Just under a month ago a terrible thing happened. Worse, even, than not being able to eat wheat…
Cocoa powder and cacao were listed as high in fructans.
My heart sunk. Not chocolate! Fructose malabsorption had taken so much from me already! I quickly read into it and realised that processed chocolate (the kind that you buy in block form) was still on the safe list… for now. Thank goodness for that. I can live without ice cream, apples (a distant memory) and even wheat bread but I love dark chocolate so much that I don’t think it would be possible to ever truly get rid of it.
The good thing, even though it was a little confusing, is that neither cocoa powder (in the small amounts I eat it in baked goods) or hot chocolates have noticeably affected me before. But considering I was so used to living with a wheat belly until a couple of years ago I thought maybe I’d go without for a month and see if I noticed improvements, like I did with wheat. Well… I made it two weeks without chocolate (before I gave in and made this dark chocolate mousse). It was a week longer than I thought I’d do. No improvements were noticed, though. I know you’re supposed to give it longer than that but after a while I think you get quite adept at picking up subtle differences in your digestive system… and I’ve been doing this for seven years.
So, after all that chocolate deprivation, I saw this little beauty on one of the Facebook FM support groups. After a month of hear-says floating around the FODMAP online world, Monash had published its updates on the FODMAP content of hot beverages and drinking chocolate and cocoa powder are safe, in the green column. Let’s breathe a collective sigh of relief.
I have always used ginger to help take the edge off any fructose related gut cramps and the unsettled stomach that I was enduring from July to September. Don’t get me wrong, if my gut is very unhappy then not much short of a strong analgesic can stop the cramping but a tea or cool drink with ginger, mint leaves and lemon will go some way to reducing the pain from cramps and stopping the nausea/hiccups from my low stomach acid.
It turns out that, over the last few years, some research has gone on to determine whether these claims regarding ginger and increasing digestion is true; apparently they are.
- Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Wu, K et al concluded that, “Ginger accelerates gastric emptying and stimulates antral contractions in healthy volunteers. These effects could potentially be beneficial in symptomatic patient groups.”
- Effects of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. Ming-Luen Hu, et al concluded that, “Ginger stimulated gastric emptying and antral contractions in patients with functional dyspepsia, but had no impact on gastrointestinal symptoms or gut peptides.”
- Species differences in the prokinetic effects of ginger. Ghayur MN, et al concluded that the effects of ginger extract on gut spasmogenicity between species such as guinea pigs and rabbits existed. Ginger extract was more successful in relaxing the ileum of guinea pigs than rabbits.
- Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of ginger in gastrointestinal disorders. Ghayur MN, et al’s data indicated that, “Zo.Cr contains a cholinergic, spasmogenic component evident in stomach fundus preparations which provides a sound mechanistic insight for the prokinetic action of ginger.” In other words, ginger extract helps to increase gastric motility.
What we can take from these studies (which by no means equal a systematic review) is that while ginger didn’t appear to significantly help with GI symptoms such as cramps, it did help with digestion, which can indirectly lead to reduced GI symptoms
Helpful terms to know:
- Prokinetic agents are drugs that increase gastrointestinal motility by increasing the number or strength of the smooth muscular contractions of the small intestine.
- Spasmogenic substances induce muscular spasm.
- Cholinergic typically refers to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh), or the ability of a synapse or receptor to transmit or be excited by ACh..
If ginger works for you, keep using it. If it doesn’t, then it was at least worth trying something natural, rather than jumping straight to more man-made remedies. I don’t have a problem using pharmaceutical drugs but if I can manage something without popping pills then I’ll try that way first.
Has anyone else out there found ginger to be helpful with digestion?