Should you stay in a low FODMAP diet forever? a tale of prebiotics and probiotics
Hello fellow warriors! I wanted to write a follow up to my blog post about the Low FODMAP Diet because you may have noticed that I strongly urged those considering the diet to only do so with the guidance of a Registered Dietitian. As I mentioned, this is really important because there is a risk of gut health imbalances when you eliminate FODMAP foods from your diet for a long time.
Remember that FODMAP stands for
A low FODMAP diet is often recommended to help those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and may help those with Fibromyalgia and Sjögren’s Syndrome as well.
Some of the foods you need to stop eating for a period of time on the Low FODMAP Diet are called prebiotics. Prebiotics include dietary fibres that are not digested. Instead, they move through your colon, where they ferment to help feed a selective group of bacteria in your gut, aka probiotics.
Prebiotics and Probiotics. What’s the difference?
PREbiotics are the food for the PRObiotics. Probiotics are bacteria that, when consumed in the proper amount, can confer health benefits. We can't digest prebiotics, but probiotics CAN by promoting health benefits such as:
improving mineral absorption,
modulating the immune system,
increasing satiety or lowering food cravings,
reducing insulin resistance and even
decreasing the risk of food allergies.
Prebiotics are found in certain carbohydrate foods that pass through your gut, where they ferment into short-chain fatty acids that are then used to feed the probiotics.
Probiotics are defined as “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Meaning only selective strains of bacteria that have demonstrated health benefits should be called probiotics. They help protect your body from harmful bacteria; they produce vitamin K and modulate your immune system and inflammation.
Emerging research on gut microbiota shows that prebiotics and probiotics are now bio-management tools to promote health. Many of the foods that you need to eliminate on the Low FODMAP Diet initially are prebiotics. Therefore, having a Registered Dietitian help you navigate through the Low FODMAP Diet stages ensures that you are doing everything possible to protect this important and beneficial balance in your gut.
What to eat?
It can be hard to know whether what you are eating is helping or hindering your gut microbiome. Below are some great sources of pre and probiotics.
Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulbs, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, and savoy cabbage.
Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, and soybeans.
Fruits: custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate, and dried fruit (e.g. dates, figs).
Grains: barley, rye, wheat, and oat products.
Nuts: cashews and pistachios.
As mentioned earlier, probiotics must contain a specific strain of bacteria with known health benefits. Probioticschart.ca provides a practical tool to help health care providers guide you on the most appropriate probiotic for you. You may also fuel your body with these foods with live bacteria that may confer health benefits,
Yogurt with live or active cultures: check the label to see if the product contains LIVE active cultures and ensure that there aren’t many added sugars included.
Kefir: a fermented probiotic drink that is generally tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.
Sauerkraut or Kimchi: both are made with shredded cabbage that is fermented using lactic acid bacteria. They are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and contains some antioxidants.
Tempeh: a fermented soybean product that is high in protein and contains vitamin B12.
Miso: a fermented soybean paste used for flavouring dishes is a protein source, vitamins and minerals.
Pickled vegetables: may contain live active cultures if they have been unpasteurized and contain no vinegar; rather, they use their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria, salt and water.
Kombucha: a fermented tea drink.
There you have it, fellow warriors! Prebiotics are a key component to your gut microbiome's health, which regulates your immune system and the inflammatory response. For this reason, if you think you may benefit from the Low FODMAP Diet, speak with your medical professional first, then work with a Registered Dietitian to keep your gut alive with beneficial bacteria!
Special thanks to Cheryl Anderson, 3rd-year nutrition student at Ryerson University, who assisted with the research and writing for this post.