by FoodMaestro | 22 March 2016
FODMAP Q&A with Hannah Hunter, a HCPC registered dietitian who trained in FODMAPs at King's College.
How do I know if a low FODMAP diet is right for me?
If you suffer with symptoms such as bloating, cramping, diarrhoea and excess wind, it is possible that you may benefit from trialling the low FODMAP diet. However before embarking on the diet, it is important to seek advice from your GP, hospital consultant or dietitian. They will ensure that any relevant tests are done to investigate the causes of your symptoms. It is important to have a blood test for coeliac disease beforehand because once you start avoiding most sources of gluten (as is the case on the low FODMAP diet) the test will no longer be accurate.
How does the diet work?
Once you have been advised that it is the appropriate approach for you, it is recommended that you follow the Stage 1 restriction for a period 4-8 weeks. FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates found in a variety of everyday foods that have two effects in the bowel. Firstly, because they are not well absorbed by your body, they increase the amount of water that is drawn into your bowel. Secondly, once they reach the large bowel, they start fermenting resulting in increased gas production. These two mechanisms happen in all of us but only result in symptoms in susceptible people with a sensitive digestive system, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You do not have to have a diagnosis of IBS for the diet to benefit you.
The low FODMAP diet has been shown to improve typical IBS symptoms in three out of four people. Following the restriction phase, it is important to reintroduce foods in order to identify specific triggers and expand your diet.
What is the benefit of working with a trained dietitian?
A FODMAP experienced dietitian has the expertise to educate you to ensure you understand about different aspects of this complicated diet. Reading a list of what to eat and what to avoid is often inadequate because whilst some foods need to be avoided completely, others can be consumed in small amounts or not in combination with other foods. The app provides guidance on foods you should eat in small quantity.
A dietitian will also ensure that the diet is suited to you, tailor their advice to your individual requirements and ensure that your diet is nutritionally adequate. Following the consultation your dietitian will also be a source of support in case you have any questions or run into difficulties. Finally, your dietitian should guide you through the reintroduction process. FoodMaestro has simplified this process by incorporating it into an app. You can track and share your symptoms with your dietitian.
The app should help guide you with support from your dietitian throughout all stages of your low FODMAP journey. As well as showing you lists of suitable supermarket foods, you are able to message your dietitian through the app, for instance if you had specific questions about the ingredients of a particular item. Documenting your symptoms and response to the diet and food reintroduction also provides vital feedback to your dietitian.
I am struggling with reading food labels. Is there an easier way find suitable products in the supermarket?
This is where FoodMaestro comes in particularly useful as it has analysed food labels from its database of over 100,000 supermarket products. You can easily search through the app either by category, by typing in a specific product name or by scanning barcodes. The database is regularly updated with the latest available foods. Since the app was designed in conjunction with a team of dietitians from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust the information within it is robust and reliable.
Can I make FODMAP friendly meals for the family?
Many everyday recipes can be easily adapted to make them low FODMAP and can be enjoyed by anyone. It is not recommended that a strict low FODMAP diet is followed by everyone in the long term unless absolutely necessary. This is partly because it can be nutritionally inadequate but there may also be long-term consequences as it may have a negative effect on gut bacteria, hence why reintroducing high FODMAP foods is so important. A good tip when feeding your family is to substitute options when this is practical (for instance serve yourself gluten free pasta but your family regular wheat pasta) or add high FODMAP vegetables to others’ plates.
Where can I find more information?
The following website may be useful: King’s College London low FODMAP resources
Already on a Low FODMAP Diet?
Hannah Hunter is a HCPC registered dietitian who trained in FODMAPs at King's College London and has over seven years' experience in helping people with digestive problems such as IBS.