By Adam Sachs
For one of my recent rotations, I was able to work with Wellness Corporate Solutions (WCS), a company that provides health and nutrition programs to businesses in order to promote a healthier workplace. Having healthier employees improves the overall working environment, and is also cost effective for business owners. One of the projects I assisted with, was a health seminar to educate participating employees on current nutrition or health topics. The evidenced based information was to be presented to various companies by the dietitians at WCS. The topic of the seminar was the low-FODMAP diet. What is the low-FODMAP diet…and what does FODMAP even mean? Some people have heard of the term FODMAP, but not everyone knows what it is. If you are a sufferer of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), or other GI disorders, a low-FODMAP diet is something that may be a part of your daily life. The low-FODMAP diet is most commonly used to treat symptoms of IBS, which is a stomach and/or intestinal disorder that causes bloating, abdominal pain, and a variety of other GI distresses. The low-FODMAP diet seminar topic had actually been requested by a few of the clients working with WCS, most likely due to the high prevalence of IBS. Around 10-15% of the world’s population have some varying degree of IBS or related disorders. FODMAP is an acronym that describes certain carbohydrate molecules that can exacerbate symptoms of IBS or other similar conditions. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.
Still a little confused? Let me share with you some of the things that I learned as I worked on the low-FODMAP diet seminar. A basic explanation of FODMAPs is that they are different types of carbohydrate chains that can be digested by bacteria naturally found in your stomach and intestines. These bacteria break down these carbohydrate chains using a process known as fermentation, which is the same process used to make beer. Similar to how beer making produces CO2 gas, the bacteria in your gut also produce certain gases as byproducts of the fermentation process. These gases are what can contribute to the symptoms of IBS and other disorders.
Not all FODMAP foods will trigger symptoms. Those suffering with IBS will usually go through a trial period, ideally with the help of a Physician or Dietitian, to figure out which foods are triggers for them. The hardest part about a low-FODMAP diet is figuring out how to cook your favorite foods while still limiting the amount of FODMAPs in your diet. Here are some common examples of high-FODMAP foods that may trigger IBS symptoms.
It may seem like a daunting task to reduce intake of these foods, but be aware that people suffering from IBS are not aggravated by all high-FODMAP foods. It can take some time to figure out what works and which of these foods need to be avoided. To help those following a low-FODMAP diet, these recipes have been tweaked to reduce the amount of FODMAP containing foods and replace them with well-tolerated options.
Chicken Alfredo pasta (makes two servings)
Rice or Soba noodles (see notes) ½ pound
skinless chicken breast 4 oz
goat cheese ¼ cup
shredded parmesan cheese ¼ cup
lactose free milk ½ cup
scallions (green tops only) 1 tablespoon
olive oil as needed
salt & pepper to taste
Grill or sauté the chicken with a little olive oil; cut into strips and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat together the milk, parmesan, and goat cheese. Allow the cheeses to melt over medium low heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens some, and season with salt and pepper. Cook your rice or soba noodles according to the package directions. Pour the sauce over the cooked noodles. Top with the scallions and cooked chicken.
Notes: Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, but some packaged soba noodles contain some wheat flour. Look for “Gluten Free” on the label and check ingredients to make sure there’s no wheat flour used. The dairy sources in this recipe are usually well tolerated in people with IBS, and scallions are a great way to add some onion flavor while using a low-FODMAP food.
Low-FODMAP Flatbread (makes two servings)
Buckwheat flour ½ cup
rice flour ½ cup
dry active yeast one packet
warm water ½ cup
salt ½ teaspoon
olive oil 1 tablespoon
canned tomato sauce ¼ cup
bacon, raw 2 tablespoons
feta cheese 1 Tablespoon
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the warm water and yeast packet, and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Place the rice and buckwheat flour into a medium bowl, and slowly pour the water/yeast mixture into the flour. Mix together until a dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 minutes and return it to the bowel, and lightly brush the dough with olive oil. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into an oval shape and place onto an oiled baking sheet. Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Chop the bacon into small pieces and place on the pizza. Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly along the pizza. Bake the pizza for 10-15 minutes or until the dough has puffed up slightly around the edges, and turned golden brown, and the bacon is brown and crispy. Slice and enjoy!
Notes: Many non-wheat based flours are great substitutes for those on a low-FODMAP diet. Most canned tomato products are also low in FODMAPs and well tolerated by those with IBS.