What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found naturally in certain foods or as food additives. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), lactose and polyols (such as sorbitol and mannitol). Thank goodness for acronyms, right?! While these carbs and sugars are not easily absorbed by most people, in extra sensitive peeps they can lead to severe symptoms of digestive distress and affect the absorption of food nutrients.
Basically, when those with FODMAP insensitivity consume foods and/or drinks high in FODMAPs, these carbs, which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, pass through to the large intestine, where:
1. The FODMAPs are fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, leading to gas and/or
2. The FODMAPs, which are highly osmotic (i.e., they attract water into the large bowel), alter bowel movements
These two processes can trigger symptoms associated with “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (or IBS) including excess wind, abdominal pain, bloating and distension, constipation or diarrhoea, or (the real winner) a combination of both.
In 1999, an amazing Aussie by the name of Dr Sue Shepherd developed the low FODMAP diet. She and a team of dedicated dietitians at Monash University have researched their butts off, and in doing so been able to prove that limiting dietary FODMAPs for a short period, then reintroducing them systematically to identify your unique triggers, is an effective treatment for people who suffer symptoms of IBS.
So, what’s the aim of the low FOMDAP diet I hear you ask?
Answer: to achieve good digestive health and gain control over IBS symptoms. You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about probiotics and their beneficial effects on digestive health, but how do they fit into the low FODMAP diet?
What are probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria and yeasts, found naturally in our intestinal flora but also present in fermented foods or supplements. While the word bacteria makes us instantly want to go “NO THANKS!”, our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often referred to as ‘helpful’ bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. MAJOR YAY for those with IBS! If that weren’t enough, these ‘good’ bacteria offer a range of other health benefits too, including improvements in skin conditions, urinary and vaginal health, allergies and cold, and even oral health! There are several types of probiotics, however they generally are classed into two main groups:
Prebiotics (e.g., Inulin and fructooligosaccharides) are dietary fibre that we cannot digest but feed the bacteria in our gut. If we do not have enough prebiotics in our diet then our microbiome can suffer as there is nothing to sustain it, just the same as us humans not getting enough nutrients. We would starve to death. But onto brighter topics ….
How do Probiotics Work?
Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work, although we are discovering more and more each day. Based on existing science, two main methods of action have been proposed:
When you lose "good" bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help restore your levels
Probiotics can help balance your ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria to keep your body working the way it should
How does this all fit into the low FODMAP diet?
When following a low FODMAP diet, our intestinal flora is likely to change due to the restriction of high fibre, prebiotic-rich foods. Therefore, after you move through the elimination and reintroduction phase of the low FODMAP diet, it is important to incorporate those all-important probiotic and prebiotic rich foods back into your diet to protect your gut health and ensure the number of ‘bad’ bacteria in your gut is not outnumbering the number of ‘good’ bacteria. Otherwise, you can very easily undo all your hard work. For the nerds out there, we are trying to avoid microbiota dysbiosis.
So, what’s the deal with probiotic supplements?
Monash University low FODMAP experts recommend attempting one dietary strategy at a time, which means not taking a probiotic supplement while on the low FODMAP elimination or reintroduction phases. They argue it could confuse results, as it’s difficult to isolate whether it was the diet or probiotic supplement that relieved symptoms of IBS. After the re-introduction phase, when you are now on the maintenance stage of the diet, chat to your dietitian about introducing a probiotic/prebiotic that is scientifically formulated like Gutsy Life.
Gutsy Probiotic Drink Sachets allow you to have a guilt free drink on the go, while boosting your gut health for wellbeing. There is currently three delicious flavours to choose from (all kid-approved) and the options for preparation really are endless. Although, just some cool sparkling water + 1 sachet = the ultimate soft-drink replacement. Sometimes simple is best right?!
OK so back to probiotics and why they’re fab for IBS. In a recent study, 104 patients with IBS were randomised to a low-FODMAP or sham diet for 4 weeks and were given either a placebo (fake supplement) or real probiotic supplement. Results showed adequate symptom relief was significantly greater with the low-FODMAP versus sham diet (61% vs. 39%) & with the probiotic. The probiotic maintained bifidobacteria in the faeces in abundance compared with placebo. Having adequate bifidobacteria in our bodies is important for maintaining long-term health.
So, the take home message: if you suffer IBS symptoms, it might be worthwhile exploring a low FODMAP diet (under professional guidance), followed by the introduction of a probiotic + prebiotic supplement like Gutsy Life. Time to stop those damn digestive issues ruling your life!