It’s time to put an end to gut-health issues.
By Dr. Lauryn Lax
When it comes to diet choices and feeling your best, you know there are certain foods that are better for your health than others, for instance, broccoli versus mac and cheese or a sweet potato versus french fries. But for some, eating a diet rich in certain whole grains, healthy fats and produce leads to bloating, constipation and abdominal pain. In fact, some of the foods that are thought to be best for our health are sources of many gut problems.
When Healthy Eating Hurts
Approximately two in three Americans experience regular gut-related issues like acid reflux, acne, hormonal imbalances and constipation. Many times, these common gut issues stem from an underlying root cause that goes far beyond the food you put in your mouth. Common contributors to gut dysfunction include:
- an overgrowth of unhealthy gut bacteria
- food intolerances
- fungal or parasitic infection
- low amounts of overall gut bacteria
- “leaky gut”
Introduction to the FODMAP Diet
FODMAP is an acronym for a collection of foods that contain certain short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that can activate gut-related symptoms due to their ability to breed and feed unhealthy gut bacteria. FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Basically, FODMAPS are sugars, starches and fibers that unhealthy gut bacteria thrive on. If you experience irritable bowel syndrome, bloating or constipation, consider eliminating high FODMAP foods from your diet.
High FODMAP Foods
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, leek, onion, shallot, snow peas, tomato
Fruits: apple, apricot, cherry, mango, peach, pear, plum, watermelon
Beans: legumes (lentils, beans, peanuts) and soy
Fats: vegetable oils and inflammatory omega-6 fats like canola, soybean and peanut oil
Nuts and seeds: pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts
All dairy products, alcohol and sugars, including natural sugars, are considered high FODMAP foods.
Low FODMAP Foods
Vegetables: beet, bok choy, carrot, cucumber, endive, kale, lettuce, olives, spinach, Swiss chard, winter squash
Fruits: banana, blueberries, kiwi, orange, pineapple, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries
Proteins: muscle and organ meats, fish, seafood, eggs
Fats: avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, cod liver oil, olive oil
It’s important to realize that not every high FODMAP food will negatively affect gut bacteria. Ultimately, only you know how you feel. If gut symptoms improve on a low FODMAP diet, it’s likely you’ve had an underlying gut condition. Working with a functional-medicine practitioner or nutritionist can help establish the cause.
Optimize Your Gut Health
In addition to following a low FODMAP diet, take these suggestions into consideration.
- Take a soil-based probiotic, preferably two times a day.
- Ingest 1 tablespoon of apple-cider vinegar with water prior to mealtime.
- Eat chicken or grass-fed beef liver once or twice a week to replenish vitamin B12.
- Sip homemade bone broth as a snack or in soups.
- Eat meals prepared at lower temperatures. Consider purchasing a slow cooker, stewing, braising or poaching your food. Try it for at least one month.
- Be mindful when eating out and consider calling ahead to ask about ingredients and preparation methods.
- Minimize your intake of raw, fibrous fruits and vegetables.