a lot of sugar-free gum and cooked with onions and beans. Well, needless to say, I wished I lived on an island during this time.
This diagram (Figure 1 from Barrett JS and Gibson PR, 2007) explains easily the connection between your diet (FODMAPs) and digestive issues you might be struggling with:
Before you stress out while reading through the table of FODMAPs below, keep in mind that every person is unique and what bothers me or your friend, might not bother you. You have to listen carefully to your body and determine what really sets your gut bacteria off and what you can tolerate in small or large doses.
Also, some foods that affect you might not be listed below so, you need to evaluate your own diet and pay attention to what you currently eat and discover for yourself what might be the issue. For a more comprehensive list, and a handy app you can install on your phone, check out the Monash University: http://med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/fodmap/
Excess Fructose fruit:
Excess Fructan fruit:
Excess Polyol fruit:
Excess Fructose vegetables:
Excess Polyol vegetables:
Some grain products can be problematic for people, as these are high in fructans:
It’s really important to note that onion is one of the greatest contributors to bloating, gas and motility changes. Strict avoidance is recommended.
There is undeclared onion hidden in many processed foods including, chicken salt, vegetable salt, vegetable powder, dehydrated vegetables, stocks, gravies, soups, marinades, & sauces. This may or may not affect you, but if you are really struggling, you need to keep it out of your gut.
Alternatives to wheat grains/fructans:
Alternatives to wheat products:
Alternatives to foods containing fructose and/or fructans:
Other foods (containing fructose and/or fructans) to avoid:
Always try to:
I know, I know. Reading this list can make it feel like there’s nothing to eat, but that’s not the case! There are still plenty of foods you can eat!
They include everything that is not on the lists above. Assess your own diet to see what those foods are, and discover new foods you may have not tried before that are not high in FODMAPs.
Also, remember the list above is just a guide. There may be some FODMAP foods that don’t bother you after you’ve given the full diet time to work. For example, I sometimes enjoy a crisp fall apple, or have beans on my salad. I just don’t do it every day. You might find that after cutting out these foods, you still have issues. You will have to then look carefully at if there are hidden FODMAPs in something you are still putting in your mouth (like chewing sugar free gum, or using a whey protein powder that has lactose in it).
Here is an example diet to see what a low FODMAP approach could look like for you.
If diet isn’t helping, you also may have to employ a round of antibiotics to obliterate the bad bacteria and give you a fresh start.
Make sure you follow up with a solid course of good probiotics to replenish the good and fully eradicate the bad. (See resources below for more info.)
Going forward, your daily supplement routine should still involve a probiotic. I use Probiotic Supreme by Designs for Health and FloraMyces by the same company. I take these each morning. You can take them before you eat or with food.
If you struggle with constipation, a good magnesium product taken at night before bed will not only help you sleep better, but will allow you to have a bowel movement when you wake up the next morning. As I mentioned above, I like ColonRx by Designs for Health.
Make sure you have ruled out any structural issues, food intolerances, or allergies with your doctor or gastroenterologist (such as gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which often exist at the same time) if you really have a lot of problems.
Finally, check your stress levels and how you treat your body. If you have a very stressful job or family life and follow up each evening with a bottle of wine, your belly is not going to be happy no matter what you eat or don’t eat.
Once the bloat is gone and your bowels are moving normally, you’ll find that you can button your pants more easily and enjoy feeling non-distended once again. As I said at the beginning, no woman likes to feel bloated, and now you don’t have to. Following this dietary approach can help you feel much, much better.
Barrett JS and Gibson PR, Clinical Ramifications of Malabsorption of Fructose. Practical Gastroenterology, August 2007.
Sartor RB, The intestinal microbiota in inflammatory bowel diseases. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2014;79:29-39. Epub 2014 Sep 5.
Lakhan SE, Kirchgessner A. Gut microbiota and sirtuins in obesity-related inflammation and bowel dysfunction. J Transl Med. 2011 Nov 24;9:202.
VSL#3 is an outstanding probiotic: http://www.crohns.net/)
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