Elmer Fudd and I are kindred spirits. Just like the stubby little game hunter with the absurdly large head is always on the hunt for a ‘twabbit,” I have this relentless propensity to always be on the hunt for ways to simplify every facet of my life. I habitually scour the internet whether it’s the latest Android app or new shortcut in MS Word, no matter what it is I weigh the practicability then yay or nay it. It is quite the persistent personal quirk which I feel compelled to entertain not because of some noble, earth shattering enlightenment, but mostly because essentially I am one lazy bitch!
I want to get the most out of everything doing the absolute bare minimum. By and large, I apply the same approach to my eating and exercise. I am constantly surveying for a more nutritiously rich vegetable or a new exercise which works multiple muscle groups simultaneously because I want the most bang for my buck.
Part of this near obsessive pursuit is constantly volunteering myself to be a guinea pig in my own food experiments. Sometimes I come across a huge win. Like the discovery of big leafy rainbow chard leaves are great to make a bastardized burrito instead of using the standard flour tortilla. While others I suffer the consequences of my own ignorant assumptions which is usually in the form of weight gain. Like the time I thought I could eat all the whole wheat English muffin with PB&J that my little heart desired because ‘hey – it’s whole wheat, it was healthy, complex carbs are good for me, etc.’ Somehow my brain interpreted all the perceived goodness to free reign – what a silly brain!
I was particularly motivated to constantly tweak my food repertoire because although I was eating tons of vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, onions, cherry tomatoes, carrots), with lean proteins, and complex carbs, I never felt quite ‘right,’ something always seemed to be amiss, and I was plagued with severe constipation and bloatedness. It was really frustrating and defeating because my diet did not reflect how I was feeling. A few years ago, one of my best friends was diagnosed with having Celiac. [Side Note: Celiac is not a food allergy, rather it is an autoimmune disorder where essentially the body attacks itself every time a person consumes gluten.] Her comprehensive revamp of her diet to accommodate her medical needs sparked the idea that perhaps I had some sensitivity to gluten. With the current massive food trend of gluten free everything, it seemed like a logical place to start. SO, I conducted a little experiment and started to eat gluten free pizzas but with all the same toppings. After a few times the difference was miniscule at best. I was at a loss. I consumed very little dairy so I knew it wasn’t lactose intolerance. I tried to reduce my total carb consumption but that only led to extreme fatigue. I tried to change my lean protein from chicken to pork but it made no difference. I was thoroughly stumped. The frequent stomach irritation and always feeling like I had just single handedly feasted an entire 8 course Thanksgiving dinner haunted me and was about to derail my efforts when as a last resort I knocked on the door of my best research assistant, Mrs. Google to further investigate another possible cause.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS)
FODMAP diet to help with IBS symptoms
My eyes immediately was drawn to “FODMAP” because my initial thought was, ‘what an ridiculous acronym.’ But upon further research, the symptoms the website was describing were almost exactly what I was experiencing. It was as if Dr. Google took my symptoms and magically computated an answer (queue the signing angels please). FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols.” FODMAP are short-chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass into the large intestine, where gut bacteria rapidly ferment them causing a retention of fluid that can manifest in the forms of bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea in some while causing constipation in others. Approximately 10% of the population has FODMAP sensitivity or intolerance. WOW – only if I was this lucky in the lottery!
The prominent challenge of FODMAP foods is that it is not relegated to any one specific standard food group. ie. fruits, dairy, etc. FODMAP comprises many foods across all food groups based on its natural biochemical markers. ie. Frutans, Galacto-oligosaccharides, etc. (Galatac what? lol) Even within the same FODMAP food group, some people may be able to tolerate a certain limited quantity of something while others are unable to tolerate any. It is this level of individualized symptoms which can only truly be remedied through many, many, many trials & errors to identify and replace irritants in one’s diet. Perhaps the biggest shocker for me was how many ‘healthy’ foods fell under the reign of high FODMAP food group. I was simply stunned & bewildered that ⅔ of my vegetable intake was on one high FODMAP food list or the other!
I incrementally began to swap out high FODMAP foods with low FODMAP options. And miraculously I increasingly felt relief from my symptoms. Less bloated, no stomach pains, and regularity without the use of harsh laxatives every other day. This is what I had expected from committing to a healthy lifestyle and finally I am beginning to be able to bask in the rewards of my effort.
Remember that pizza experiment? I tried it again but this time on a regular crust replaced the cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions with spinach, pineapple, and black olives. And VALAH like Tony the Tiger, I felt GRRRREAT! The one personal pizza didn’t make me feel like that I had just devoured four. I wasn’t so bloated that I had to consign myself to elastic waistbands for the following 2-3 days until I was able to fit back into my jeans without feeling like being squeezed like a sausage. I simply felt AH-MAZING!
This is probably the primary reason why I continue to faithfully & mindlessly log every morsel of food which passes my lips – no matter how small the quantity. For me, it’s beyond just a calorie tracker. For me, it is a living record of my diet which is an invaluable tool for anyone with any sort of food sensitivity or allergies. There is years of data at the fingertips and whenever my body tells me that something is a bit wonky, I have a ready resource with me at all times. So yea, I will more than likely be that person … the life food logger.
Below is a very small sample of everyday items in FODMAP food categories which may surprise you:
FERMENTABLE OLIGOSACCHARIDES (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides)
HIGH FODMAP FOODS
- Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cherry tomato, garlic, onion, pea
- Cereals: rye & wheat cereals when eaten in large amounts (e.g. couscous, pasta)
- Legumes: bean, chickpea, lentil
- Fruits: custard apple, persimmon, rambutan, watermelon, white peach
LOW FODMAP FOODS
- Vegetables: bok choy, carrot, celery, chives, corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, green pepper, leafy greens, lettuce, parsnips, spring onion (green part only)
- Onion/garlic substitutes: garlic-infused oil
- Cereals: gluten-free and spelt bread/cereal products
- Fruit: tomato
DISACCHARIEDES (eg. Lactose)
HIGH FODMAP FOODS
- Milk: regular and low-fat cow, goat, and sheep milk; ice cream
- Yogurts: regular and low-fat yogurts
- Cheeses: soft and fresh cheeses
LOW FODMAP FOODS
- Milk: lactose-free milk, rice milk
- Ice cream substitutes: gelato, sorbet
- Yogurts: lactose-free yogurts Cheeses: hard cheeses
MONOSACCHARIDES (eg. excess Fructose)
HIGH FODMAP FOODS
- Fruits: apple, peach, mango, pear, sugar snap pea, tinned fruit in natural juice, watermelon
- Honey sweeteners: fructose, high-fructose corn syrup
- Large total fructose dose: concentrated fruit sources, large servings of fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice
LOW FODMAP FOODS
- Fruits: banana, blueberry, cantaloupe, grape, grapefruit, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry Honey substitutes: golden syrup, maple syrup
- Sweeteners: any sweeteners except polyols
POLYOLS (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)
HIGH FODMAP FOODS
- Fruits: apple, apricot, avocado, cherry, lychee, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, prune, watermelon
- Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas
- Sweeteners: isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and other sweeteners ending in “-ol”
LOW FODMAP FOODS
- Fruits: bananas, blueberry, cantaloupe, grape, grapefruit, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemon, lime, orange, passion fruit, raspberry
- Sweeteners: glucose, sugar (sucrose), other artificial sweeteners not ending in “-ol”
FODMAP Food Lists:
**PLEASE NOTE: Due to a variation of everyone’s tolerance of high FODMAP foods, there maybe some discrepancies between FODMAP food lists. So please use the list as a general guide not gospel.**
- Food equals bloating
- Healthy food seems to aggravate the problem
- You are lactose intolerant but…
- You can’t identify the culprit(s)
- Doctors don’t help
- You have a love/hate relationship with the toilet
- You feel better after going to the toilet
- Your digestive system rules your life
There is emerging evidence for the role of food intolerance in the management of IBS symptoms. This does not present a cure, rather suggested dietary modifications to improve symptoms and quality of life. The greatest body of evidence is for the low-FODMAP diet, which improves symptoms in at least 74% of patients with IBS. There is potential for a low food chemical diet to improve IBS symptoms by impacting on the level of hypersensitivity to luminal distension, but further work is needed.
TIP OF THE WEEK
This week’s tip is based on a general observation at the gym. Day in & day out it’s easy to dial it in – I know I have. But there are certain things we can do to ensure a more robust effort even when we would rather be home in our jammies. As a huge advocate of compound exercises to get the most bang out of my workout buck, I try to target multiple muscle groups or body systems with one movement or exercise. When I am on the elliptical I always use some sort of program and incrementally vamp up the resistance. Higher resistance serves two purposes:
- Higher resistance naturally makes me exert more effort with every step rather I really want to or not
- In general, resistance training is a great way to build lean muscles.
Therefore in 30 minutes time, I not only get in a nice dose of cardio, I also am building muscles via resistance training. BOOM – two birds with one stone so-to speak (no actual bird was harm in that paraphrase). So go on, leave the book or magazine at home, crank up the tunes & the resistance, and get more out of your exercise!