Finding the right plan to deal with digestive problems

"Fodmap'' is the acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, a group of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (polyols). Photo: Getty Images
"Fodmap'' is the acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, a group of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (polyols). Photo: Getty Images
Many people suffer from digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heartburn and indigestion.

Treatment plans to deal with these problems aim to reduce digestive inflammation, restore digestive lining and identify and manage triggers, some of which are due to dysbiosis and foods, and some of which is related to stress.

Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons, chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we're experiencing stress, or if we've ingested a disease-causing microbe.

This information network is called the brain-gut axis and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at both ends. This explains that feeling of ''butterflies'' before meeting somebody you fancy and the urgency to rush to the toilet before public speaking.

Adrenaline, produced by the adrenal glands, diverts blood flow away from the digestive system meaning digestion and the absorption of macro and micronutrients can be compromised. Instead of getting anxious about running late, you might change your thoughts to ''I will get there safely, apologise and, if need be, I can take a shorter lunch break to make up for being late. Tonight, I will aim to be in bed earlier to avoid the morning rush. Everything will be OK. [Deep breath]''.

Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) reduces cortisol output significantly and takes the pressure off our adrenal glands, which impacts digestion. This explains why sometimes you may tolerate a food but not always.

''Fodmap'' is the acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, a group of short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (polyols). These nutrients are common in many everyday foods, including apples, onions and broccoli.

Susceptible people can experience intestinal symptoms from ingestion of Fodmaps for a number of reasons:

The carbohydrates are not well absorbed into the body and remain in the digestive tract for longer periods. This can cause bloating and gas

Fodmaps draw water into the intestines, which can increase bowel motions and promote diarrhoea

These carbohydrates can be metabolised by the bacteria that normally reside in the bowel, producing gas, bloating and wind

To determine if Fodmaps might be contributing to your symptoms, the most effective strategy is to follow a low-Fodmap eating plan short-term, and observe your symptoms under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.

Following the elimination of all Fodmaps, the next step is to re-challenge, one-by-one, each Fodmap to help determine the tolerable doses and types of Fodmaps for you.

It is not generally recommended that you follow a low Fodmap diet for life; restricting dietary intake of a wide array of foods should generally be avoided if possible, to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Fodmaps are a normal part of the diet and have benefits for health, such as providing fibre and prebiotics for gastrointestinal health.


Pumpkin Pie smoothie
Pumpkin Pie smoothie
Pumpkin pie smoothie

Pumpkins are in season at the moment and are well-tolerated by most people. Here is a recipe which makes for a delicious breakfast or lunch for anybody on a low-Fodmap plan or those just looking for a tasty meal idea.

Serves 1

Ingredients
½ cup roasted/boiled pumpkin puree
½ cup Pure Harvest coconut milk
½ banana, frozen
1 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp all spice
1 scoop vanilla plant protein powder

Method
Blend together until smooth and enjoy.

Note: If you roast a whole pumpkin and then remove the skin and seeds once cooked and cooled, it stores well in the fridge for several days.

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