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How to Navigate a FODMAP Diet

Written by

GoodnessMe

Posted on

11.10.22

If you have digestive problems or have ever experienced gut sensitivities, you may have heard of - or even tried - the low FODMAP diet. Extremely specific and challenging to follow, this diet, unlike many others, is not designed for weight loss. It is most effective for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) among other digestive issues.

It’s designed to help people identify which FODMAP-rich foods, and in what quantities, can cause digestive symptoms and learn how to manage them. It includes removing all FODMAPs from your diet, testing how they affect your body one by one, and reintroducing the identified trigger foods to identify your tolerance thresholds.

Reintroducing foods that you know cause symptoms can bring anxiety and stress, but there is another structured approach you can take. But before we get into that, let’s take a step back.

What are FODMAPs

FODMAP is short for fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols. In plain English, these are poorly digested carbohydrates that can trigger gut symptoms like abdominal pain, excessive gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. This especially applies to and affects people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

FODMAPs can often disturb smooth digestion for most people. At the point of contact with our gut microbiome, they can cause excessive wind. This happens mainly due to the gas-releasing fermentation process. Though natural, this process can cause digestive pain and discomfort and even make us avoid entire food groups.

Symptoms to look out for

One of the most important factors to remember about FODMAPs is that the symptoms they cause usually belong to the lower digestive tract. The most common symptoms caused by FODMAP sensitivities are:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Alternating bowel habits
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal distension
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive wind
  • Borborygmi (intestinal noises)


For most people, FODMAPs may be the culprit of one major symptom overshadowing others, but that doesn’t mean they won’t experience all of the above at some point.

However, if some foods high in FODMAP contents cause symptoms in the upper GI tract, like nausea, vomiting, or swallowing difficulties, this might imply an allergic reaction. In any case, you should always consult a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article.

What to do if you're sensitive to FODMAPs

An effective therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) among other gastrointestinal disorders is a diet low in fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) which results in an improvement in up to 86% of patients.

Developed by the research team at Monash University, the low FODMAP diet is designed to limit the consumption of foods high in FODMAP contents. When following this diet, you have to complete a complex set of tasks to identify the foods that may cause you unwelcome digestive symptoms, usually referred to as trigger foods. The goal of the diet is to learn how to manage these symptoms.


As you may have guessed, the low-FODMAP diet can be particularly useful for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What are the different FODMAP groups?

It’s important to remember that many foods can contain several FODMAP groups at a time, which can make it challenging to determine which groups you are sensitive to. test your tolerance levels with specific foods that don’t have a mix of FODMAP groups within them. Examples of foods that don’t contain group overlapping:

  • Lactose: dairy products
  • Fructose: honey
  • Sorbitol: apricots and peaches
  • Mannitol: Portobello mushrooms
  • GOS (galacto-oligo-saccharides): almonds
  • Fructans: (wheat) bread, (fruit) grapefruit, blueberries, apples, etc., onion, garlic


There is a reason why fructan is one of the most common troublemakers within FODMAPs. Foods can usually contain a mixture of fructans and it is rather difficult to measure the exact mix of every type of fructan in a food.

How to follow a FODMAP diet

As a traditional approach to FODMAP sensitivities, the diet is usually recommended to patients by a dietitian or a GI specialist. The aims of following the FODMAP diet, however, go beyond reducing the symptoms that FODMAPs can cause. It can also help you assess whether you are sensitive to FODMAPs altogether, learn which FODMAP groups if any, may cause you discomfort, and most importantly, identify the thresholds for your trigger foods.

The latter is the key factor to understand, as most people who are recommended to go on the diet, think they will never be able to eat any of the high-FODMAP foods. The truth is quite the opposite - the diet can truly help you understand how much of a certain food you can have without causing any symptoms.

What it comes down to is a rather particular process that consists of three stages.

Elimination

This stage usually takes two to six weeks and, as the name suggests, requires you to remove all high-FODMAP foods from your diet and replace them with low-FODMAP alternatives.

You can find a list of the most common high-FODMAP foods in this handy video or download the Monash app, which has the most comprehensive list of FODMAP foods with a guide on servings allowed.

Reintroduction

In the reintroduction stage, you are meant to complete a series of tasks, where you test high-FODMAP food groups one at a time. This can be a challenging and stressful process, as eating foods that can cause digestive pain, gas, or diarrhea is not something one would do willingly.

Once identified, however, the trigger foods can be reintroduced into your diet easier with the help of enzymes. More on this is below.

Personalization

The last stage allows you to personalize your diet for the long term and find a balance between avoidance and tolerance levels. This is a chance to relax the restrictions and establish your personal thresholds, allowing you to eat these foods in limited quantities.

The most important part to remember, however, is that the elimination stage is not meant to be followed long-term. Though the diet as a whole is recommended as the first treatment for IBS, the secret to its success lies in following through the phase of reintroduction, not just cutting out these foods altogether.

How enzymes apply to gut sensitivities

As you may recall from your secondary school biology class, enzymes are proteins that regulate the rate at which a plethora of metabolic and chemical processes occur in our bodies. Thus they are called biological catalysts.
Highly specialized, enzymes act on specific molecules, called the enzyme's substrate. One instance some of us are familiar with is when specific digestive enzymes break down the various components such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the food we eat. This process allows our bodies to absorb the nutrients it offers and turn them into energy.

Interestingly, not all enzymes can be produced within our bodies. Some enzymes in our digestive system break down starch, some - proteins, and others break down fats.

When it comes to complicated carbohydrates or sugars, however, our bodies don’t produce any enzymes that would help to digest them. And while for most people it results in minor uncomfortable symptoms, like wind, some of us can really struggle. This especially applies to FODMAPs.

Enzymes as an alternative approach to FODMAPs

The strict elimination stage of the low FODMAP diet can make grocery shopping and eating out challenging, to say the least. It certainly can feel impossible at times, especially when it comes to eating out at restaurants, at family gatherings, or on social occasions.

Another side of the diet is that it puts harsh limits on the nutrient diversity you can get from the low-FODMAP alternatives. This can result in a negative effect on the microbiome and gut health overall.

Luckily, an enzymatic approach can enable people to receive the benefits of high-FODMAP foods without having digestive discomfort, pain, or other symptoms. Each FODMAP group, however, needs its own enzyme to break it down. It's important to remember that certain enzymes are designed specifically to address a dedicated FODMAP group.

How do you know if FODZYM can help

As a targeted alternative to the restrictive low-FODMAP approach, FODZYME® is the world's first enzyme blend to directly tackle FODMAPs.

Unlike off-the-shelf digestive enzymes, the FODZYME® formula is a highly-specific enzyme blend designed precisely for the FODMAPs fructan, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and lactose. Therefore, the formula only consists of three enzymes: fructan hydrolase, alpha-galactosidase, and lactase, respectively (with an addition of a micro amount of dextrin that enables the enzyme stability).

Low-FODMAP certified by Monash University, FODZYME® comes in powder form and breaks down FODMAPs directly when mixed with or sprinkled on high-FODMAP foods, before they can cause trouble in the lower GI tract.

Try Fodzyme here

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How to use FODZYME

The best way to use FODZYME is to sprinkle the powder directly on the problem foods. This allows enzymes to get to work immediately, breaking down FODMAPs as you chew and digest. It is recommended to mix the powder in with the food for optimal integration, however, when eating more solid foods, like a burrito, you can add a full dose on the first bite, which will bring the same result.

Mixing it with water and drinking it is not recommended, as this creates an unnecessary barrier between the enzymes and the FODMAPs themselves. It’s important to note that this does not apply to a high-FODMAP liquid, like a soup, a smoothie, or milk - then it’s absolutely fine to mix the powder in the drink.

The goal here is to let the enzymes embed within the FODMAP food before it gets to your stomach, which will maximize their effect.



“My patients love using FODZYME when dining out, traveling, or eating at family gatherings. They describe it as “amazing”, “magical”, “freeing”, and “life-changing” when talking about how it has allowed them to eat more of their favorite foods again.” - Niki Strealy, RDN, LD

It's critical for enzymes to distribute within the ingested food while your stomach pH range is optimal for enzymatic activity, making FODZYME’s powder form superior to capsules or tablets.

What foods FODZYME can help you with

Foods high in fructan
Fructan is arguably the biggest contributor to gut symptoms (and hardest to avoid). It can be found in common foods like garlic, onion (and most alliums), wheat, bananas, blueberries, and many others.

Foods high in GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides)

GOS is mostly found in beans and legumes. The most popular would include almonds, chickpeas, cashews, and pistachios.

Foods high in lactose

As you may have guessed, this applies to all things dairy. From animal milk to a never-ending list of cheeses, this might be the most popular intolerance out there with 68% of the world’s population estimated to have lactose malabsorption.

FODZYME®’s current formula does not address polyols, the P in FODMAPs, like sorbitol and mannitol (found in foods like mushrooms, apples, and avocado), but the research team at Kiwi Biosciences is working on developing a new solution.

The science behind FODZYME

Developed by a Boston-based biotech Kiwi Biosciences, FODZYME® has been vigorously tested for clinical efficacy. To date, it was tested through in-house trials, where 30-40g of fructan was administered to a group of adults. These were conducted in the most statistically-rigorous way and obtained enough data to prove that FODZYME® indeed works when delivered correctly.

FODZYME® was then tested in a series of in-vitro experiments to validate the activity of the fructan hydrolase enzyme. The team at Kiwi Biosciences discovered that, when FODZYME® was administered, fructan was rapidly broken into simple fructose and glucose with ~90% of the fructan degraded within 30 minutes.

The experiments also showed that 70% of fructose was absorbed during a simulated small intestinal transit, thus reducing gas. It was also found that the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) was reduced but not depleted. This means that FODZYME®’s enzymatic approach may be more favorable to overall colonic health than avoiding FODMAPs altogether. This work was selected to be presented at Digestive Disease Week 2022, one of the most important venues for GI research.

For more details, their clinical brief provides a greater breakdown of data and research that has gone into the mentioned trials of the enzymatic approach to FODMAPs.

FODZYME® makes food painless

By addressing FODMAPs directly, FODZYME® can prevent the effect of FODMAPs on your digestive system and help you receive the nutritional benefits from foods that otherwise you might avoid. Last but not least, it can enable gastronomical diversity and allow you to lift the restrictions once placed by the low FODMAP diet.


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