inflammation

How a Happy Gut Lends Itself to a Happy Brain

If you’ve ever received a CRP (C-reactive protein) test, you’re probably aware of the correlation between systemic inflammation and dozens of diseases and illnesses. If your CRP reads high, it means inflammation levels are high where the body is in a reactive state all the time. As a result, cooling this constant internal flame has become a significant focus on preventative medicine. 

Inflammation is your body’s response to try to find something: your body trying to heal itself. It signals healing agents to go to the injured part of the body. With systemic inflammation, your body is on fire and can’t heal and repair itself correctly. It can stay localized as many of us struggle unknowingly from gut dysbiosis. Our lifestyle, environmental toxins, and diet can influence this state. Unfortunately, we often eat foods that create a fight response internally as our body treats the offending foods like an invasive threat. 

gut
Image source: frontiersin.org

On his weekly podcast, Lucas Rockwood interviewed Jimmy St. Louis, the Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute founder. CHI focuses on gut health to reduce inflammation to lower the likelihood, and symptoms of autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, heart conditions, chronic low-grade conditions like hypertension, cancer, and others. 

Jimmy played football for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and was recently a member of the 2016 United States Rowing Team. However, through rowing, he inadvertently found his passion for cognitive health. Rowing anywhere from 60 to 80,000 meters a day for four to six hours, he noticed a different mental strain than football. 

After a career without significant brain injuries, he discovered the link between cellular repair and the brain’s ability to get oxygen. Then, feeling helpless when his grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s, he was inspired to understand the gut biome and the connection between inflammation and neurodegenerative illnesses.

Your gut bacteria form a soil-like environment for digestion

gut

St Louis urges us to think about our gut bacteria like a garden. When we look at the human genome, the human microbiome contains three pounds of bugs living inside your body. However, we are also aware that microbiota are different for different people. For example, a person from the Mediterranean and someone of the same age from Osaka would have similar DNA, but the internal garden would be different because of their environment.

People are often tempted to buy a supplement from a health food store, but in thinking of the gut as a garden, you can’t just throw some nitrogen on it and expect to have fertile soil. St. Louis wants to dispel the myth that Alzheimer’s is strictly genetic, and if you are genetically prone, you’re going to get it. Instead, he suggests that these diseases build up over time by not caring for our bodies and everything we put into our mouths. 

Why modern foods and lifestyles leave many of us imbalanced

gut

Most people don’t realize they’re not eating healthy. If it’s organic, it’s healthy, but that’s not necessarily the case. If people believe they’re eating healthy, they’re not armed with that knowledge to help to improve their overall health. That superfood may very well not be beneficial for you. You can eat the kale and drink the juices, but if you’re not aware, your body will continue to fight against yourself and your habits.

Autism, early-onset dementia, or mild cognitive impairment have been linked to systemic inflammation. Over time when you put the wrong things in your body, you develop a bacterial imbalance in your stomach. At some point, that imbalance begins to permeate the gut lining and enter your system. Later on, the blood-brain barrier meant to protect your brain from the rest of your body can lead to protein plaque build-up and eventually to a stroke or Alzheimer’s.

It’s never too late to make necessary changes, but there is no quick fix

Regardless of age, you can slow that aging process. Still, preventative care is challenging for anyone at any age to think about, especially something as invisible as neurodegenerative disease or cognitive decline. We Americans tend to look for a quick fix, but if we want to live better, not just longer, we need to bridge that gap between the quality and length of life. We should want to feel great until that final day. No one wants to be stuck in a nursing home. 

Unfortunately, people start to decline very quickly when a diagnosis happens, and it just feels like it’s just only a matter of time. It’s often a triggering event like a personal health crisis in their fifties or sixties with either a heart attack or type two diabetes diagnosis that brings about awareness. Old habits do die hard, but you can start to create some new healthy habits that won’t take as long as you think. Even after two weeks of dietary changes, you might not crave things you did before. In fact, it might not make you feel good to even think about them anymore.

gut

While many people default to whatever their GP recommends during a routine checkup, most only visit their GP every three or four years. People can opt to do a gut test to indicate what should and should not be eaten. Even poor habits building dysbiosis over time can all be reversed. 

Finding motivation

Some people have felt lousy their whole life. They didn’t feel good when they were in their twenties, and when they’re 42 or 62, there is the possibility of feeling better than when they were 22. St. Louis looks to empower people who have never looked after their body, diet, or fitness and are willing to witness a radical transformation often available for unfit middle-aged people. With health, it doesn’t take forever to start feeling better.

You might feel too far gone, say suffering from type two diabetes or carrying 50 extra pounds. However, one good meal or one good day can make all the difference. So put effort into your diet and embrace the opportunity of feeling better than ever by just choosing one of St. Louis’ programs. They are easily adaptable, the food selection is good, tailored to your gut requirements, and you’ll notice changes more quickly than you’d imagined. 

Do you still want to drink alcohol or go out to dinner? He doesn’t suggest cutting those things out as mental health also plays a role. The point is to create a sustainable path so you can pick a program and not have to give up all the pleasures in life. Columbia Health Institute was created to introduce dietary changes, reduce systemic inflammation, and improve cognitive health scores to help prevent the early onset of neurodegenerative illnesses. It’s never too late to change course. 

Healthy gut food

Top Ten Best Foods for Gut Health

Healthy gut food is essential in nourishing, sustaining, and growing the good bacteria in your digestive tract. These superfoods will serve as the building blocks of prebiotics that would eventually take care of your gut microbes. 

There are trillions of microorganisms in your gut – this, we refer to as the gut microbiome. The microbes you find in your system create a symbiotic relationship with one another, and it’s an important part of your overall health. 

Feeding them right, and living the right lifestyle, is the key. Taking advantage of the superfoods could benefit your gut. These feature a high density of nutrients that would be best to incorporate in your diet. 

In this article, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute lists down healthy gut food that your body will surely thank you for. Consider what we’ve prepared for you!

Superfoods for gut health

Sadly, getting your hands on these healthy gut food is not easy. There are times when you won’t find some of them conveniently in stores. So in this blog, we’ll enumerate the most common healthy gut food that you can buy anywhere. 

From flaxseed to apples, get ready with your pen and paper and take note of healthy gut food for your body:

Healthy gut food #1: Apples

apples

Apples are probably the easiest food to pick from this list. This fruit features pectin, a fiber that serves as a prebiotic. This is good for the good bacteria in your gut. 

During digestion, your small intestine doesn’t absorb fiber. It would go straight to your colon, which is responsible for promoting the growth of good bacteria in your system. It also transforms to other helpful compounds that circulate around the body. 

Studies suggest that the composition of apples is the reason why it features protective effects in fighting obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Frontiers in Microbiology published a research and it has discovered 100 million of bacteria in this fruit. These bacteria are often connected to improving gut health. So, follow what they say and eat an apple a day! 

#2: Leafy Greens

leafy greens - healthy gut food

You can never go wrong with leafy greens. From kale to spinach, the fiber they provide is the best for your gut health. Vitamin C, K, and A – these are only some of the nutrients that you’ll get from this source. There is also a study that shows how leafy greens contain a specific kind of sugar that contributes to a healthy gut bacteria. 

When you eat a lot of leafy greens and fiber, you allow your system to develop an ideal gut microbiome – this is where trillions of organisms reside in the colon. The folic acid, iron, iodine, beta carotene, potassium, calcium, chlorophyll and sulphur effectively heal the lining of the digestive tract. It promotes a healthier kidney, and a more functional liver. It also boosts peristalsis, which is a powerful prebiotic in the gut. 

#3: Lean Protein

lean protein

It is important to understand how the gut microbiota metabolizes carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Doing so will allow you to give more emphasis on lean meat as a part of your diet. This has an overall impact not only in your genetic expression, but your entire immune system. 

Stick to high-quality protein sources like fish, eggs, meat, and dietary products to obtain the nine essential amino acids. Incorporating a decent amount of this in your diet is the key to maintaining a healthy gut lining, and a strong immune system. Give your body the chance to heal and repair itself with this macronutrient.

#4: Chia and Flax Seeds

chia and flax seeds - healthy gut food

Chia and flax seeds have gained popularity among people who are on a diet. 

Chia seeds, for instance, are the best source of fiber. As a matter of fact, they contain at least 11 grams of fiber for every 28-gram serving. This simple type of carbohydrate is vital in promoting regularity in the body and supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Hence, it could sufficiently feed your gut flora that is important for your health.

On the other hand, flax seeds have been credited for their health-protective properties for many centuries now. These seeds are regarded as prebiotics, or a prebiotic food because of the high-amount of fiber it contains. 

When your body breaks down these prebiotic foods, they go down to your gut and provide it with good bacteria. This benefits your gut microbiome by improving your digestion, boosting your immunity, enhancing your mood, and aiding your weight loss. All of these take place, thanks to fermentation that is ideal to the overall health of your gut.  

More superfoods for gut health

Healthy gut food #5: Kimchi

kimchi - healthy gut food

Kimchi is a low-calorie, traditional Korean side dish rich in fiber and antioxidants. The vegetables that undergo the fermentation process to make kimchi have enhanced flavor. Mix seasonings such as onions, garlic, chili peppers, salt, sugar and ginger with cabbage and you have a savory delicacy!

Moreover, this fermentation process produces active probiotic cultures which are beneficial to gut health. You can eat kimchi fresh or unfermented, or integrate other vegetables such as radish, celery, cucumber, etc. 

As an excellent source of probiotics, kimchi can detoxify your body naturally. This is why many enjoy unlimited samgyeopsal meals from Korean restaurants in different parts of the world. You can incorporate this healthy gut food in your lunch or dinner served with warm rice and other vegetables, too.

#6 Olive Oil

olive oil

Dietary fats, such as olive oil, have amazing health effects. When you extract the oil from olives, it produces olive oil. That’s a direct product from nature itself! It is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats which are resistant to high heat. This makes extra virgin olive oil popular to many because it’s the healthier choice for cooking.

The antioxidants in olive oil give its strong anti-inflammatory health benefits. For example, the nutrients oleic acid and oleocanthal are present in olive oil, which mediate the fight against gut inflammation.

There is a study that showed there’s a lower risk of stroke for people who consume olive oil than those who didn’t. In fact, the Mediterranean diet gained popularity in the same context. This diet may help in weight loss, prevention of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. 

Olive oil is one of the key components in the Mediterranean diet as it can protect against cardiovascular-related illnesses. How is olive oil a healthy gut food, you may ask? It essentially safeguards “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, thereby, protecting the lining of your blood vessels. This, in turn, aids in avoiding excessive blood clotting.

#7: Ginger

ginger

Ginger is one of the best anti-inflammatory supplements known to man. It contains gingerol that has an inflammatory property which is responsible for supporting digestion. Another component in ginger is zingerone which helps fight gut inflammation.

Filled with antioxidants, ginger is a healthy gut food that can also prevent damage in your body’s DNA. It promotes healthy aging and fights off chronic diseases such as heart and lung diseases.

Even as a drink (ginger can be made into a lemon ginger juice, for example), it helps alleviate pain and improve your immune system. Ginger is so flexible and vital to gut health with its antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits. For example, ginger can help relieve nausea, ease a cold, and support cardiovascular health. 

#8: Kombucha

kombucha - healthy gut food

Kombucha is a probiotic food that contains living microorganisms which can help boost the health-promoting microbes in your gut. Your body needs beneficial bacteria to sustain order and stop harmful bacteria to colonize in your gut. 

This fermented tea drink is rich in antioxidants which not only helps fight many diseases but also decreases risks of certain cancers. It is considered a healthy gut food because it can lower liver toxicity in your body, consequently, preventing liver damage.

In kombucha’s fermentation, acetic acid (an abundant compound in vinegar) is one of the primary substances produced. Similar to polyphenols in tea, this compound can kill harmful microorganisms detrimental to your gut health.

#9: Whole Grains

whole grains

There has always been a constant dilemma around grains. White or brown? White or wheat? These are the common questions from people on a diet. Most doctors suggest whole grains as they are better for the gut. Observe at least 25 grams of fiber regularly and you’ll be able to optimize your colon function. 

The difference between whole grains and refined carbohydrates (that you usually get from white bread and pasta) is that the earlier contains fiber. They also come with supplemental nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. When you give your gut bacteria the opportunity to ferment fiber, it leads to short-chain fatty acids. This encourages proper cell lining function in your colon. 

People in the low-carb diet community may not be a fan of this, but totally eliminating grains from your system may have some effects on your gut bacteria. 

#10: Healthy gut food: Asparagus

asparagus

This vegetable has a reputation for being a pricey delicacy, and yet it’s worth all the nutritional value it offers. Many cuisines have become even more enjoyable because of it, and the good news is that it is a perfect example of a healthy gut food that could be good for your digestion.

Asparagus has insulin – this is a kind of prebiotic fiber that is dissolved as Eubacterium and Faecalibacterium in the gut. Studies on mice suggest that this could stimulate beneficial microbes that are often present in lean individuals. 

There are many ways to eat asparagus. You can boil, roast, grill, or steam it. It goes well with different types of dishes. It is commonly served with poached eggs, pasta, or even in a prosciutto. This is a staple vegetable in French, British, and Italian cuisines, but it is for everyone. 

Time for a diet plan with healthy gut food?

Indeed, there’s an increasing number of research highlighting the role the gut plays in a person’s well-being and health. This alone should be a reason enough to start eating healthily. 

Pay attention to your gut and enjoy the correlation it has in making you better and healthier. Bacteria and microbes can be beneficial to your body for as long as you cultivate them properly. You know what they say – you are what you eat, and this is true with your gut, too.

Start incorporating these superfoods in your diet. Gradually, you’ll find that adding each healthy gut food in your meals will train your body with proper nutrition. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet plan but you’re the best person to know what your gut needs. Seek help from licensed dietitians and nutritionists to be guided accordingly.

You can simply alter the state of your microbes, based on what you eat, so be cautious! Eat the right kinds of food for your microbes! Your diet is responsible for feeding trillions of bacteria that reside in your gut. Thus, improving your nutrition will do your gut health a big favor. 

References:
https://www.healthline.com/health/10-gut-foods
https://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy/nutrition/gut-food-15-foods-for-good-gut-health/
https://www.eatingwell.com/article/2059033/best-and-worst-foods-to-eat-for-gut-health/
https://www.eatthis.com/foods-gut-health/
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/food/2021/04/18/17-of-the-best-foods-for-your-gut-health/115690366/
https://www.forbes.com/health/body/best-foods-for-gut-health/

healthy gut

Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Gut

The importance of a healthy gut can never be understated.

A healthy gut is crucial for a significant proportion of your immune system resides in the GI tract. There’s considerable interaction between your immunity and outside bacteria and reflects the state of your digestion. 

More and more experts understand the role gut health plays in keeping your whole being well. Neglecting this aspect may lead to diseases and other complications, so taking care of your digestive system should be one of your priorities in life.

Healthy bacteria and immune cells are vital in warding off infectious bacteria, fungi, and viruses that could be harmful to the body. Who is even exempted from gut problems? At one point, you may have experienced loose stools, abdominal pain, vomiting, and heartburn. Avoid the consequences of a destructive lifestyle and start making a change today! 

So, in this article, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute lists down different ways to achieve a healthy gut.

The secret to a healthy gut

A healthy gut translates to a more beneficial immune system. This is the answer to enhancing your mood and optimizing your digestion. When you achieve this for your body, you are doing yourself a favor by boosting the state of your heart and brain.

Your lifestyle, and eating habits would reflect your gut health. Thus, these are some of the changes you can observe:

1. Consume food with insoluble and soluble fiber

Aiming for at least 25 grams of fiber each day should be friendly to your metabolism. Widen your plant-based nutrient source as this promotes the growth and diversification of your gut bacteria. Don’t be afraid to add foods like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel, and spinach to your diet. 

Soluble and insoluble fiber comes with their own set of advantages. For instance, soluble fiber helps improve digestion and lower blood sugar; on the other hand, insoluble softens stool, which allows you to have a smoother and more regular bowel movement. A combination of these would, in turn, have the best effects on your gut. 

2. Restrict your fat intake

Fatty foods have always been problematic for the body, but this needs reinforcement because people tend to be oblivious. 

Fats slow down the digestive process, which triggers constipation. This macronutrient is essential. But, it would help if you focused on healthy fats more and couple them with foods with high fiber to realize its benefits for the body.

Findings from various studies show that gut bacteria go through unfavorable changes with a high-fat diet. Thus, consuming too much of this macronutrient stimulates inflammation. This imbalance in bacteria also causes a leaky gut. This crack gives toxins, bacteria, and antigens the chance to penetrate the tissues beneath it, and it bears problems. 

For this reason, go for healthy fats in your diet. The best sources are walnuts, avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil. Eggs may also be a fine addition, and fish like tuna, sardines, and salmon. Gradually increase your intake of these to maximize their benefits for your body!

3. Exercise regularly

There is a common notion that only nutrition is good for the gut, but physical activities can be equally important. So, including frequent exercise may keep your digestion happy. How do you get active for your gut?

The first thing you can do is to start moving. Make it as regular as possible. Track your steps if you need to. Take the stairs if you can. There are low-impact cardiovascular workouts that you can embark on. Yoga, stretching, and weightlifting – are suitable for the body. 

A study suggests that implementing a steady fitness regimen improves microbes in the gut for only six weeks. You can optimize this positive effect by combining it with a nutritious diet that balances all the macronutrients your body requires.

Exercising is a big commitment. So, it would be best to be realistic with your goals. Make small, baby steps. Whether you are a pro or new in working out, sustainability is the key. Be consistent and build internal and external fitness for your body to realize a healthy gut.

4. Eat lean meat

A healthy and balanced diet isn’t complete without protein. However, be careful because fatty meat cuts lead to some digestive discomfort. Hence, the answer is to stick to the lean parts, including skinless poultry and pork loin. Control the portion of what you eat and fill more of your plate with fiber-rich foods coupled with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Lean meats are a rich source of zinc, iron, and B12. The body quickly absorbs them, even faster than plant-based foods. But of course, the vitamin C in vegetables and fruits is also essential to the body, so an amount of them on your plate would be necessary.

How much lean meat is good for your body? Eating 1-3 servings per day is the recommended frequency, though the amount may vary depending upon your age. Variation is still the key so you can make the most of these food groups. 

5. Include probiotics and prebiotics in your diet

Probiotics and prebiotics are both beneficial to your body, with each of them playing vital roles to a healthy gut. While prebiotics feeds your gut bacteria, prebiotics, on the other hand, are good bacteria that contain live microorganisms essential to your digestive system.

Unhealthy gut bacteria causes gut inflammation. Those bacteria can consequently compromise your immune system in the long run. Hence, your body needs food and proper hydration to perform well. 

Incorporating probiotics and prebiotics in your diet can help maintain balance in your gut. Also, probiotics such as yogurts and prebiotics such as whole grains can prevent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, for example. Including these in your plate once in a while can help you improve your gut health.

6. Get enough hydration and sleep

Sleep deprivation is enough to mess with your gut health. 

Most animal studies show that lack of sleep may disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines. They indicate that irregular sleep habits have negative outcomes in the gut flora, hence, risking inflammatory conditions. 

When it comes to sleeping, quality is king. It doesn’t only improve mood and cognition, but the health of the gut as well. Establish a pattern that your body will thank you for. Sleep and get up on the same schedule every day. Adults should get at least seven hours or more every night. 

Increasing your water intake is also vital in your digestive health. Remember that your body loses water as you breathe, sweat, and digest. Hence, replace it by getting enough hydration. Start assessing your physical activity, metabolism, and medications, for these would affect the water your body requires. 

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an average healthy adult should take at least: 11 cups of water for women and 15 cups for men.

7. Quit vices

Did you know that significant changes in gut bacteria can happen when you quit smoking? A study in 2019 showed that there’s a substantial decrease in the beneficial bacteria living in a smoker’s gut. So, if you’ve been in this habit for a long time, it may be best to re-think it. 

Other vices can be as bad as taking illegal drugs, for example. That’s going to ruin your entire immune system. Taking unprescribed medication can negatively impact and disrupt the microorganisms in your gut, too. Drinking and alcohol overdose can damage the lining in your gut and, consequently, overwhelm your gastrointestinal tract as studies showed.

You might not notice that staying up late at night and playing video games all day is taking its toll on your body. More often than not, when you’re excessively doing these activities at irregular hours, you tend to eat more. And for convenience’s sake, you will eat only what’s readily available such as processed foods. This needs to change!

8. Manage stress

Reducing stress may also be the answer to elevating your gut health. 

Psychological and environmental stressors may trigger your digestive system to be in overdrive. For this reason, finding stress-reducing activities will help you prevent this. When you know how to manage your stress, you have the power to reduce uncomfortable GI symptoms. And the development of your whole being will follow. 

There are techniques to manage stress. Some go for meditation, while others seek physical activities. Research emphasizes exercise to reduce the stress levels in the body. Hence, you may try this.  

No wonder stressed people often end up with an upset stomach. They are related and so learning how to deal with your anxiety is helpful for your gut. Consistently sticking to the routine that gives you peace is the way to go!

9. Give your gut a rest

Resetting your gut means giving your digestive system a break. You don’t realize how much work it does; it needs time to heal and repair itself. This rest can be done by increasing levels of beneficial bacteria in your large intestines, which helps break down the food you consume. This way, you’re helping your body absorb nutrients better and manage waste more efficiently.

Sometimes, you may need to detox for optimal gut health lightly. Pay attention to both what and how you eat. Choose whole-grain varieties of bread over white, for example. Let fiber quickly assist the transit and delivery of food to your gut. Be mindful of your food choices. Sit down when you eat and take your sweet time chewing your food to digest it well.


Eat probiotics such as Lactobacillius from yogurts. Incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Other times, you may need to go on fasting for a few days or only set several hours when you eat or drink in a day. Or, minimize snacking for a few days and maybe totally stop doing so. Stay hydrated so you can regulate your digestion well.

10. Avoid overly-processed food

Processed foods like frozen pizza, potato chips, and bacon are comfort foods you can quickly get. However, consuming a lot of them is detrimental to your gut health. Ready-to-eat meals and processed meats, for example, tend to be high in trans fats and refined carbohydrates. 

In many cases, ultra-processed foods increase the risks of coronary heart diseases and cardiovascular illnesses. Instead of frozen dinner take-outs filled with too many sugars and sodium, recreate them in your kitchen. Although it takes more planning, grilling chicken and preparing some vegetables to help you eat healthy meals at home.

Eating processed food occasionally is okay. But, don’t let them take bigger portions on your plate daily and in your weekly diet. Limit overly-processed foods so you can focus on more fresh and whole foods as much as you possibly can.

What does your gut tell you?

Often, you don’t “go” with your gut and follow what it tells you. Maybe you need to change your eating and lifestyle habits. Perhaps you need to cut down on high sodium food. “Listen” to what your gut tells you.

Every individual may have unique gut microbiomes, but the same recommendation applies: Moderation is key. Train your body on having a good relationship with food, especially those that give you proper nutrition. Find a good mix of a high fiber diet with fruits and vegetables, for example.

You will better understand and appreciate your gut when you take care of your gut health. In turn, you can enjoy better, quality food plus both length and quality of life. That’s what Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute is all about.

FODMAP foods and their effects on gut health

What is a low FODMAP diet, and how does it affect your gut health?

If you’ve been experiencing digestive issues, don’t be surprised to come across the concept of a low FODMAP diet. It is designed to potentially remove problematic foods that cause intestinal bacterial overgrowth, affecting your overall gut health.

Non-digestible carbohydrates promote health due to their effect on our gut microbiota. However, as in any diet, there may be some side effects resulting in gut imbalance. These changes may also lead to other gut-related diseases and risks for other health issues.

It is essential to understand what FODMAP foods are to know what triggers symptoms in your gut. In this day and age, the FODMAP diet is gaining popularity in functional and lifestyle medicine. Thus, if you have gastrointestinal problems, you should be aware of the impact of removing FODMAP foods from your plate.

Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute is on a mission to help people enjoy better food and quality of life. In this article, we hope to help you decide what food to eat, especially if you are on a restrictive diet.


What is FODMAP?

Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. In short, FODMAP. The small intestines absorb these short-chain carbohydrates inadequately. For some people, you’ll notice you experience digestive distress when you eat food with these specific sugars present.

Some of the common symptoms of digestive distress range from constipation, cramping, and diarrhea. One might think these are pretty common manifestations of other gut-related illnesses. But how do we really know it’s from a FODMAP diet?


High FODMAP foods

FODMAPs are osmotically active. These sugars draw water into your intestine and cause gut distention. When your bloodstream doesn’t absorb FODMAPs, they get stuck with most of the gut bacteria in your colon. There, they produce hydrogen, consequently generating more gas. That’s why there’s a feeling of bloating or constipation when this happens.

FODMAP foods to avoid

  • Lactose
    Milk and dairy products
  • Fructans
    Grains – rye, barley, wheat, etc., artichoke, fructo-oligosaccharides in packaged foods
  • Galactans
    Legumes – green pea, chickpea, soybean, lentils
  • Fructose
    Simple sugars, high fructose corn syrups, licorice, molasses, fruit juices
  • Polyols
    Sugar alcohols – sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, maltitol; sweeteners, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates

Low FODMAP diet for beginners

Not to state the obvious, but food is the culprit to digestive symptoms. It only makes sense to restrict certain kinds of it to deal with gut issues like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome and SIBO, small intestinal bacterial growth.

A series of studies are still necessary to determine the actual cause of IBS. While they suspect stress to be the perpetrator, proper nutrition may significantly affect its symptoms, such as stomach cramps, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.

The low FODMAP diet is highly restrictive. Hence, experts suggest that you consult your doctor before diving into this new eating plan, as you’d have to eliminate many foods in the process. Your body would have to adjust. Furthermore, it is not a long-term regimen. It is only a short discovery process to help your body identify which food stirs your gut problems.

How do you do a low FODMAP diet?

  1. Restrict yourself from eating some kinds of food (high FODMAP).
  2. Slowly reintroduce the food you have restricted yourself from, and observe which one brings trouble to your stomach.
  3. Limit or avoid the food you have identified, and enjoy the rest that doesn’t harm your gut. 

The elimination process may take about two to six weeks. Observing this diet will help you reduce the symptoms of SIBO. It will also decrease the high levels of intestinal bacteria that may be abnormally present in your system. You’ll have to dedicate at least three days to add high FODMAP food. Do this one at a time. It is a way for you to discover what prompts the symptoms. Once you come across a high FODMAP food that triggers your symptoms, the long-term solution is to avoid it for good.

What food should you eat under the low FODMAP diet?

Low FODMAP diet

Your meals should be around these low FODMAP foods:

  • Almond milk
  • Meat and eggs
  • Cheeses (cheddar, feta, Camembert, brie)
  • Grains (oats, rice, quinoa)
  • Vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant)
  • Fruits (oranges, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, pineapples)

These are some of the foods that you can expect from this diet. If you have any food sensitivities, it would be best to talk to your doctor before anything else. This diet is not for everyone. So, get a suitable recommendation before the process.


FODMAP food pyramid

A study shows that patients experiencing IBD can benefit from the FODMAP food pyramid. At the very top of the pyramid, there are red and blank markers. Red is for patients experiencing gut-related illnesses like IBS who need more personalized supplementation. On the other hand, blank is an indicator for banned FODMAP foods.

Every day, people who are on a FODMAP diet should eat the following portions:

  • Three portions of carbohydrates
  • Five portions of tolerated fruits and vegetables
  • 125ml portions of yogurt
  • One portion of extra virgin olive oil

On a weekly basis, however, these are the recommended portions in the FODMAP food pyramid:

  • Four portions of fish
  • Three portions of white meat
  • Three portions of eggs
  • Two portions of pureed legumes
  • Two portions of seasoned cheese
  • One portion of red or processed meats
Source: https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-endocrinologia-diabetes-nutricion-13-articulo-a-food-pyramid-based-on-S2530016420300914

To reiterate the above, this should only be done with guidance from health professionals.


Low FODMAP diet side effects

The Low FODMAP Diet (LFD) is one of the most effective dietary interventions for people with IBS. According to most studies, this investigative process yields at least three out of four efficacy in improving the symptoms of the said condition.

However, this plan also comes with risks. It is crucial to understand its side effects as they could cause nutritional inadequacy and eating disorders if not appropriately observed. Some LFD detractors also believe that this process can dangerously alter the intestinal microbiota and Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) production in your body. Since there is a restriction, some people may experience excessive weight loss and even reduced calcium, iron, and vitamins, which are the side effects experts warn the public about.

These concerns may happen to people who go for the diet without supervision or advice. Thus, consult a healthcare professional such as a dietician, nutritionist, or gastroenterologist before going on this journey. Seek the help of individuals who have proven expertise in nutritional issues.


FODMAPs for Gut Health

Many of the FODMAP foods mentioned above can easily be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet. The low FODMAP diet is specifically for people who need dietary changes due to IBS and other functional gut disorders. Hence, you must seek professional help from doctors when you are experiencing symptoms.

Don’t deprive your body of good gut bacteria. Any diet shouldn’t cause an extreme imbalance that could be detrimental to your long-term gut health. Remember that good hydration and a balanced diet help avoid gut-related diseases and other health issues

To better understand what FODMAP foods you can tolerate or not, it may take some experimentation and elimination of certain foods from the FODMAP food pyramid. We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to be guided by nutritionists or registered dietitians before doing this program.

And, bottom line, there are plenty of FODMAP food options out there. If you feel like you won’t eat tasty food anymore, don’t fret. With guidance from your doctor, you’ll find specific types of food that you can still enjoy. For more healthy recipes and ideas, visit this page on the Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute site.



References:
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fodmap-diet-what-you-need-to-know
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fodmaps-101
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7690730/
https://www.medicinenet.com/low_fodmap_diet_list_of_foods_to_eat_and_avoid/article.htm
https://www.ornish.com/zine/supporting-healthy-gut-benefits-drawbacks-fodmaps/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10151-018-1835-9