Low FODMAP Diet & Digestive Health News

With the public’s growing concern for eating healthy and more awareness about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), we are seeing a greater focus on digestive health. Amidst the publishing of new research and the release of new products targeted at improving digestive health, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date. Here are this week’s highlights.

MONASH UNIVERSITY UPDATES

Monash University is regularly adding new food items to the app and certifying newly released Low FODMAP products. With constant changes it can be difficult to keep up, but our team is working hard to highlight the latest updates to the app as they happen so you can continue eating well for your health and your gut, without all the confusion and guesswork.

If you are following the Low FODMAP diet and haven’t already downloaded the app, we recommend you do. This is the best tool to provide you with an up-to-date list of low, moderate, and high FODMAP foods. New foods are regularly added in addition to updates for existing items based on the latest testing and research.

Canned and Fermented Foods

Monash University is regularly adding new food items to the app and certifying newly released Low FODMAP products. With constant changes it can be difficult to keep up, but our team is working hard to highlight the latest updates to the app as they happen so you can continue eating well for your health and your gut, without all the confusion and guesswork.

If you are following the Low FODMAP diet and haven’t already downloaded the app, we recommend you do. This is the best tool to provide you with an up-to-date list of low, moderate and high FODMAP foods. New foods are regularly added in addition to updates for existing items based on the latest testing and research.

How Food Processing Affects FODMAPs

Preserved foods offer a convenient and easy way to increase your veggie intake without all the fuss. If you’re following the Low FODMAP diet it can be tricky to determine which canned or pickled foods are safe to eat. Monash University has found that the process of canning or fermenting foods (i.e. pickling) can cause the greatest changes to FODMAP content. These changes can either cause an increase or decrease in FODMAPs depending on the food’s composition, the cooking process, and the solution the food is preserved in.

FODMAPs and Canning

Why does canning change FODMAP content? Well, since canned foods are preserved in liquids, and FODMAPs are water soluble (they dissolve in water), the FODMAPs in canned foods leach out into the liquid, therefore decreasing the FODMAP load in the food. Fructans and galacto-oligiosacchrides are FODMAPs that are water-soluble and most likely affected by the canning process.

FODMAPs and Fermentation

The fermentation process can result in less predictable results. The FODMAP content may change due to the type of fermentation process used or the type of food being fermented. Some foods may be low in FODMAPs when raw but have a higher content after the pickling process. Many fermented foods on the market use lactose during processing, which could be an issue for those sensitive to lactose.

As you can see the results of canning and fermenting are not always predictable. So always check the Monash app to see if a product has been given the green or yellow light prior to purchasing.

Low FODMAP Canned Foods

Canned Artichokes: Fresh artichokes are high in fructans for a small serving of ½ an artichoke. Canned artichoke hearts are lower in fructans, with a moderate amount (yellow light) of fructose for a ¼ cup serving.

Canned Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a delicious way to enhance the flavour of any dish you add them to. Unfortunately, fresh mushrooms such as shitake, button and Portobello, are high in mannitol making it a high FODMAP food. However, canned mushrooms at ½ cup serving are low in mannitol making it low in FODMAPs (green light).

Canned Lentils: Adding lentils to a meal is a great way to increase protein and fibre, but many dried varieties of lentils are high in fructans. The canning process leaches out some of the water-soluble fructans making canned lentils low in FODMAPs for a ½ cup serving (green light). To learn more about Low FODMAP legumes check out Monash’s post: Including Legumes on the Low FODMAP Diet.

High FODMAP Canned Foods

Canned Pumpkin: While fresh pumpkin is a low FODMAP choice, the canned variety may cause you some digestive upset. This is most likely due to the composition of different varieties of pumpkin and the tricky labeling of the term “pumpkin purèe”. Japanese pumpkin has a low FODMAP content while canned pumpkin is high in fructans and oligiosacchrides for a ½ cup serving (yellow light). Canned pumpkin usually contains a mixture of pumpkin and squash which may affect FODMAP content. Some varieties of squash (i.e. butternut squash) are high in mannitol and galacto-oligiosacchrides which can increase FODMAP content.

Fermented Foods and FODMAPs

Fermented foods have recently seen a surge in popularity with a wide range of products hitting store shelves boasting numerous health benefits related to improving digestion – from sauerkraut to kombucha to yogurt. The fermentation process can cause an unpredictable change to FODMAP content. For instance, fresh red and green cabbage are low in FODMAPs, however sauerkraut is higher in FODMAPs.

White fermented cabbage (sauerkraut): Regular sauerkraut contains high amounts of mannitol, making it a red-light food. This is due to that fact that traditional sauerkraut is made using lactic acid fermentation. When the lactobacilli bacteria start breaking down the fructose in the cabbage it converts it to mannitol, thus increasing the FODMAP content.

Red fermented cabbage: Red cabbage is lower in mannitol but has a moderate amount of fructans resulting in a yellow-light rating at a serving size of 1 cup.

Tips for Buying Canned Products and Fermented Foods

  • Rinse canned foods thoroughly prior to using
  • Watch out for onions, garlic, and high fructose corn syrup
  • Buy refrigerated sauerkraut instead of canned since it is more likely to contain live probiotic cultures
  • Look for pure pumpkin purèe

 

MEDIA UPDATES

Prebiotics and Probiotics for Gut Health

Popular yogurt brands and constant media coverage has made probiotics a household term, but many people are still unsure about how probiotics work and what the benefits are. It can also be easy to confuse prebiotics with probiotics. Nutritional Outlook, an online health magazine, recently wrote a piece about prebiotics and their health benefits. The article focuses on three benefits of prebiotics: improving immune function, increasing healthy bacteria, and helping with gastrointestinal disorders like IBS.

Before we dive into what the benefits of prebiotics are, we need to define what they are and why they’re important for our digestive health. Prebiotics are carbohydrates our bodies cannot break down. In order to be considered a prebiotic, a carbohydrate must have several characteristics. It must stimulate the growth of bacteria associated with health, be resistant to the acidity in the gut, and it must be digested by bacteria in the gut.

Prebiotics Increase Healthy Bacteria

Although our bodies cannot digest prebiotics, the “good” bacteria in our gut can! This is why including prebiotics in our diet can help maintain the good bacteria in our gut. Common prebiotic foods include garlic and artichokes. This is where things get tricky for those of us on a Low FODMAP diet, and another reason why re-introduction is SO important! Many prebiotics foods are high in FODMAPs. As a result, someone on a Low FODMAP diet may only consume a limited amount of prebiotics in their diet, thus decreasing healthy gut bacteria. There are still lots of Low FODMAP options for those looking to increase the prebiotics in their diet. To learn more, check out this article from Monash University about Low FODMAP foods that are also high in prebiotics: Dietary Fibre Series- Prebiotics.

Prebiotics and Improved Immune function

Studies investigating the effects of prebiotic supplementation found that prebiotics boost our body’s immunity in several ways. Prebiotic supplementation was associated with increased anti-inflammatory substances and a reduction in antibodies that cause allergic reactions.

Prebiotics and Improved Gastrointestinal Function

Evidence from a number of studies also shows promising results for using prebiotic supplements for disorders such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease. For people with IBS, prebiotics can help increase the diversity of bacteria in the gut which can suffer as a result of following a strict low FODMAP diet. Prebiotics may also help by decreasing the severity of symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain. For individuals with ulcerative colitis, a form of irritable bowel disease, taking a prebiotic supplement was associated with reduced inflammation.

Although the research looks promising about prebiotics, it is important to talk with your doctor or dietitian before making a purchase.

Digestive Health Food Trends

If you’ve wandered around the grocery lately you may have noticed the increasing amount of food products that claim to benefit your health in some way. Recently, there’s been a bigger spotlight on foods that improve digestive health. Yahoo! mentions some of these trending food products in an article about the changing food market. These products include yogurt, probiotic drinks, and fermented foods. The increased interest will hopefully lead to more products which will benefit individuals with IBS.

Strategies for Exercising with IBS

My Body and Soul, a website dedicated to women’s health and wellness, offers a few tips for exercising with IBS. It’s well known that exercise has many benefits for improving digestive health, but many people with IBS fear exercising may worsen their symptoms. Exercise should be an important part of your self-care plan and can help improve your symptoms with IBS.

The two main reasons why exercise is important for people with IBS is that it reduces stress and helps maintain the health of our digestive system. Exercise offers a simple and inexpensive solution to reducing stress, a common IBS trigger. Additionally, certain forms of exercise, such as yoga, may provide benefits like strengthening the abdominal muscles and helping us practice mindful breathing exercises which can lead to improved symptom management. Here are some simple tips you can try to increase the amount of exercise in your life and manage your symptoms:

How to Exercise with IBS

  • Start off with 30 minutes of an activity you enjoy doing. Increase the amount of time you exercise slowly and adapt your routine based on your symptoms. A food and symptom journal can help you keep track of your symptoms. We discuss a few mobile apps in a previous post: New Mobile Apps for IBS.
  • Try low intensity exercises like walking or yoga that are less likely to trigger symptoms.
  • Eat meals at least one hour prior to exercising to decrease the chances of triggering symptoms.
  • Ensure you stay hydrated while exercising by carrying a water bottle and drinking throughout your workout.

 

Written by Adi Hazlewood, News and Culture Editor

 

References

  1. Monash University Low FODMAP iPhone App. 2017.
  2. Monash Univerisity. Frequently Asked Low FODMAP Diet Questions. http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/low-fodmap.html
  3. Swann P. Nutritional Outlook. What are prebiotics? 2016.
  4. PR Newswire. Yahoo! Functional Foods Market Analysis. 2017 http://finance.yahoo.com/news/functional-foods-market-analysis-product-164200933.html
  5. Alleaume K. My Body and Soul. 2017. Got IBS? Here’s how exercise can help. http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health-advice/got-ibs-heres-how-exercise-can-help/news-story/b6769d8b4a4916b28d1059e6c69095e9