People who suffer from IBS and other gastrointestinal symptoms may want to consider adopting a restrictive, but effective, low FODMAP diet to alleviate their symptoms.
FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, causing digestive issues for some people.
The FODMAP diet works by eliminating all high FODMAP foods entirely for a few weeks and then slowly reintroducing them one at a time. This way, people with recurring digestive problems can discover which foods trigger their discomfort and better manage their symptoms.
“The implications of dietary restrictions can be really disheartening—they were for me,” Ketan Vakil, the founder and CEO of Gourmend Foods, told The Food Institute. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. When armed with some knowledge, a sense of cooking adventure and knowing your own triggers in detail, it can be much easier and less scary to forge ahead.”
EXAMPLES OF HIGH-FODMAP FOODS
High FODMAP foods include dairy milk, wheat-based products, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables. As such, the first phase of the FODMAP diet is extremely restrictive, which may be intimidating to some.
At Gourmend Foods, Vakil has focused on creating a line of ingredients that are low FODMAP without sacrificing flavor, making it easier for consumers with digestive issues to continue enjoying their favorite home-cooked meals.
“Years ago, there were almost no packaged food options to help people and now there are a bunch of brands in the market to make cooking and snacking in a digestive-health way easier than ever,” Vakil noted.
DEMAND FOR DIGESTIVE-HEALTH PRODUCTS GROWING
As dietary restrictions have become more widely discussed, food intolerance and digestive issues have become more normalized in recent years.
“I think the gluten-free trend put food intolerances on the map—every grocery store and a great many restaurants have gluten-free shelves and menus,” Vakil explained. With celiac disease and gluten sensitivity garnering tons of mainstream attention, people suffering from other digestive issues no longer have to suffer in silence.
“Several recent high-profile pieces in various publications and efforts from brands like ours are helping to educate and destigmatize having stomach symptoms,” Vakil added. “So many of us experience them or know someone who does.”
PREVALENCE OF STOMACH ISSUES
It is unclear whether the prevalence of food intolerances has increased in recent years or if any perceived increase is simply due to more people speaking up about their digestive issues. A 2018 study found that 60% of Americans reported experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms on a weekly basis, whereas a 2014 report suggested that only 15-20% of the population are affected by food intolerance.
What is clear is that new research, less stigma and fresh innovative ingredients are changing how consumers think about their digestive health.
“For years people have just dealt with it,” Vakil said, “but as more research is done and more doctors, dietitians and the general public become aware of the impact of food, more people are realizing that they can impact how they feel very directly though what they eat.”