Breaking Down the Four Pillars of Health: Food First!
To follow up on my last post, I’m going to break down each of the four pillars of health that I discussed (medication management, food, gut health, mindfulness & stress management). Maybe it’s because I’m a dietitian, or maybe it’s because I love talking about food in general, but the first pillar I’m going to break down is food.
As I mentioned in my previous article, people with IBS may have a difficult time digesting certain carbohydrates (FODMAPs) in their diet, or even perceive normal digestion differently. The bacteria in their gut may be fermenting these carbohydrates, which can cause bloating, gassiness and a host of other gut-related symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, pain- you name it!). While fermentation is part of normal digestion, those with IBS tend to have visceral hypersensitivity (feel this normal digestive process more), or their gut may alter digestion based on how they are feeling – often exacerbating symptoms.
People suffering from IBS have a threshold for digesting FODMAP-containing foods – you can think of it like a bucket: some buckets are larger, and others are smaller. Someone with a big bucket can eat lots of FODMAP’s and feel perfectly fine afterwards. IBS’ers have a small bucket (some smaller than others) and can only eat so many FODMAP foods before their bucket overflows, causing IBS symptoms.
Low FODMAP diet
Following a low FODMAP diet for 4-8 weeks (while also focusing on the other three pillars of health) can help IBS sufferers get their gut health back to a good place. Monash University has developed an app to keep people up to date on the current research on high and low FODMAP foods. They have developed a “traffic light system”, where each food (at the serving size specified) is assigned a different color to represent the FODMAP content it contains: green means low dose, orange means moderate dose and red means high dose. When you start the low FODMAP diet, start by avoiding the red foods, limit the orange and eat mainly the green foods at the serving sizes specified.
Once the 4-8 week elimination is complete, individuals can systematically test and reintroduce the different FODMAP food categories. This should be done under the supervision of a medical doctor or a dietitian to ensure the process is done properly and thoroughly.
Next up: we’ll talk about medication management and how that plays a role in IBS. In the meantime, if you have any questions post in the comments below!
To read more of the Four Pillars of Gut Health series, click here:
Do you feel an increase in body heat after a flare-up?