Your gut does so much more for you than just digesting food. It’s a hub of activity that contributes to the normal functioning of almost every organ in the body. One of the best things you can do to promote a healthy gut is adapt your diet. Read on to discover how a low-FODMAP diet can help to alleviate digestive discomfort and promote gut health.
Getting to know your Gut
Once thought of as a vessel for absorbing food and, well, getting rid of waste – we now know that there’s so much more to the gut. Our gut is the biggest sensory organ we have, and is in constant communication with our brain via something called the Gut Brain Axis (GBA).
The GBA is a biochemical signalling pathway that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. This bidirectional communication allows the gut to talk to the brain and vice versa – which explains the butterflies you get when you’re nervous or the sickly feeling when you’re dreading something!
This fascinating finding has gone on to explain the connection between gut health and many aspects of our overall wellbeing. Studies have shown that a healthy gut can boost the immune system, improve mood and even reduce the risk of autoimmune disease, endocrine disorders, skin conditions and some cancers.
The Importance of Gut Health
The modern diet is no stranger to processed foods, artificial ingredients, refined grains and added sugar – all of which can wreak havoc on our gut health. It’s only in very recent history that we’ve began to eat these foods, so as far as our gut is concerned they are relatively alien substances that it just doesn’t know what do with!
The result is a change in the balance of our gut bacteria or ‘microbiome’. We all have hundreds of different species of bacteria living in our intestines, most of these are good guys which promote health – and some are even essential to survival.
Altering the balance of the microbiome can have many unpleasant side effects including tiredness, bad skin, irritation, inability to concentrate and low mood. If you experience these in concurrence with gastro symptoms like bloating, wind, constipation or diarrhoea – chances are your gut health could have something to do with it.
Go with your Gut Feeling!
If you find that certain foods you eat seem to trigger discomfort, continuing to eat them could put you at risk of developing a digestive condition. Ignoring your gut health can contribute to, worsen or even be the root cause of the following digestive disorders:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to rebalance your microbiome and regain your bacterial equilibrium! Whether it’s an intolerance, an allergy or just that the food you’re eating isn’t the most nutritious, adapting your diet can help to resolve digestive discomfort.
Navigating your FODMAP
A major breakthrough in the world of gut health was the discovery of a link between certain foods and digestive symptoms, and how eliminating these foods could vastly improve symptoms. A diet low in FODMAPs – or poorly absorbed sugars to you and me – is now clinically recommended for those suffering with IBS or similar symptoms.
If you think the word ‘FODMAP’ sounds rather alien and were hoping that it stood for something far simpler, prepare to be disappointed. FODMAP actually stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols – phew! If you don’t happen to be a scientist then it may be better to just think of FODMAP as a certain class of carbohydrates.
FODMAP sugars are found in many common foods. When consumed, fluid is drawn into the bowel and the FODMAPs are fermented by gut bacteria – resulting in the bloating, wind and abdominal discomfort those with IBS experience.
Navigating your individual FOD-map is all about reducing high FODMAP foods for 6-8 weeks, followed by a phase of gradual reintroduction. This helps to identify which foods in particular are the culprits for creating unpleasant gastro symptoms. It’s tricky business but super important that you don’t eliminate all high-FODMAP foods – which could affect levels of good bacteria and negatively impact on long-term gut health.
Erythritol: The Natural Sugar Replacement for a Low-FODMAP Diet
One of the biggest challenges when taking on a low-FODMAP diet is cutting down on sugar. We all know that added sugar is bad for us, but for those with digestive discomfort it is often the case that natural sugars are too. Throw in the added complication that many sugar replacements are high-FODMAP and that makes things even more difficult!
Erythritol is a natural sugar replacement that has been shown to be suitable for those following a low-FODMAP diet. It is a sugar polyol that is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, with only around 10% reaching the colon. For this reason, it doesn’t create the fermentation process that creates nasty digestive problems associated with high-FODMAP foods.
Because erythritol is considered low-FODMAP, it can be consumed during all phases of the FODMAP diet. This can help to satisfy cravings, increase satiety and enable you to enjoy sweet foods without worrying side effects!
Following a low-FODMAP diet can be challenging but the rewards to gut health and symptom reduction are well worth the effort.
It’s super important that you do your research and consult a FODMAP specialist when endeavouring on the FODMAP diet for the first time, to avoid cutting out so many foods that you end up with a nutritional deficiency.
Once you’ve discovered which sugars don’t agree with you, you can avoid them in the long-term by replacing that sweet taste with natural, low-FODMAP sugar replacements like erythritol.
Author: Stephanie Masterman @NutriNoggin
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- Bercik, P., Collins, S. and Verdu, E. (2012). Microbes and the gut-brain axis. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 24(5), pp.405-413.
- Staudacher, H. (2017). Nutritional, microbiological and psychosocial implications of the low FODMAP diet. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 32, pp.16-19.
- Flint, H. (2016). Gut microbial metabolites in health and disease. Gut Microbes, 7(3), pp.187-188.