IBS is one of those things that most people have heard of, and in fact, been troubled with, but it’s a wider condition than you may have thought. If you’ve had recurring bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, chances are you’re one of the unfortunate 20% of the UK that experience IBS.
If you’ve done any reading into foods to avoid to improve gut health, chances are you’ll have stumbled across the terms ‘FODMAP’ and ‘low-FODMAP,’ but let us try and clear things up and explain what they actually mean. In technical terms, FODMAP stands for ‘fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols’ which are carbohydrates that are not absorbed so well by our bodies. When high FODMAP foods are ingested and broken down in the gut, they can produce excess gas which can cause all manner of tummy troubles, so it might be best to limit your intake. Let’s have a closer look at the main culprits:
We’ve all heard the rhyme about beans being the musical fruit! This truth is because beans and other legumes contain saccharides which the digestive system has trouble breaking down and can leave you feeling full and bloated. The same is true for vegetables belonging to the Cruciferous or Brassicaceae family, which includes onions, brussels sprouts, cabbages and leeks.
We’re specifically looking at the lactose part of dairy foods here, which is the sugars within foods like milk, cheese and ice cream. With dairy, it’s about knowing your body and its limits; some of us can handle more lactose than others, so take hints from it where you can. Alternatives include plant-based milk such as oat milk or soya, plus olive oil instead of butter.
These types of foods tend to be low in fibre but high in fat, which together can slow down your digestion and cause some issues. Processed foods may also contain hidden levels of salt which lowers the levels of water in the body and increase the likelihood of constipation. Generally, there are always better, more nutritious options out there to cure hunger pangs!
Did you know that eating your 5 a day might be the cause of your digestive discomfort? Fruit contains a naturally occurring sugar called fructose, which is mostly absorbed during digestion, but the remainder can ferment and produce excess gases. This could be the trapped wind or bloating pain you’re feeling, despite thinking you’re eating the right foods. Try swapping apples and mangoes for bananas, kiwis and blueberries which have much lower fructose levels.
We all know we should try and eat wholegrain bread, pasta, etc. but why is that? Wholegrain products contain exactly that – the whole grain, whereas ‘white’ versions have had their bran removed which provides beneficial fibre. If you’re suffering from digestive complaints, try replacing some processed grains with whole grains to see if you notice any change.
As well as following a low-FODMAP diet, there are other ways you can support your digestive system, such as taking natural peppermint oil which is known to support healthy digestion and drinking peppermint tea; reducing your caffeine intake.