August 11, 2014
If you suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems, you’re not alone. GI issues affect up to 20% of the population and are more common in women. The symptoms vary from mild and manageable to life disruptive. Despite the inconvenience of having these symptoms, they are generally not life threatening, and in many cases can be reduced by diet and probiotics. Some concerns of gastrointestinal problems include occasional gas, bloating, cramping, constipation and loose stool, and they can be triggered by, or worsened by, stress and dietary factors. Stress is a factor you don’t have complete control over, BUT you do have control over what you eat.
Diet and Gastrointestinal Discomfort
Healthcare professionals often encourage people with GI issues to add more fiber to their diet. Unfortunately, some fiber-rich foods contain short-chain carbohydrates that aren’t well-absorbed. These short-chain carbohydrates are referred to as FODMAPs. FODMAPs stand for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-Saccharides and Polyols, forms of carbohydrates that are hard to absorb. When these carbohydrates pass through your small intestines without being absorbed, they enter the colon where colon bacteria feast on them and produce gases. These gases, in turn, cause intestinal expansion. This expansion may trigger symptoms such as bloating, abdominal distension and cramping. People with a history of GI issues appear to be more sensitive to intestinal distension than people without. For those people, even mild distension can trigger changes in intestinal motility, making symptoms worse. That’s why gas-forming foods aren’t always friendly to your intestinal tract.
The Low-FODMAP Diet, Prebiotics and GI Issues
A number of carbohydrates are high in FODMAPs, including some fruits, vegetables and grains. Certain types of sweeteners like sugar alcohols, commonly added to sugar-free candy and chewing gum, also fall under the category of FODMAPs. You may have heard reference to “prebiotics.” Prebiotics are fiber-like foods and supplements that aren’t absorbed. Some sources recommend a diet rich in prebiotics as a way to provide nourishment for gut-friendly probiotic bacteria and improve intestinal health. Like FODMAPs, a diet rich in prebiotics may trigger gaseous distension that could aggravate GI problems. Keep in mind “prebiotics” and “probiotics” aren’t the same thing. Prebiotics are dietary components, fiber-like materials that bacteria feed on – both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are gut-friendly bacteria that live in your intestinal tract. Because they’re a source of nourishment for all bacteria, prebiotics may NOT be gut healthy since both “good” and “bad” bacteria can feed off them. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to selectively feed only good, probiotic bacteria with prebiotics.
Benefits of a Low-FODMAP Diet
Some research shows a low-FODMAP diet improves gastrointestinal discomfort. The key to making it successful is consistency. Deviating from the low-FODMAP diet may cause problems in people who are sensitive to FODMAPs. Making dietary changes isn’t always easy but for some people prone to GI problems, a low-FODMAP diet may be helpful. A list of the types of food to avoid can be found here.
Try a Limited Carb Diet
Natren has partnered with Dr. David Holland to formulate a low carbohydrate diet that is consistent with the low FODMAP principles. It is primarily ingredient based, outlining the foods that should and should not be eaten, and may form the basis of a custom diet that can help you deal with these symptoms naturally. Call for a free Limited Carb Diet brochure. 1-866-4-NATREN.
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