I have been receiving Dr. Barbara Bolen’s emails from About.com’s IBS section for a while now (at least a full year); I find them both interesting and informative, and I really appreciate the evidence that is given, to back any claims, as well – not every site does that, which can make it hard for beginners, if they don’t know who or what to trust. So, when Dr. Bolen contacted me about her new book, The Everything® Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet (link to website here), I was happy to get involved. I do owe her and Kathleen Bradley an apology, though, as this post is quite late (visa issues, an epileptic dog and no internet access in Queensland got in the way). Better late than never, though, right? I am really very sorry, though!
If you aren’t aware of the authors, I will give you a quick introduction:
- Barbara Bolen is a psychologist and health coach who specialises in digestive health. Dr. Bolen runs a private psychotherapy clinic and health coaching business in addition to serving as the IBS expert for About.com. Her previous works include Breaking the Bonds of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS Chat: Real Life Stories and Solutions (co-author) and now The Everything® Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet. Knowing what we do now about how stress and depression can affect IBS (and vice versa), Dr. Bolen is in a unique position to help people optimise their mental, digestive and overall health.
- Kathleen Bradley, CPC is a writer, consultant, recipe developer and professional coach with over twenty years of experience in the field of publishing. Kathleen was diagnosed with IBS in 2011 and has extensively researched the low FODMAP diet in order to combat her symptoms; it made sense to combine her passion for healthy cooking with recipes low in fermentable carbs in order to manage IBS and other digestive disorders. The Everything® Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet is Kathleen’s first cookbook.
The low FODMAP diet, as most of us know by now (or possibly not, if you’ve only just heard of it here) is a way of eating that is low in fermentable carbohydrates. However odd this may sound, it is no fad diet. Studies suggest that a low FODMAP diet can significantly improve IBS symptoms in up to 75% of sufferers. The science behind it is beautifully simple – certain carbohydrates are more likely to be fermented (digested) by your gut’s resident bacteria than others. These carbs, known by the acronym FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), are selectively restricted in order to prevent the fermentation that leads to bloating, gas and abdominal distress, which are the hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome. Read more here, if you are interested… or buy the book!
Here are Dr. Bolen and Kathleen Bradley’s Top Ten Tips for Low FODMAP Diet Success:
- Be open with others about your special dietary needs. No need to be embarrassed, simply tell people that you are on a special diet for your stomach.
- Read labels carefully! Watch out for those hidden high FODMAP ingredients, such as gluten, HFCS, onion and garlic flavoring, inulin and artificial sweeteners ending in -ol.
- Pick restaurants that offer gluten-free options. They will be more likely to be willing to prepare foods in a way that is appropriate for you.
- Feel free to eat protein foods, such as meat, chicken, fish and pork, as long as they are not prepared with high FODMAP ingredients.
- Learn to love cooking. Preparing your own food is the best way to have full control over what you are eating.
- Move all high-FODMAP foods and ingredients to a designated part of your kitchen or get rid of them altogether.
- Make a list of appropriate substitutions for your favorite foods. For example: if you love cous cous, try millet; substitute pepitas for pistachios; tamari for soy sauce; etc.
- Pack low-FODMAP foods and snacks to take with you. For travel, Low-FODMAP cereal or granola doesn’t need refrigeration and can work as a snack as well as a meal substitution.
- Don’t go it alone! Reach out to a registered dietician or certified health coach for guidance and support.
- Remember to periodically challenge your sensitivity to foods so as to increase the variety of foods that you can eat.
To help publicise their new cookbook, Dr. Bolen has kindly provided answers to some of the most frequently asked FODMAP-related questions:
- Is the low-FODMAP diet too complicated for the average person?The diet is complex, there is no doubt about that. For best success, a person should work with a dietary professional to ensure that all nutritional needs are being met. Also, it does take time to figure out what one can eat and what one shouldn’t eat. That said, once a person is on the diet for a week or so, they start to get the hang of it. They get into a routine, they develop a new set of comfort or go-to foods and find places where they know they can get FODMAP-friendly foods.
- Some people find that some of the foods on the Allowed list are problematic. Why is that so?
The Allowed lists typically are comprised of foods that have been tested and found to be low in FODMAPs. However, every body is unique and it may be that certain foods trigger people for reasons other than their FODMAP content.
- Why do some foods come up on the Restricted list on some lists and the Allowed list on others?
It is important to remember that not all foods have been specifically tested for their FODMAP content. Some lists contain foods that were characterized by “best guesses” at the time. The most up-to-date resource for the FODMAP content of food is Monash University, either through their website, their publications or their mobile app.
- What about foods that do not show up on FODMAP food lists?
Keep in mind that FODMAPs are carbohydrates. Therefore, there are no FODMAPs in foods comprised of protein or fat. A person on the low-FODMAP diet can eat these foods freely. When in doubt about a food that does not show up on FODMAP food lists, one can make a guess based on the FODMAP content of similar foods.
- Is the low-FODMAP diet safe for vegetarians and vegans?
The diet can be challenging for vegetarians and vegans due to the restriction of many legumes. The diet can be safely followed as long as there is a concerted effort to take in adequate protein. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can meet their protein needs through eggs, hard cheeses, and lactose-free milk products. For those who do not eat eggs and dairy products, low-FODMAP nuts, seeds, milk substitutes and grains can provide some protein. Tofu, tempeh and seitan (non-celiacs only) are also allowed in all phases of the diet. Last, small amounts of well-rinsed canned lentils and chick peas have been shown to be low-FODMAP. It is advisable that vegetarians and vegans work with a qualified dietary professional to ensure that they are consuming safe levels of protein.
Stay tuned for a recipe sneak peek from Dr. Bolen and Kathleen Bradley’s new book! There are so many delicious options, I couldn’t decide what to try first.