Browse Month by September 2015
Health

Debunking the FODMAP diet

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

I’ve talked about FODMAPS before, here on A Free From Life. What makes them so interesting to me is their link to IBS and other digestive disorders. As an IBS sufferer, who could never seem to work out which foods were causing the symptoms, it makes sense to finally have something to which I can lay the blame.

Having said that, the term FODMAPS, which stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, is enough to make anyone run a mile screaming. When you’re told that foods containing FODMAPS include wheat, beans, pulses, some vegetables, dairy products and fruit, it immediately sounds warning bells. A diet without these things is surely impossible to maintain isn’t it?

There’s another thing too. You have to experiment with FODMAP foods as you may find that some affect you more than others, depending on how high the levels of active ingredients. Yes it’s confusing and it’s not a diet you can embark on without professional help, but because of the evidence backing up FODMAPS as a potential cause of IBS, is it not worth considering?

In response to the confusion surrounding a low FODMAP diet, Australian dietitian, Dr Sue Shepherd, has been working with a team to create a FODMAP certification programme. Dr Shepherd, who developed the low FODMAP diet back in 1999, has also recently launched her own low FODMAP food range. The certification programme, known as FODMAP Friendly, is an Australian Government-approved accreditation system. It includes a logo designed to help consumers pick out foods that are suitable for them to eat on this diet and in order for products to display this logo, they must first go through vigorous laboratory testing. FODMAP Friendly foods are set to be a new addition to the free from aisle and should help those following a low FODMAP diet to choose foods with confidence.

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

The team at FODMAP Friendly kindly sent me the app that accompanies their website. This app gives lots of useful information about the programme and how the foods are tested. It also breaks down what FODMAPS are and provides advice for following the diet. As they don’t recommend anyone to follow this diet without first seeking professional help, the app contains information on where to find a dietary specialist in a number of different countries. I’m sure that this list will be added to over time.

The app also has a list of certified products, with links to the relevant websites. At the moment, most of these products are Australian and not available in the UK, however, I was informed that the FODMAP Friendly website will be selling these products worldwide in the very near future.

Individual foods are listed with a simple breakdown of the total fructans, excess fructose, sorbitol, lactose, mannitol and GOS levels. Don’t worry if that means nothing to you because a simple ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ stamp tells you whether it is suitable. This is great information to have at your fingertips, but what I would like to see are recipes that you can make at home using suitable ingredients. It can be very off-putting to see a great big long list of foods with a ‘Fail’ stamp across them. I’m sure many people would appreciate some tips on how to cook in a FODMAP friendly way, myself included.

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

I think this is a really positive step towards debunking FODMAPS and helping individuals to conquer their IBS and digestive disorders. There are so many people who believe they have a gluten intolerance, yet they still seem to suffer symptoms and cannot understand why. I think they need to appreciate that this complex condition is down to more than one food group and also that controlling the symptoms is possible. If this accreditation system works and it spreads to the UK, it will be a breakthrough for IBS. Awareness of this condition is still poor and there are doctors who continue to mis-diagnose and send patients away having told them to take an antacid medication. Just because IBS is a complex condition doesn’t mean that it should be ignored or swept under the carpet. I believe it is important to look at the cause and not just treat the symptoms and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more people will become aware of FODMAPS through this accreditation scheme.

Baking

Chocolate Cake with Beetroot and Sweet Potato

Chocolate cake with beetroot and sweet potato - A Free From Life

We grow beetroot every year and thanks to my two younger children and their generosity when sowing the seeds, we have a lot of it. That’s not so bad because I make batches of nomato sauce to freeze and I love roasted beetroot, but I needed another way of using it, one that the kids would eat too.

I’ve made chocolate beetroot cake before, but I hadn’t made it gluten free. It was also quite dry and earthy and got the thumbs down from my taste testers. This recipe, on the other hand, was well received and so I can add it to my collection of cake recipes that include vegetables (I also have a chocolate courgette cake recipe and a courgette and carrot loaf).

Chocolate cake with beetroot and sweet potato - A Free From Life

Using ground almonds instead of flour means that this recipe is not only gluten free, it’s grain free too. The fat from the almonds keeps the cake moist and with the addition of the sweet potato and beetroot, it’s dense and more like a pudding than a light sponge. Using the sweet potato keeps the sugar levels down too.

Chocolate cake with beetroot and sweet potato - A Free From Life
Chocolate Cake with Beetroot and Sweet Potato
Print Recipe
A dense, moist chocolate cake, with a deep, rich, red interior.
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Chocolate cake with beetroot and sweet potato - A Free From Life
Chocolate Cake with Beetroot and Sweet Potato
Print Recipe
A dense, moist chocolate cake, with a deep, rich, red interior.
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Mix the cacao with the boiling water to form a paste
  2. Add the vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture, then add the grated beetroot and stir together
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the almonds, bicarbonate of soda and salt
  4. In a third bowl, whisk together the sugar, sweet potatoes, olive oil and eggs
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and sugar mix and continue to whisk
  6. Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix to make sure all is fully incorporated
  7. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform tin and bake at gas 3/170° for 50 minutes to 1 hour. When a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.
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Health

FODMAPS and IBS – Is it possible to control the symptoms?

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

I recently wrote about a bad experience I had with my IBS and my struggle to control the symptoms, even after twenty years of suffering with it.

The term irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, came about as the result of a group of doctors and researchers sitting in a room together and deciding what to call this collective set of symptoms that linked to the digestive system. They understood that it was a genuine medical concern, but because no one could identify one particular cause (still can’t), they had to group them together.

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

The term, IBS, for me, became synonymous for ‘hypochondriac with stomach ache’ and because of that stigma, I never went to see my doctor about it. Believing that they couldn’t do anything about it anyway, I doubt that I ever will go. I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s down to me to work out what causes my symptoms and try to manage it that way. That’s easier said than done, though. My recent attack (the one I wrote about), came as a complete surprise because I hadn’t suffered that badly in ages. I thought I had it under control, but apparently not.

Looking back, I can see that stress played a big part in that day and also not eating properly. For me, those two things are really important and as we know digestion is directly affected by stress, it’s no surprise that IBS sufferers can find their symptoms worsening when their stress levels increase. I have also identified, in recent years, some foods that I am intolerant to (the nightshade group) and cutting these out of my diet has really helped.

I wonder whether I will ever truly know the causes, though. Is it gluten? Is it dairy? and what about FODMAPS? Haven’t heard of these yet?  High FODMAP foods are thought to be directly linked to IBS or digestive symptoms and I first heard about them when my husband had surgery on his stomach. His consultant recommended he follow a low FODMAP diet and it’s interesting that we have identified a number of foods that irritate his stomach belonging to this food group.

It’s not an easy diet to follow, though and it can be very confusing to know what foods to eat and what to avoid. This is why I am pleased to have the opportunity to road test a new app called FODMAP Friendly, specifically aimed at those who would like to follow a low FODMAP diet.

I think apps for people with food intolerances and allergies have real value. Not only do they provide vital information, you can find that information quickly and easily and wherever you are in the world. Click here to read more about some of the apps that are available to try. They include information for gluten free shopping and dining, ways to manage and record your symptoms and even an app for translating your allergy to help you communicate your symptoms when abroad.

The app I will be testing is brand new and I’m looking forward to reporting how I get on. You can learn more about FODMAPs here.

How do you manage your IBS Symptoms?