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IBS & The Gut Brain Axis

Worldwide, its estimated that about 10-15% of people have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This means that if you know 7 people, it’s likely that one of them has IBS and is also living with unpredictable, painful and embarrassing gut symptoms. While IBS is most definitely not all in your head, the gut brain axis and visceral hypersensitivity (we will explain what this is in a minute) both play a central role in the physiology of IBS symptoms and their severity. Let’s take a look at what this all means.

 

What is IBS?

IBS is a functional condition. This means that the gut is essentially healthy, but appears to not function as it should resulting in symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain and altered bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea or alternating between the two). These symptoms can be caused by other conditions though, so IBS is only diagnosed once medical causes (e.g. coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel diseases) are excluded.

 

What is the gut brain axis?

If you’ve ever experienced butterflies in your stomach, then you’ve experienced the gut-brain axis in action. The vagus nerve is a two way super highway that connects the head brain and the gut brain. It carries messages from the brain to the gut and intestines to control digestion. At the same time, it also carries messages from the gut to the brain reporting back on information collected by the nerves in and around the gut.

It’s thought that in IBS, the gut “over communicates” with the head and that some of the messages from the gut nerves get scrambled, resulting in the brain thinking that normal digestive processes as if they are dangerous, which can trigger unpleasant gut symptoms.

 

What is visceral hypersensitivity?

The viscera refers to internal organs in the abdomen like your stomach and intestine. Being hypersensitive in this area means that you have high sensitivity and experience more sensation or pain than someone with low visceral sensitivity.  To understand this and its relationship to IBS, it helps to look at how pain messages are sent and how they are processed in the body.

You might be surprised to know that all pain originates in the brain, regardless of where it is felt. Your five senses (touch, smell, sight etc) are constantly collecting information from about what is going on in your outside world. This information is collected and sent to the brain for interpretation. The brain considers the information and weighs it up against past experience,  current situation and future expectation to determine if it should be concerned about anything. If the brain determines that something is dangerous (e.g. heat from a stove element), it will send pain messages to get your attention and get you to change the situation. This makes pain a complex protective mechanism designed to keep you safe.

Just like your senses collect information from the outside world, the nerves in and around your gut collect information about your inside world and relay that to the brain via the vagus nerve, or gut brain axis.

If you combine hypersensitive nerves that over respond to normal digestive processes and an over active gut brain axis, then you can imagine that the brain is getting over run with all sorts of information about digestion. This can make the brain more concerned about digestion than necessary.

When you add stress on top of this overactive response it can add another layer of complexity. If you are stressed then you activate fight or flight mode, putting all of the nerves in your body (including those in the gut) on higher alert and the brain will be more responsive. This can increase visceral hypersensitivity and the messages flowing through the brain-gut axis which means stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms.

 

What about FODMAPs?

So where do FODMAPs fit when it comes to the brain-gut access? FODMAPs are small sugar or carbohydrate molecules that naturally occur in a range of foods. When we eat foods that contain FODMAPs, they pass through the stomach like normal, but when they get to the small intestine they are not absorbed. This means they continue their path along the digestive tract to the colon or large intestine. On arrival in the colon, FODMAPs are then involved in two processes:

  1. They attract water into the intestines causing loose or watery stools
  2. They are fermented by the healthy bacteria that live there creating gas

In many cases this is a normal process, and oligosaccharides (fructans & GOS) in particular are not absorbed by anyone. Everyone who eats onion and garlic, for example, will create gas in their intestines, however it depends on the sensitivity of the nerves in your gut and your gut brain axis as to if this will cause pain for you or not. This means that although two people can eat the same meal and digest it in the same way, one can be in a world of pain while the other is chuckling about how much farting they are doing today.

 

What does all this mean for your IBS?

The really cool thing about the nervous system is that it’s not hardwired like the electrics in a house. We have this thing called neuroplasticity, which means that the nerves in the gut and the gut brain axis can learn new tricks. Research shows that gut directed hypnotherapy, mediation, yoga, cognitive behavioural therapy and managing stress can all help to calm the nerves and the gut brain axis. If you’re already on a Low FODMAP diet that’s great! If you are still getting symptoms or are having trouble expanding your diet, you might like to think about adding some behavioural strategies to your IBS toolbox.

 

Final thoughts

In a nutshell, IBS doesn’t have one cause. Instead, there are a range of factors that are involved in IBS symptoms. As a dietitian who specialise in IBS, I see a lot of people managing it in a lot of different ways. The one constant though, is that those who use a range of strategies are the ones who get best results.

What CAN you eat on a Low FODMAP Diet

What CAN you eat on a Low FODMAP Diet

So, you’ve just started a Low FODMAP diet and you’re completely overwhelmed with random lists of what not to eat that don’t seem to have any logic. Argh! It may feel like life as you know it is over, but sit down, make a cup of tea with lactose free milk (yes, that is Low FODMAP) and read on about what you CAN eat on a Low FODMAP diet.

Always thinking about what you’re missing out on can get really miserable, so we don’t want to keep referencing things to ‘avoid’ and ‘cut out’ of your diet, instead let’s put a more positive spin and talk about great ways to nourish your body and your soul.

1. It’s a ‘Low’ FODMAP diet, not a ‘no’ FODMAP diet

FODMAP is all about serve size. Lots of foods actually have a Low FODMAP serving size, so use the Monash FODMAP app to check this out. For example, 1 slice of wheat bread is Low FODMAP, but two slices is high. This means you can still eat some of your favourite foods in smaller serve sizes.

2. Get some exciting ways to add flavour without onion or garlic

Flavour, flavour, flavour! This is so important to enjoyment and satisfaction. It’s good to know that herbs and spices are almost all Low FODMAP.

The things you CAN add to your cooking whilst staying Low FODMAP include:

  • Fresh and dried herbs & spices
  • Green part of leek or spring onion
  • Onion & garlic infused oils
  • 1-2Tbsp of soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, mustard, peanut butter, almond butter or tahini
  • Small serves avocado e.g. 1-2 Tbsp

3. You still need some sweet treats and desserts.

Food isn’t just about nutrition, it’s about enjoyment, pleasure, connecting with friends and family, celebrations, comfort and more. Your relationship with food is just as important to your mental health as nutrition is to your physical health. More importantly, you shouldn’t have to suffer for enjoying a sweet treat. Chocolate and lactose free ice cream both have Low FODMAP serves. Or better yet, get some Lo-Fo Pantry Plain Flour and head over to the recipe section here and start baking up some delicious cakes, biscuits and slices!

4. You can still eat gluten!

It’s one of the most misunderstood myths that Low FODMAP is gluten free. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, rye and oats while FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates in wheat (and other foods). This means that people can reintroduce gluten on a Low FODMAP diet, with no increase in symptoms. You can read more about that here at Everyday Nutrition. The Lo-Fo Pantry baking range and small serves of wheat pasta or sourdough bread are Low FODMAP while still including gluten.

5. Look after your nutrition

Coming from a balanced diet point of view, think structure across the 5 food groups. What are you currently eating that is high FODMAP? What foods from the same food groups can you replace these with. There are some great swaps to make rather than cutting something out. For example, cashews are high FODMAP but rather than thinking of having to cut them out, we can just swap them to walnuts which are Low FODMAP. This approach will make the Low FODMAP diet much more enjoyable and easier to stick to.

Let’s look at each food group and see what we CAN eat on the Low FODMAP diet:

  • Fruit: bananas (firm), berries, cantaloupe, citrus, grapes, kiwifruit and pineapple.
  • Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, capsicum, potato, eggplant, lettuce, spinach and tomato.
  • Protein: Foods that do not contain carbohydrates are naturally Low FODMAP just watch out for flavours or marinades
    • Plain meat, chicken, fish & eggs
    • Ham, salami, bacon, tinned fish, sushi (check flavours/spices)
    • Firm tofu (check flavours/spices)
    • Canned, drained and rinsed lentils/chick peas/butter beans. FODMAPs are water soluble, so they leach into the water in the can. Just drain rinse and check the Monash University FODMAP diet app for serves sizes.
    • Nuts (1-2 handfuls), peanut butter
  • Dairy
    • ‘Lactose free’ milk, yoghurt and ice cream
    • Regular butter and hard cheese do not contain carbohydrates, so a naturally Low FODMAP
    • Soy milk and ice cream (if made with soy protein)
    • Rice & almond milk (choose calcium fortified brand)
  • Breads and cereals
    • Sourdough bread, FODMAP certified bread, gluten free bread
    • Rice, rice noodles, rice and corn based pasta, quinoa, polenta, buckwheat
    • Corn flakes, rice bubbles, oats, gluten free weet-bix
    • Lo-Fo Pantry Plain Flour

The gastrointestinal symptoms that are associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are usually associated with food which often leads people to restrict things from their diet it a hope to find relief. Often so many foods are restricted that people feel they aren’t left with much and put themselves at risk of nutritional deficiencies. This is where dietitians come in! Seeing a dietitian that is trained in food intolerances is a great first step to take before cutting out food from your diet. Doing a Low FODMAP diet with a dietitian, will help decrease your stress and ensure you achieve balance which will help lead to better results.

Finally, keep in mind that the Low FODMAP diet is not intended to last forever. It’s a three-step process that is designed to help you identify what foods are involved in your symptoms and what foods aren’t. So not forget to keep moving through the phases rather than staying on the elimination step for too long.

FODMAP proofing your pantry

FODMAP proofing your pantry

Getting started on the Low FODMAP diet can be daunting. Setting yourself up properly and preparing yourself for this diet makes it less stressful and easier to manage. It also helps to be organised on days when you find you are really hungry and don’t know what to eat.

6 Tips to FODMAP Proof your pantry:

Tip 1: Get prepared

Give yourself a few days to a week to prepare properly. There is no rush to start. Download the Monash University FODMAP diet app and read all of the information provided to you by your Dietitian and take the time to organise your Low FODMAP journey.

Tip 2: Make space

Next, create a space in the fridge and the pantry for you to place Low FODMAP foods. This will make it easier for you to reach for a sweet treat when you want it that is also Low FODMAP. Afterall, everyone needs a treat and there’s no reason to suffer for it too. If you are lured by any foods that are high FODMAP, either put them in a space you can’t see them or reduce the occurrence of them being present inside the home. It’s perfectly ok for the whole family to use Low FODMAP tomato sauce or other communal foods.

*Helpful tip: re-use your Lo-Fo pantry easy-seal containers to store all your favourite Low FODMAP staples and snacks. This is a great way to keep open products fresh, and easily identify which foods in the pantry you have already cleared to be Low FODMAP.

Tip 3: Plan some meals and snacks

Start by writing a list of meals and snacks you enjoy and highlight the ones that are high FODMAP by using the Monash University FODMAP diet app and the information from your dietitian. Then look at Low FODMAP comparisons to replace these with. This is also where a Facebook group like Low FODMAP Australia can assist you with products and ideas or you can speak to your Dietitian about easy swaps that you can make during the transition.

Tip 4: Learn to modify your favourite meals

Try not over complicate meals. Many people commencing a restrictive diet often think straight away about preparing meals separate to their family. It can feel socially isolating to eat separate meals to the family every night and is usually unnecessary. Look at your favourite recipes, highlight the high FODMAP ingredients and swap them for Low FODMAP alternatives e.g. swap garlic for garlic infused oil or flour for Lo-Fo Pantry Low FODMAP flour. At your dietitian appointment, bring up your families favourite meals so your Dietitian can help you modify these recipes. If the rest of the family are eating like usual during the day, making the main part of dinner Low FODMAP (with higher FODMAP sides if necessary) is usually fine for everyone and can save you from cooking multiple meals. Who knows, they may get some new favourites!

Tip 5: Meal prep

Let’s face it, we might not have the time to prepare a new meal each night of the week. Meal prep is always a genius time saver. Put a few hours aside on the weekend and make 1-3 meals. Freeze them and have them ready to reheat during the week when you are either lacking the energy or the time to prepare a meal from scratch. If you don’t have time to put aside on the weekends, you can purchase pre-prepared meals that do Low FODMAP options. These meals are becoming increasingly popular across a range of food companies. Having a Low FODMAP section in your freezer makes it easier to reach for a quick meal.

Tip 6: Eat out occasionally

Most people may turn to convenience foods as a means of being time poor or lacking energy after a big working day. Have a list of places, you can either order takeout from (or to dine in) so that when the family want to head out for dinner, you are prepared. Choosing meals outside of the home that are Low FODMAP can be difficult as there are a lot of factors to consider. To put it simply, choose meals that you can separate i.e. A piece of meat / fish /tofu served with chips and salad. Sauces are usually served to the side which allows you to avoid them. Whereas marinated foods and meals that are sauce based makes it hard to know exactly what’s inside. Onion and garlic are usually hidden in a lot of meals, so it is best to order meals where you can see exactly what is on them. It’s also good to know that FODMAPs may cause symptoms, but they don’t cause damage, meaning that it’s not a game of perfect. If you do accidently eat something high FODMAP, just take some time for self-care and then pick up where you left off. It won’t undo all of your hard work.

Hot tip

Our Lo-Fo Pantry containers are reusable! Give them a clean and use them as food storage in your pantry for optimum organisation whilst ensuring your FODMAP friendly foods stay fresher for longer.

Final Thoughts

All in all, being well prepared and having things in place will make the Low FODMAP process easier to navigate and less stressful. Setting aside time to meal prep and allocating pantry and fridge space will make all the difference.

Cheese & FODMAPs

Cheese & FODMAPs

Myth: Cheese is not allowed on a Low FODMAP diet

Fact: Most cheese is naturally lactose free and Low FODMAP

The most common misconception on the Low FODMAP diet is confusing lactose free and dairy free. The Low FODMAP diet is lactose free, not dairy free, so there is no reason to avoid dairy completely and choosing lactose free options is becoming easier with the growing variety of lactose free products available. In addition to being delicious, dairy plays a very important role in a balanced diet and will assist in building and maintaining strong bones.

What is lactose?

Before we get into cheese, let’s start with a little background on lactose. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk and milk products. This includes cow’s milk, goats’ milk, sheep milk, camel milk, and any other animal-based milk. Lactose is a disaccharide and the “D” in the FODMAP acronym. Being a disaccharide, (“di” meaning two) it is a double sugar molecule made of glucose and galactose. When these two sugars are combined, they are known as lactose.

What is lactose intolerance?

During digestion, an enzyme is released in the small intestine which separates the glucose and galactose into individual sugars. Once these are separated, they are easily digested and are not a FODMAP. If a person has low levels of the lactase enzyme, they are unable to separate the lactose sugars and they cannot digest them. In this case, the lactose remains intact and continues its path along the digestive tract to the colon where it is fermented and attracts water causing all of those all too familiar symptoms of gas, bloating and diarrhoea.

Dairy vs lactose free dairy

During manufacturing, it is possible to add the lactase enzyme to foods like milk, yoghurt, ice cream and custard. This enzyme does the job of breaking down the lactose in the body and makes the product lactose free. If you check the label on these products, you will see “enzyme lactase” listed. Alternatively, you can purchase lactase enzyme tablets at the chemist and take these with your lactose containing food.

Cheese & Lactose

Lactose is essentially the ‘sugar’ in milk and milk products. The higher the sugar content, the higher the lactose, and therefore FODMAP content. When it comes to cheese, it’s good to know that the Monash cut off is 1 gram of lactose per meal or snack. With this knowledge, if you check the sugar content in the nutrition information panel (NIP) on cheese, this will tell you exactly how much lactose it contains (please note, this only applies to dairy or cheese that do not have added flavours or sweeteners). Generally, if you can stir the cheese with a spoon, it has a higher sugar and lactose content while firmer cheese that you can slice or grate i.e. In a block, the lower the sugar and lactose content.

Low FODMAP cheese

Aged and firm cheese usually contains the least amount of lactose/sugar. This is due to the lactose content being removed with the whey in the manufacturing process. If you check the NIP on these cheeses, you will see that they are approx. <0.1 grams of sugar per 100 grams. This means to meet the FODMAP cut off of one gram, you would have to eat a VERY large serve.

Aged and firm cheeses that are Low FODMAP include:

  • Cheddar
  • Tasty
  • Swiss
  • Mozzarella
  • Havarti
  • Feta
  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Blue
  • Parmesan
  • Pecorino
  • Firm goat cheese
  • Monterey Jack and more

Moderate FODMAP cheese
Soft cheeses are often processed by melting natural cheese & adding dairy products such as milk. Because of this process, soft cheeses are known to be higher in sugar, and therefore, lactose due to the process. On the NIP, you will see they contain higher levels of sugar and, therefore lactose. On a Low FODMAP diet, the serve sizes are limited to approx. 40g. Check the Monash University FODMAP diet app for more information on serve sizes. Serve sizes are listed ‘per meal/snack’, meaning that you can consume a green light serve every 3-4 hours.

Cheeses that contain moderate levels of FODMAPs include:

  • Cream cheese
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Haloumi cheese.
  • Soft goat cheese

Cheese & marketing

It is useful to have an understanding of the FODMAP content of cheese in relation to marketing strategies. There are a lot of products on the market that are advertised as ‘lactose free’ and sold at a higher price, but in fact don’t usually contain much lactose to begin with. Kind of like popping a “vegetarian” label on an apple and charging more for it. Examples include tasty cheese & mozzarella cheese. Be a savvy shopper and check the NIP for sugar content or check ingredients of lactose free varieties for the addition of a lactase enzyme. If the regular variety of the cheese is low in sugar and does not list lactase enzyme, it may not be necessary to purchase the higher priced option with lactose free written on the label. Cheeses that are worth buying the lactose free options are cream, cottage cheese or ricotta as they tend to be naturally higher in FODMAPs.

Enjoying cheese as part of the Low FODMAP diet

A common theme from the Low FODMAP diet is the feeling of hunger and not feeling satisfied throughout the day. This can be due to a rapid shift in serve sizes from what people are used to. What users are not doing though, is replacing these serve size limits with filling Low FODMAP protein rich sources. Cheese is a great source of protein that can add bulk to meals and keep people satisfied across the day. Try adding cheese to your sandwich, salad, pizza or on some crackers for a snack.

If you are entertaining, cheese boards are an easy way to cater with multiple options being served. Deli meats such as sliced ham off the bone is Low FODMAP and salami can be found without onion or garlic. Rice crackers are a good alternative to wheat-based crackers. Up to ½ cup green or black pitted olives are also permitted on Low FODMAP. Cheddar, brie, camembert, and Havarti cheese are great additions to a serving board. Walnuts & almonds are a great healthy fat to add to the board, along with grapes (6 is Low FODMAP), blueberries (¼ cup) & strawberries (5 medium).

Final thoughts

Choosing cheese that is Low FODMAP can be confusing as there are so many varieties out there. Lactose is the most important ingredient to look for with determining whether it is Low FODMAP. Having good knowledge on the types of cheese that are allowed on the Low FODMAP diet will make this process a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Here are Lo-Fo Pantry’s favourite cheesy recipes:

How does IBS affect you?

How does IBS affect you?

If you know seven people, chances are that at least one of them has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a functional bowel disorder that touches 1 in 7 adults1. The interesting (or frustrating) thing about IBS is that it is not the result of damage nor does it cause damage. Meaning it won’t shorten your life, but the symptoms associated with IBS are often debilitating and really disrupt your quality of life.

Fast facts about living with IBS2-3

  • 90% of people with IBS identify what they eat as a major factor
  • 2/3 of people who suffer from IBS are female
  • 70% of people with IBS do not seek medical advice
  • IBS is the 2nd most common reason for absenteeism from work
  • IBS is more than the occasional tummy ache, it affects work, social life, family life and intimacy
  • IBS is the most common condition diagnosed by a gastroenterologist
  • The most common age for diagnosis is 25-45 years

IBS is a chronic condition that tends to wax and wane over the span of one’s life. It’s not unusual for people to have periods of time when they feel generally well and then go through other times when their IBS is like an evil monster just there to make life miserable.

So, what symptoms do we look out for when we suspect IBS?

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive wind
  • Alternating bowel i.e. diarrhoea, constipation or alternating between the two.

We are learning a lot about IBS, but there are definitely some parts that we are still discovering. A really important thing to get your head around is that IBS is Multimodal. What I mean by this is that there is seldom one clear cause that can be treated. Instead there are multiple factors that are involved in triggering IBS symptoms. In my experience, people who have an IBS Toolbox that incorporates a range of strategies are the ones who get the most improvement in quality of life. So, let’s have a look at some of these:

Diet:

We know that what you eat plays a role in IBS. The Low FODMAP diet is the most researched and well evidenced diet for treating IBS. It identifies four groups of carbohydrates that are poorly digested and can increase gas production and attract water into the intestines. This gas and water may be the catalyst for the bloating, pain and altered bowels that are typical of IBS. Approximately 3 in 4 people with IBS will get a significant and consistent improvement when following a Low FODMAP diet.

For Low FODMAP recipes and more dietitian approved resources head to our recipes page.

Gut brain axis:

What we know about IBS is that it is a disorder where the nerves in and around the gut are over sensitive and over communicate with the brain via the gut-brain axis. Now that’s not to say it is all in your head. However, things like stress can increase the sensitivity of the gut and stimulate the gut brain axis, worsening abdominal symptoms. You might be interested to know that things like Yoga, gut directed hypnotherapy and other strategies that calm the body and mind in general are shown to help reduce or even resolve IBS symptoms.

Hormones:

For the girls, we know that hormones influence digestion. Progesterone which rises the week prior to your period slows digestion and can make you feel bloated, backed up and uncomfortable. Prostaglandins that are released at the start of your period, can cause the gut to contract and speed up, even causing some diarrhoea. If you’re someone who finds your IBS is worse at that time of the month. Try eating some extra kiwifruit if you get constipated or increasing soluble fibre to soak up those looser poops.

Pelvic floor:

The pelvic floor contains the muscles that control defecation. A successful bowel movement requires coordination and relaxation of these muscles. Certain toileting habits can make it more difficult or easier to open your bowels. If this is playing a role for you, it might be worth seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can help with techniques and strategies to improve this.

Medications and supplements:

Ok, so this isn’t really how IBS affects your body, but it does deserve an honourable mention. All medications and supplements have side effects and gastrointestinal effects are common. These can improve or worsen IBS symptoms. Additionally, if you are not getting the right amount or type of fibre for your needs, this will impact your poop. Adding the right supplement can make a big difference to be being successful on the toilet. Your doctor pharmacist or dietitian can discuss your situation and what may or may not be appropriate.

Conditions that can mimic IBS

Symptoms of IBS can overlap with other more serious medical conditions. Of course, knowing what you are dealing with will determine the safest and the most effective treatment to resolve your symptoms. This means it is really important to exclude these conditions before settling on the diagnosis on IBS. Your GP can help you organise tests to rule out these conditions. Conditions to consider:

  • Coeliac Disease – make sure you are eating gluten at the time of these tests, otherwise the results will not be accurate.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease e.g. Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Diverticular disease
  • Gynaecological conditions
  • Parasitic infections
  • Bile acid malabsorption
  • Bowel cancers

If at any time during your IBS journey you develop other symptoms, make sure to go back to the GP to discuss. The following symptoms are not associated with IBS and are red flags that tell us something else is going on and further investigations are needed:

  • Anaemia
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding

Once you know you have IBS and have decided to investigate food triggers, then it’s time to book in with a dietitian. Since IBS doesn’t damage the body, there is no test that can be used to identify food triggers. So, save your money on these. The gold standard to identify food related IBS triggers is an exclusion diet followed by re-introduction. The most common one being the Low FODMAP diet. Of course, any elimination diet can reduce your body’s access to certain nutrients and increase the risk of having an unbalanced diet and developing nutritional deficiencies. My tip: check in with your GP for a regular blood test to make sure you are not developing any deficiencies and keep any dietary restriction to a minimum and short term.

References:

  1. Monash FODMAP (accessed 2022), “What is IBS”, online at https://www.monashfodmap.com/ibs-central/what-is-ibs/
  2. Monash University FODMAP Dietitians Course (2021) online https://www.monashfodmap.com/online-training/dietitian-course/
  3. About IBS (accessed 2022), “Facts about IBS”, online at https://aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs/facts-about-ibs/

 

Home-made Pastry Do’s and Don’ts

Home-made Pastry Do’s and Don’ts

Tip 1: Keep everything cool as a cucumber

The first rule of making shortcrust pastry is to keep the ingredients, the bowl, the surface, and your hands as cool as possible. Run your hands under cold water before starting to mix pastry. If the butter or lard warms up too much, put the mixture in the refrigerator briefly to cool back down.

 

Tip 2: Don’t overwork the dough

Roll and handle shortcrust pastry as little as possible as overworking it can produce tough and unpleasant results.

 

Tip 3: Rest, rest, and rest again

Once the pastry dough is made, it must be wrapped in plastic wrap or greaseproof paper and rested in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes. Resting allows time for the gluten (proteins) in the dough to relax before baking.

 

Tip 4: Use a metal tart tin

When baking tarts choose a metal tart tin rather than a ceramic one to ensure the bottom of your tart is well cooked. Ceramic tart tins, though pretty, can cause soggy bottoms. This ensure crisp bottom pastry.

 

Tip 5: Don’t stretch

When lining your tin, be careful not to stretch the pastry as this will cause it to shrink back when cooking and could cause leaks.

 

Tip 6: Repair tears

If your pastry rips as you are lining the tin, don’t worry; simply wet your fingers or use a brush to moisten the edges of the tear and gently push them together so the gap disappears.

 

Tip 7: Allow a little overhang

To avoid the sides of your pastry shrinking too low and causing leaks, leave a little extra pastry hanging over the rim of the tin. You can trim it neatly with a sharp knife after it’s cooked.

 

Use these tips to make some out our wonderful pastry recipes below:

 

10 most common mistakes on a Low FODMAP diet

10 most common mistakes on a Low FODMAP diet

New to the Low FODMAP diet? It can be overwhelming. You may be aware that FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in a wide range of plant foods e.g. fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and some dairy products.

High FODMAP ingredients can also be used in food processing to boost the flavour, fibre and texture of packaged foods.

From online content to apps and certification programs, there’s plenty of information out there to help you master the Low FODMAP diet. If you’re new to it or just want to learn more, check out our dietitian rated top 10 FODMAP most common mistakes you may like to watch out for.

Mistake 1:  Avoiding all dairy

Cutting out all dairy on a quest to avoid lactose is a classic rookie error. Lactose-free dairy products have been modified to remove the lactose sugar and are nutritionally superior to most plant milks when it comes to keeping a balanced diet. So, unless you’re vegan or have an allergy to milk protein, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Additionally, any cheese that you can grate, or slice is considered lactose-free, also cream, soft cheeses and Greek yoghurt have reasonable Low FODMAP serving sizes.

Here are a few of our favourite ways to enjoy dairy on a Low FODMAP diet:

Mistake 2:  Not realising that Low FODMAP servings are per sitting not per day

That’s right, you do need to limit your servings of some ‘allowed’ foods like fruits and certain vegetables. But the serving size does not apply to the whole day – it is just for that meal. Leave 2-3 hours between each meal or snack, and you can eat that food again while still following a Low FODMAP diet. Try our Pesto Feta Scrolls which are perfect for a quick snack as well as a lunchtime meal.

Mistake 3:  Over-restricting

Getting your head around Low FODMAP foods can be a bit overwhelming for some. A common mistake is to spend all day weighing, measuring, and double-checking your portions. What you’ll end up with is a diet that’s over-restrictive and miserable. One tablespoon of frozen peas is okay, as well as half a cob of sweet corn. Use the Monash app and your updated dietitian lists to include as many different foods as you can on a Low FODMAP diet.

Mistake 4: Missing the serving size

Although we don’t want to be over-restricting (see #3), it is worth noting that some Low FODMAP foods will become problematic at higher serving sizes. For example, sweet potato is low in mannitol at a 75g serve, but pretty high if you’re making sweet potato soup.  Red cabbage is Low FODMAP at 1 cup, but at 2 cups becomes high in fructans.  Weighing or measuring your usual portion as a one off can be helpful if you’re not sure what half a cup of sweet potato or thirty raspberries looks like.  Use the Monash app to check the rating on your usual serving size.

Mistake 5: Cutting out all gluten

Take it from a dietitian – confusion between gluten and FODMAPs is one of the most common mistakes made. Gluten is the protein found naturally in wheat, barley and rye, and must be strictly avoided for those with coeliac disease. However, the FODMAPs in wheat, rye and barley (fructans and ‘GOS’) are quite separate from gluten.

You can include wheat products at small serves and those that have been processed to reduce the FODMAP content in larger serves like Lo-Fo Pantry Plain Flour. Don’t worry about small amounts of wheat or gluten in sauces, stocks and flavours as they are also well within Low FODMAP limits.

Lo-Fo Pantry Plain flour is milled to remove FODMAPs from premium 100 per cent Australian GMO-free wheat in an all-natural, chemical-free, wet extraction process. Lo-Fo Pantry is certified by FODMAP Friendly, and accredited for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) like symptoms.

Here’s a few of our favourite recipes that use Lo-Fo Pantry Plain Flour:

Mistake 6: Underestimating inulin

Inulin is one of the highest FODMAP ingredients. It comes from chicory root and can be added to foods to thicken the texture, increase fibre content or to make foods more filling. Watch out for inulin in the ingredients list of products as this could be giving your gut a hard time, particularly in the initial phase of the Low FODMAP diet.

Mistake 7: Not checking ingredients for other sneaky FODMAPs

There are a few common ingredients in everyday foods that can cause gut issues. Some common culprits include honey, agave syrup or fruit juice. These are often found in ‘naturally sweetened’ foods. While onion powder and garlic powder (otherwise known as ‘dehydrated vegetable’ or ‘vegetable powder’) are often found in savoury foods like crackers, crisps, flavour sachets, stocks, and marinades.

Mistake 8: Expecting a Low FODMAP diet to solve all your problems

As much as we’d like it to, the Low FODMAP diet isn’t a magic bullet. Although reducing FODMAPs will help with symptom control for most, it’s important not to forget about the big picture. Simple lifestyle measures that can help manage symptoms include stress management, exercise, chewing well, and watching known IBS triggers like alcohol, large meals, coffee, and fatty foods.

Mistake 9: Getting stuck on the Elimination phase

We get it, you feel better and don’t miss the erratic bowel motions and daily pain and bloating. But the Challenge phase of the Low FODMAP diet is imperative to helping you find your triggers. No-one reacts to all FODMAPs and the only way to test your tolerance is by taking a deep breath and systematically working through the Challenge process. We promise it will be worth it, and your gut bugs will love you for it. 

Mistake 10: Not reaching out for support when you need it

Studies have shown that people who follow the Low FODMAP diet with a dietitian’s input tend to fare better. They eat a wider variety of foods, feel more positive and less stressed about their food choices. So, what is there to lose? Look for an experienced FODMAP trained dietitian to help you get the most out of the diet, pinpoint your triggers and nurture your gut health.

There you go, 10 classic mistakes you won’t be making as you confidently stride into new Low FODMAP territory!

Starting your child on the low FODMAP journey

Kids with IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) effects approximately 20% of school aged children. That’s one in five kids who regularly experience symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, excessive wind or changing bowel motions. IBS is not a disease, however it is the most common cause of functional abdominal pain in children. Meaning they have these symptoms without any identifiable medical cause.

IBS Symptoms can negatively impact a child’s quality of life. For example, some children may spend prolonged periods on the toilet, avoid going to school or  participate in sporting or social events. New research is beginning to show promising signs that a low FODMAP diet may improve the quality of life for children with IBS. If you are exploring dietary changes for your child, it is important to consult your child’s GP prior to trialling a low FODMAP diet to rule out any medical reasons for their symptoms.

What do FODMAPs do to the gut?

IBS symptoms can be triggered by many factors, the most common being stress and the foods we eat. FODMAPs can be found in a range of foods including grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and dairy products. FODMAPs are types of sugars or carbohydrates that for one reason or another are poorly absorbed by some people. Instead, they travel to the large intestine where they are broken down and fermented by the healthy bacteria found there. This process produces gas in the gut, stretching the intestinal walls and causing pain and bloating. Additionally, excess water can also be drawn into the small intestines creating looser stools.

The kid friendly (simplified) low FODMAP Process

A standard low FODMAP diet can be highly restrictive, challenging to follow and is not always required for children. Instead, your dietitian may recommend a ‘simplified low FODMAP diet’. Using this approach, a dietitian specialising in FODMAP’s can target dietary changes to ensure that:

  • Foods and food groups are not removed unnecessarily
  • Results are achieved
  • Your child’s nutritional needs for growth and development are met
  • A healthy and positive relationship with food is maintained

A simplified approach is not only more relaxed it can also be a lot easier for families to follow. You can read more about a Simplified low FODMAP diet from Monash University here.

Like the standard low FODMAP diet, the simplified low FODMAP diet follows three key steps:

Phase One (elimination phase) this phase takes two to six weeks to complete. During this time, frequently eaten, very high FODMAP foods are swapped for low FODMAP alternatives e.g. swapping an apple (high FODMAP) for strawberries (low FODMAP). If symptoms improve during the elimination phase the challenge phase can begin.

Phase two (challenge phase) the second phase of the low FODMAP diet usually takes six to eight weeks to complete and involves testing for tolerance by systematically reintroducing individual FODMAP groups back into the diet – one at a time. High FODMAP foods that were previously removed can now be reintroduced in staggered amounts to test for tolerance. Your dietitian will provide more guidance on quantity, types of foods and how best to reintroduce them.

Phase three (personalisation) this is the fun part where you and your child get to create a personalised diet which includes adding back all the well tolerated foods and including smaller serves of less well tolerated foods. Any foods that were not tolerated can continue to be substituted from low FODMAP alternatives. For example, muffins made with regular wheat flour (high in FODMAP’s) can be substituted with muffins made with Lo-Fo Pantry’s Low FODMAP Plain Flour.

A child’s low FODMAP day on a plate

 

 

 

 

It is important to note that FODMAP’s are not dangerous and do not harm the body. They are in fact often in very healthy foods. Ultimately, the goal of the process is to improve your child’s quality of life by managing symptoms and incorporating lots of variety in the long term. The low FODMAP diet does not need to be a game of perfection. Breaking the diet occasionally for a birthday party won’t upset progress and can in fact, be beneficial for your child’s quality of life.

Final thoughts

Cooking with kids can be messy, but it is  a delightful way to have fun and get your kids get involved with food. Besides, who doesn’t love a bit of mess occasionally! Why not get creative and enjoy baking some of these low FODMAP recipes with your children today:

When it comes to kids and FODMAP’s, always start by seeing your local GP then getting in touch with a dietitian who specialises in the low FODMAP diet and IBS.  A qualified dietitian will ensure a normal life is maintained, by tailoring dietary advice for your child and family. Happy baking!

 

 

Meal prepping on a low FODMAP diet

Are you an experienced meal prepper and planner with a spreadsheet and electronic list always on the go? Or more of a ‘last minute supermarket run’ kind?  Maybe like most of us you’re somewhere in between.

The fact is, if you’re an experienced meal prepper, you’re going to be first out of the starting blocks and up and running on the low FODMAP diet. Planning and preparation are key when you’re starting a new diet – and can sometimes mean the difference between a positive experience and big fat headache. If you’re not known for your meal organisation skills and menu plans then don’t fear – it’s never too late to start, and this dietitian’s guide’s to meal prepping on a low FODMAP diet is just for you.

1. Brainstorm: come up with a list of low FODMAP meals you’ll enjoy

You may like to think about what’s in season (seasonal produce is cheaper, and often tastier and nutritionally superior). Also think about how long you’re going to plan and prep for, and how much space you have in your freezer and fridge.

You’ll also need to think about who you’re meal planning for. If it’s the whole family, crowdsourcing ideas and making sure everyone has a few favourites in the mix can save mealtime tension. If it’s just for you, picture the way you’d like to be eating and the types of foods you want to make up the backbone of your diet (hint: whole foods and minimally processed foods is where it’s at). And don’t forget simple, filling ideas for snacks and meals on the run when needed.

If you’re new to low FODMAP cooking, now’s the time to research what recipes you’d like to try, as well as how to modify your old favourites. Sometimes it can be as simple as substituting Lo-Fo Pantry low FODMAP plain flour into your usual muffin recipe. Other times it might mean a leap of faith into previously uncharted cooking territory.  You may like to set yourself a gentle challenge, like cooking one new recipe each week. You’ll also find online that many experienced dietitians are offering low FODMAP meal plans and recipes. These could save you hours!

You don’t need to schedule all 21 meals and snacks for the week to reap the benefits of meal planning and prepping. If it all seems a bit much to get your head around, how about starting with three planned dinners and lunches, and baking something for snacks?

2. Get shopping

Well, you can’t nail the meal prepping if you don’t have the right ingredients! You can begin with your usual shopping list and modify the items to suit your new diet. Or you could start with a standard ‘low FODMAP shopping list’ from your dietitian, and tinker with it to suit your needs.

Take advantage of the many certified low FODMAP products that are now available, and enlist your label reading skills by researching new products online before you head to the shops. Here’s a few staple suggestions to get you started:

  • Lactose free or plant-based milk and yoghurt, a range of different cheeses like feta, tasty, parmesan and bocconcini
  • Fresh meat, fish, chicken, eggs, tofu
  • Low FODMAP nuts, seeds, tinned lentils, tomatoes and chickpeas
  • Fresh and frozen low FODMAP fruits and vegetables
  • Tinned staples like tuna, salmon, tomatoes, coconut milk
  • Low FODMAP breads, Lo-Fo Pantry low FODMAP plain flour for baking, breakfast cereals, gluten free pasta, rice, rice/buckwheat noodles and quinoa.
  • Low FODMAP snacks: suitable muesli bars, crackers, dark chocolate, lactose free yoghurt
  • Low FODMAP sauces, stocks, herbs, spices and infused oils

3. Now get prepping

Can you set aside some time each weekend (or weeknight if your weekends are particularly hectic) to do some basic meal prep?  Prepping may entail pre-cooking an entire meal and freezing meal sized portions. Or it could just be pre-chopping, portioning, and par-cooking. Enlist the help of other household members. Divide and conquer!

Here’s a few dietitian favourites to help you get meal prepping with minimal fuss:

Snacks and light meals

  • Slice up vegetable sticks (carrot, cucumber) and portion with cheese or low FODMAP dips into snack sized containers
  • Make up a trail mix with your favourite low FODMAP nuts, seeds and allowed dried fruit
  • Whip up a low FODMAP pesto or smoky eggplant dip
  • Hard boil eggs, or make mini frittatas for a quick breakfast or lunch on the go
  • Bake savoury or sweet muffins using Lo-Fo Pantry low FODMAP plain flour
  • Try your hand at a home-made tray of low FODMAP muesli bars
  • Make a batch of overnight oats or chia puddings
  • Chop fruit for fruit salad or portion and freeze for smoothies

Main meal prepping

  • Wash salad leaves or slice up coleslaw ingredients and pre-build your salads for weekday lunches
  • Make up a batch of low FODMAP salad dressing
  • Precook chicken (roast, poach or pan fry), slice and portion for sandwiches, rice paper rolls or homemade sushi
  • Make your own low FODMAP stock (if you’re so inclined)
  • Batch cook a large portion of stew, pasta sauce, risotto or soup then portion into meal sized microwave proof containers
  • Pre-make beef, fish or veggie burger patties
  • Pre-chop vegetables and pre-cook rice for a speedy fried rice the next night

Meal planning and prepping options on a low FODMAP diet are limited only by your time constraints, imagination and physical fridge and freezer space. Once again, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing – baby steps are okay. Time to get brainstorming! And don’t forget to enlist the help of your experienced dietitian.

 

What is gut health? What is gut bacteria?

What is gut health – what is gut bacteria?

By now you probably know you have a little ecosystem of bacteria living in your intestines, but did you know that this ecosystem contains about 1-2 kg of living bacteria? These tiny organisms actually outnumber us by 10 to 1, with 10 times as many bacteria cells in your gut as there are cells in your entire body. These bacteria or “microbiota” make up what is known as your Gut Microbiome.

What does a healthy gut look like?

Despite science moving very quickly in the area of gut microbiome, we still don’t have a lot of answers. In terms of what a healthy gut looks like, all we know for sure is that a lot of bacteria (abundance) is a good thing, and a lot of different types of bacteria (diversity) is also a good thing. Researchers have also found that although gut microbiome varies hugely from person to person, how the bacteria behave is similar. This leads us to believe that there are actually many different ways to have healthy gut microbiome, and this varies from person to person.

What determines your gut microbiome?

Each person’s unique gut microbiota has developed as a result of numerous influences including birth, diet, exercise habits, medications, geographical setting and stress levels, just to name a few. Science is only just beginning to understand the human gut microbiome, but its influence on health and disease is evident, making it currently one of the most exciting areas of research.

What does gut microbiota do for us?

Gut microbiota and people live together in a mutually beneficial relationship. We feed them and in return they do a range good things for us including:

  • Break down food: Gut microbiota break down and ferment certain carbohydrates, this creates short chain fatty acids which provide nourishment for gut bacteria and appear to play an important role in prevention of diabetes, heart disease, bowel conditions like (IBD and IBS) and even bowel cancers. In addition, gut microbiota is also involved in the break down and absorption of fats and proteins.
  • Make vitamins: Vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting and bone metabolism is made by gut microbiota.
  • Make neurotransmitters: Gut microbiome generates the majority of your feel good hormones serotonin & dopamine, influences mental health, anxiety and depression.
  • Break down toxins and pathogens by providing a physical barrier preventing them from entering the body
  • Body weight: Research shows that gut microbiome also varies by body weight and that gut microbiome changes if we lose or gain weight too.

Final thoughts:

Your gut microbiome affects your body throughout life. It regulates digestion, immunity, mental health and countless other bodily processes. Having a healthy gut is kind of like having pets that live in your intestines. If you look after them, they will look after you in return.

To find out more head to: https://lofopantry.com/lifestyle/

 

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