Week One on the Low-FODMAP Diet

Week One on the Low-FODMAP Diet

The reason I have not posted in a while is because my time was taken up with trying this new diet to relieve my symptoms of IBS. After a very expensive shopping trip to the supermarket and a lot of preparing each evening I simply did not have time and was overwhelmed with the information I was discovering. Best of all, I am in a lot less pain, less bloating and overall feel better in myself.

I have only completed one week on this restricting diet and no it isn’t miraculous, I’m still not 100% but to eat a meal and not feel like my insides are at war with each other is a very welcoming sense of relief.

For all those unfamiliar with FODMAPs please see my explanation here: What are FODMAPs?

I knew I wanted to try the diet and I knew I would also need some direction. Not being a dietician I wanted to make sure I was following the diet correctly(otherwise I wouldn’t know if it was effective) and getting all the nutrients I needed.

So I went to the next best thing, a book. I chose The Complete Low FODMAP Diet by Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson to be my guide throughout my foodie journey. It was scientific, covering everything I personally wanted to know with a range of recipes. My favourite part being the Menu Plan.

I roughly followed this menu plan, swapping meals for different days to suit me but I knew I was still getting a healthy balanced diet with foods that would hopefully not cause me any problems.

It was hard shopping for the week, reading all the labels and realising onion and garlic – things to avoid – were simply in a lot of things we eat everyday. The hardest part was trying to find allowable spices and sauces (stock and gravy). Especially as I am already on a gluten-free diet to reduce my symptoms.

I stuck to the recipes as much as I could with what I could find and for week two I’m hoping to devise a cheaper menu plan! Luckily I have a lot of herbs and spices already in the cupboard now to give my food flavour.

This was what my boyfriend feared the most, I was only going to subject him to my meals for the evening meal of the day but he thought they would be tasteless and overly healthy. Each day he was surprised with what I had cooked, not only due to the fact I had actually cooked (as this is not a talent of mine) but also the taste and variety of the food.

I found it exciting to try new foods such as, swordfish. Make pancakes with a savoury twist. Bake a handmade cheesecake, one of the things I had loved to eat before having to go on a gluten free diet and I didn’t bother trying to make my own as I assumed it was a lot of effort (turns out it is effortless, it just tests how patient you can be while it cooks, cools and then sits there in the fridge tantalising you).

I was not looking forward to trying this diet but because I was driven to make it work and prepare my lunch in the morning and create amazing cooked meals after work, I really enjoyed my food again.

I hope to stay on the diet until I feel my IBS is under control, it certainly is better but I don’t want to rush things and I want to let it heal, do some good. Then, as advised by the book and throughout the internet I shall try to reintroduce a FODMAP at a time and monitor my symptoms – I believe this will be the tricky part with a lot of trial and error – but if it means I won’t have to be so careful with what I eat and can enjoy a meal out, it will make it all worth it.


For further reading, I have also found support groups on Facebook to be helpful.

I have shared a few pictures of my low-FODMAP meals on Twitter I hope to post on here too describing each of the different meals.

My Facebook page contains latest news and tips on managing IBS and other digestive disorders.

Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to find a friend in food.

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What are FODMAPs?

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.

This is why people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive problems seek to have a low FODMAP diet. It has been found that a low FODMAP diet improves symptoms in about 70% of IBS patients. Not that the doctor told me this but on my research through the internet I’m seeing more and more about low FODMAP foods and how avoiding high FODMAP food can help with my problems and digesting food.

However it is a relatively new diet which makes it highly advisable to speak with a registered dietitian who knows the low FODMAP diet well. It is not as easy as an ‘eat list’ and ‘do not eat list’ especially when it comes to packaged foods (knowing how to read labels properly helps) and eating out.

It is essential when wanting to try this diet to seek professional help as it is individualised to each persons requirements and needs, in order to provide all the nutrients you require. The main thing to note is this is a very strict diet and not following it properly means it is unlikely to be effective.

Which now I know about this diet it makes a lot of sense, your gut is sensitive so you wouldn’t want to be putting pressure on it with the type of foods it finds hard to digest.

But how do I know if a food is low or high in FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that aren’t easily broken down and absorbed by the gut. This means they start to ferment in the gut relatively quickly, and the gases released during this process can lead to bloating.

They can be found in a range of different foods:

  • Oligosaccharides: e.g. fructans (found in wheat, rye and some vegetables) and galacto-oligosaccharides (found in pulses and legumes)
  • Disaccharides: e.g. lactose (found in mammalian milk)
  • Mono-saccharides: e.g. free fructose (found in honey, some fruit and fruit juices)
  • Polyols: e.g. sorbitol and mannitol (found in some fruits and vegetables)

A low FODMAP diet essentially involves restricting your intake of various foods that are high in FODMAPs, such as some fruits and vegetables, animal milk, wheat products and beans.

Although I have found a lot of conflicting comments, such as – yes broccoli is a low FODMAP food but it does cause bloating. So you really have to find out what foods suit you and in what quantities, going back to my very first post.

How do I restrict certain foods?

Restricting food, keeping to our example of broccoli, instead of a whole bunch of broccoli taking up quarter of the plate or having broccoli in several meals in the day, only have half a cup / two or three stems in the day.

This for me was very hard as I started off by having half an avocado everyday with eggs… not anymore, recommendation I found somewhere is to have 1/8 an avocado… 1/8!? that’s one mouthful, avocadoes are High in FODMAPs therefore avocadoes are not in my diet anymore however I did see myself improve from not having them every morning.

It is things like this where you are still not feeling right but you can’t think of what you are eating wrong because you have eaten them everyday where one can get blinded to what food is doing more damage than good. Avocadoes do have a lot of good properties but in the right quantities.

If you want to find out more, I have found www.lowfodmapdiets.com useful and you can download a useful FODMAP diet shopping list on the website too, if you do not have access to The Monash University Low FODMAP diet App (like me) where it gives you a recommendation of restricting certain foods from your diet to help know what foods are low in FODMAPs more easily.

A very interesting and super informative YouTube video from a lecture about IBS and the low FODMAP diet is useful to listen to, it is long (1hr20mins) but can have on in the background, looking at the video slides is not really needed.


Join in the conversation by commenting below and following on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to Find a Friend in Food.

 

The Digestive System: Beyond the Stomach

The Digestive System: Beyond the Stomach

The processes that happen to our digested food once it leaves the stomach are the most important as this is where the nutrients from the food we eat is absorbed.

human_digestive_systemBelow explains how all of the components beyond the stomach fit together and their roles within digestion. I have put words in bold that refer to the picture above.

 

The duodenum (pictured in between the gall bladder and pancreas)

is the start of the small intestine and regulates the entering of chyme (stomach contents). As chyme enters it stimulates the release of cholecystokinin (no idea how to pronounce this one but all we need to know is that it is a hormone) secreted by cells in the duodenum.

As a result of this hormone the gall bladder, which stores bile that has been made in the liver, empties itself almost completely when it gets this message that food is arriving from the stomach. Between meals, it only lets out a dribble of bile. The bile travels down the bile duct to the duodenum. The pancreatic duct meets it there through a ring of muscle, or sphincter, controlling the release of bile pancreatic fluid into the duodenum.

The duodenum occupies a key position in the digestive system, linking the upper part of the mouth, gullet and stomach with the bowels. It lies just above the navel in a circle hugging the head of the pancreas. It also has a key role in the digestive process, as food arriving from the stomach is only half-digested so this is where essential digestion takes place. This includes starches and fats in particular but proteins are also incompletely digested. Fats at this point are virtually unchanged, it is only when it reaches the duodenum the digestion of fats can actually begin.

Digestive enzymes made in the pancreas, and bile manufactured by the liver, are both poured onto the part-digested food in the intestine, in response to an electro-chemical signal that fatty food is on its way.

First, bile acts on the fats in the food, breaking them down, then pancreatic enzymes, complete the digestion of the remaining starches, fats and proteins.

The enzyme lipase from the pancreas emulsifies the fats, breaking down the fat globules (known as lipids made up of fats and oils) into smaller globules (these are known as fatty acids and glycerol). Bile completes this process. It is only when globules are microscopically small that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. If this does not happen fatty diarrhoea will be a result.

Which brings us onto the middle part of the small intestine is the jejunum. Villi increase the surface area inside the jejunum, these finger-like projection are one cell thick with a good blood supply, designed to easily absorb digested food molecules quickly into the blood stream by diffusion. (Going back to my GCSE Science here!)

The final section of the small intestine is the ileum. Any further products of digestion are absorbed here and due to the bigger pores so can vitamins such as vitamin B12, minerals and salts. The main difference is the high abundance of lymphoid tissue, this is part of the immune system to protect the body from invasion in the gut. Our digestive tract has the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body and is key to protecting us from infection.

Fibre, water and vitamins carry onto be broken down further in the large intestine. Water that has been used in the digestion process is now reabsorbed in the colon and any undigested food and fibre is sorted in the rectum which is then eliminated through the anus (and we all know what happens here).


There’s a ton of more processes and I have tried to keep it as informative but also understandable for anyone to read as well. I hope this gives you an insight into how amazing our digestive system is and how important it is to treat it well and with respect.

Join in the conversation by commenting below and following on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to Find a Friend in Food.

Serotonin and Symptoms

Serotonin and Symptoms

This post is similar to my post Emotions and Symptoms because your emotions are affected by your serotonin levels. Although this post will be more scientific and relate to what foods are best to eat to increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, meaning it is a chemical messenger, sending and receiving signals / messages from around the body. It is located in the brain but also is produced from specialised cells in the gastrointestinal tract (it does not travel between the two). Serotonin’s main purpose is to regulate signal intensity and in turn this regulates our basic function and mood.

In short, when serotonin levels are low, we are depressed and when they are high, we are happy.

Your gut produces around 80-95 percent of serotonin in your body and changes in your serotonin levels can affect your gut as well as your brain.

Roles it can have on gut function include:

  • Contractions in our intestines
  • Mobility of bowels – how fast food moves through your system
  • How much fluid, such as mucus, is secreted in your intestines
  • How sensitive your intestines are to sensations such as pain and fullness from eating
  • Acts on the guts nerves to signal pain, nausea and other gut problems
  • Influences how full we feel, therefore how hungry we are feeling

Exercise and relaxation techniques like meditation can alter your serotonin levels enough to have a positive impact on your symptoms. Scientists have found that even sunshine can alter your serotonin levels – no wonder people like to holiday somewhere sunny in the winter months!

There are also foods that can improve with your serotonin levels.

Serotonin-rich foods include:

  • Walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

However, your body needs an amino acid named, tryptophan in order to produce serotonin. The foods below contain this amino acid:

  • Bananas
  • Turkey
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Some cheeses, including Cheddar

Your vitamin intake can also affect serotonin, the most important are thiamine (vitamin B1) and folic acid (vitamin B9), two components of Vitamin B Complex.

Deficiency symptoms, relating to digestion in the vitamins above include nausea, stomach pains and a poor appetite.

Food sources containing, Thiamine, Vitamin B1:

  • Brown Rice
  • Pork
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Pulses

Food sources containing, Folic Acid, Vitamin B9:

  • Liver
  • Green, leafy Vegetables (spinach, broccoli)
  • Peanuts
  • Bananas (forget about an apple a day, have a banana!)

There are more foods I could add to each list but I have tried to keep the list for foods best for your stomach and as always if you have a food intolerance, allergy or any unwanted symptoms with any of the foods above it is best to avoid them – choose something else on the list to try, otherwise supplements are readily available, just make sure you keep to the correct dosages.


I hope this has given an insight into how food can impact our mood.

Join in the conversation by commenting below and following on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to Find a Friend in Food.

Emotions and Symptoms

The three main emotions which will interfere with digestion are: anxiety, depression and stress. Of course, it works the other way round too, gut problems can cause all of the above.

Anxiety is associated with tension in the gut muscles, with spasms of pain. In an ongoing anxiety state your appetite can go either way, from complete loss of appetite to compulsively eating, even things you may not enjoy. Loose motions are likely in anxiety.

Depression is a lowering of mood and slowing up of all your mental and physical processes. Even the response of food to the stomach is sluggish and as digestion has not started there can be twinges of indigestion and nausea. Making food unenjoyable, taste bland and hard to swallow. Constipation is likely with depression and pain in the abdomen can be intensified when you are depressed.

Stress results from too many demands on you; threats to your finances, home, health, job or key relationship; and physical stresses such as cold, fatigue, pain or infection. Stress on your body can decrease nutrient absorption, decrease oxygenation to your gut, decrease enzyme production and a decrease metabolism. So, if you didn’t have a gastrointestinal disorder already you could after a long period of stress.

 

How to prevent the above emotions ruling over your digestive system:

It’s all about relaxing and finding a way to increase those endorphins, the happy hormone, designed to release stress. Many people find meditation and yoga effective to take them into a state of where the body is fully relaxed.

Sometimes it can be as simple as breaking your normal routine and taking 15 minutes to sit down with your favourite book or drink or both. Although avoid tea and coffee as they speed up the heart rate and tend to increase your anxiety. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise. A long walk, run or swim can clear the mind.

Major life events can have big changes and cause stress so try not to have more than one close together (like marrying or moving house).

It is definitely about finding and doing something you enjoy.

I encourage you to create your own ‘space’, a place where you can relax and take time out from your busy life and focus on creating your own happiness in doing something you love.

For me, I love being creative, so I have created a space to make greetings cards and all things crafty. I have my crafty supplies but also my favourite animals depicted in some way and above the desk are pictures of my nieces and nephew. Also, a desk for researching, blogging and writing. Converted from a lovely old writing bureau.

That’s my resting go-to, my exercise go-to is hula hooping and music, completely losing myself in the music and the feel of the hoop around me.

 

crafty-desk

My Crafty Desk

 


What’s your own ‘space’? Perhaps you are now planning on creating one?

What do you like to do to relieve emotions of anxiety, depression and stress?

If you suffer from the above the site MOODJUICE can help you on your way to overcome emotional problems.

 

The Digestive System: The Stomach

We continue our journey through the digestive system, we have already learnt about processes in inside the mouth and in the oesophagus.

human_digestive_system

The Stomach

This is where our food now a bolus is exposed to hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach for further digestion. Our saliva is slightly alkaline, so why this change in pH? In this case not only does the acidity destroy potentially harmful microorganisms which could have been swallowed with our food but also different enzymes, which breakdown food, are more effective at different pH values.

The enzyme pepsin for example is produced in the stomach and works best at a low pH level, thriving in an acidic environment. Pepsin breaks down protein into smaller peptides, it is known as a protease enzyme because it does this process by hydrolysis of peptide bonds. The resulting product: peptides, short chains of amino acids (the basic building blocks of the human body and essential for a healthy body). Protein found in meat, eggs, dairy and seeds are broken down by the enzyme pepsin.

This mixture of acid and enzymes are mixed thoroughly by the stomach muscles, softening, sterilising and digesting protein, making the bolus into chyme.

The stomach has three types of contractions:
Rhythmic, 3 per minute, synchronized contractions in the lower part of the stomach which create waves of food particles and juice which splash against a closed sphincter muscle to grind the food down into small particles.
Slow relaxations in the upper part of the stomach lasting a minute or more that follow each swallow and that allow the food to enter the stomach; at other times the upper part of the stomach shows slow contractions which help to empty the stomach.
Between meals, after all the digestible food has left the stomach, there are occasional bursts of very strong, synchronized contractions that are accompanied by opening of the sphincter muscle. The function is to sweep any indigestible particles out of the stomach. Another name for them is the migrating motor complex.

Chyme can stay in the stomach for up to 2-4 hours, this depends on dilution of the stomach acid (this is why it is best to avoid having a drink while eating your meal) and the amount of food you have eaten.

There are certain types of foods you may want to avoid, to decrease the chance of inflammation to the stomach lining. These irritants include:

  • Acidic and Spicy Foods
  • Animal Milks – Milk products are thought to increase acid production.
  • Coffee, Carbonated Beverages, Alcohol and Certain Fruit Juices, such as Citrus Juices
  • High-Fat Foods
  • Highly Salted Foods – can damage the gastric mucosa: the mucous membrane layer of your stomach.
  • Junk Foods and Processed Foods – often contain chemicals that irritate the stomach lining as the are hard to digest and increase acid production

If you are experiencing gastritis (an inflamed stomach lining), causing symptoms of indigestion, stomach pain, vomiting and feeling bloated, you may want to take Antacids. These come in chewable and liquid form and counteract / neutralise the acid build up in your stomach to relive pain, but these shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis.

The best thing is to try and avoid the type of foods above.

I hope this helps and explains the complex processes that are happening within your stomach, if you have a question or would like me to expand on any part please let me know in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer.

 

 

 

 

Difference between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

Both a food allergy and intolerance can make your body sensitive to a particular food or ingredient causing unwanted physical reactions whenever you eat the foodie culprit.

Only 2% of the adult population have a food allergy, where as 45% have a type of food intolerance.

Food allergy occurs when an antigen or trigger in the food reacts with specific immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies) in the immune system, as your body recognises the food as a foreign substance (allergen) when eating the food for the first time.

When you eat the offending food again, the antibodies attack the allergen, producing histamine and other chemical, setting off various types of symptoms.

Some foods are also naturally high in histamines. These include aged and fermented foods and alcohol (especially red wine), some people are sensitive to these types of foods.

‘Histamine poisoning’ can happen if you eat fish not kept at safe temperatures and has spoiled before you ate them. Those fish can build up high levels of histamines, which can make you sick.

Anaphylaxis is the most dangerous kind of an allergic reaction, involving the breathing and circulation, and causing faintness and shock, with a fall in blood pressure and in serious cases can lead to death (nut allergy, for example). Symptoms of food sensitivity include swelling of the lips, diarrhoea and vomiting. You may have eczema, a very runny nose or asthma.

Usually the reaction is acute and immediate, but it may be delayed, as in the case of coeliac disease (gluten being the allergen).

A food allergy can be tested by a patch test or blood test from your local doctors.

Food intolerance reactions are not caused by the immune system but is brought about by other mechanisms. For example, a milk intolerance (lactose intolerant) is due to a lack of a particular digestive enzyme, lactase.

Some active chemicals may be present in the food causing a reaction, such as caffeine, causing a racing heart and tremor. Some suffer from food additives provoked by hypersensitivity.

The timing of these symptoms vary, swelling tissues, vomiting and a runny nose appear within one hour. Rashes and diarrhoea may take longer, 2-24hours. Some disorders, headaches and irritability, may last for several days.

Long term problems relating to food include irritable bowel, hyperactivity disorder and migraine.

A food intolerance causes different reactions for different people so there is no definite test to find out your food intolerance. Monitor what you are eating and how it makes your body react and always seek professional advice from your local doctor.

In some cases, weeks or months of elimination of the intolerant food may well lead to reintroduction of the food without a reaction, as your body learns to build up a tolerance.


For further reading please see here there is a wealth of free food fact sheets on the Association of UK Dieticians website, all very useful and available here.