In the world of wellness, the term “gut health” has been buzzing around like a contented honeybee. But what exactly is it, and why does it matter? If you’re a bit puzzled amidst the sea of information, worry not! We’re here to set the record straight, especially if you’re navigating the intricate waters of a low FODMAP diet. So, let’s dive in and explore how to truly take care of your gut while embracing this dietary journey.
Understanding Gut Health and the Microbiome
Imagine your gut as a bustling metropolis, teeming with life. This vibrant hub, known as the microbiome, is a collection of approx. 1-2kg of bacteria, yeast and fungi that call your digestive tract home. These tiny residents play a monumental role in everything from digestion to immunity. A balanced microbiome is like a symphony in tune, while an imbalanced one can lead to a discord of discomfort.
Defining a Healthy Gut
Despite research exploding the last few years on gut health, we still don’t have a lot of answers. Although we can map a person’s microbiome, there is no gold standard of what a healthy gut should look like to compare this to. We know there are literally trillions of types of bacteria and that your microbiome is more unique than your fingerprints. The good news is that it’s looking like what bacteria your gut houses is not so much of a concern as long as you have communities that are able to perform specific tasks. Meaning that there are likely many ways to have a healthy gut.
Building a Healthy Gut on a low FODMAP diet:
What you eat plays a significant role in shaping our gut microbiome and can even alter it in as little as 24 hours. With that in mind, here 5 tips to nourish your gut microbiome on a low FODMAP diet.
- Diversify your plate and diversify your gut. Gut microbiota are fussy eaters and the more different plant foods you include, the more different types of bacteria you feed. Research shows that people who eat 30 or more different plant foods per week have a more abundant and diverse microbiome than people who eat 10 or less plant foods in a week. Think firm bananas, berries, sourdough, oats, corn, carrots, kent pumpkin, eggplant, capsicum, herbs & spices, tofu, seeds, low FODMAP nuts and low FODMAP serves of canned legumes.
- Include low FODMAP serves of Prebiotics. Prebiotics are types of fibre that nourish your microbiome the same ay as fertiliser nourishes your garden. While most prebiotic foods are also high FODMAP (this is why we see reduced abundance and diversity of gut bacteria on a low FODMAP diet), many still have low FODMAP serves that are suitable for all phase of a low FODMAP diet. Think canned lentils & chickpeas, beetroot, fennel, green peas, snow peas, firm bananas, dates, oats and small serves of wheat. Your Monash smartphone app lists all of these and their serve sizes.
- Liberalise your diet. The low FODMAP diet is not a forever diet, and most people don’t have to be super strict with limiting all FODMAPs long term. The only way to know what you individually tolerate is to trial reintroducing. You never know, you might get a pleasant surprise.
- Progress, not perfection. The thing with FODMAPs is that they don’t damage the gut and if anything, are actually good for the gut microbiome. In addition, food isn’t just about nutrition. It’s also about celebrations, commiserations, nostalgia, and pleasure. These are all valid reasons to eat and are important to maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Finding the balance between limiting FODMAPs enough to keep you comfortable and allowing the flexibility to live your life is where the true quality of life sits.
- Managing IBS is never just about food. The people who I see getting best results with managing their IBS are the ones who think beyond food triggers and curate an “IBS toolbox” of multiple strategies that support a calm and relaxed gut. Gut hypnotherapy, yoga, mindfulness, gratitude, adequate sleep, hydration, movement and non-food moments of joy are all helpful to improving your IBS, your overall health and your tolerance for higher FODMAP foods.
Your gut microbiome is central to your overall health and wellbeing. By understanding your microbiome, embracing diversity, and seeking expert guidance, you’re well on your way to cultivating a thriving gut garden! If you’re ready to resolve gut issues and make peace with food, Everyday Nutrition dietitian’s are ready and waiting to support you on your journey.