If you feel like you go up two dress sizes every time you so much as look at a slice of white bread, you’re probably one of the many Irish people who suffer with gut issues and bloating.
Gut Week runs from August 29th – September 4th, and so we asked nutrition expert and co-author of Cooking For The Sensitive Gut Dr Joan Ransley for her advice on what foods to avoid and what to include to promote better gut health.
“The most common food triggers for people with a sensitive gut including IBS are foods containing high levels of FODMAPs,” says Dr Ransley. For the record, FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide And Polyols.
FODMAPS are poorly absorbed in the small bowel, meaning they drag water into the gut and are fermented by the abundant bacteria in the large bowel. This results in that nasty excess gas and fluid which causes bloating, stomach pain and constipation.
Surprisingly, top of Dr Ransley’s ‘Avoid’ list was one of the most widely used ingredients for flavouring food in Irish cooking: onions. Along with garlic, shallots and the white parts of leeks, onions contain high levels of a type of carbohydrate known as FOs (fructo-oligosaccharides), meaning they’re top of the FODMAP list.
If you can’t imagine a dinner without some fragrant garlic or caramelised onion, Dr Ransley suggests using “the tender green parts of young leeks, salad onions and chives” as an alternative.
Read on for other FODMAP-heavy foods to avoid if you’re sick of feeling bloated and swollen after eating.
Wheat (especially bread and pasta)
“Most people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can tolerate one slice of good quality bread made from wheat flour,” says Dr Ransley, who says wheat alternatives like spelt are a much better option.
Apples, pears and stone fruits like plums and cherries
These fruits contain more fructose than glucose, which is a bad ratio if you’re prone to bloating. “For fructose to be absorbed by the gut it needs a plentiful supply of glucose,” explains Dr Ransley. “Otherwise it moves through to the large bowel pulling water along with it, causing diarrhoea and bloating.”
Fats like butter and olive oil
Fats are one of the most reactive ingredients in the gut, which explains why you often feel bloated after eating high-fat foods like buttery pastries.
“Fats delay the emptying of the stomach, stimulate contraction of the gall bladder, induce secretions from the pancreas and trigger colonic contractions, which can all lead to symptoms,” says Dr Ransley.
Bad news, folks. If you’re prone to bloating, alcohol should be avoided. “Alcohol can make the gut leaky and inflamed,” says Dr Ransley.
Again though, everything in moderation, and there are some smarter choices you can make. Wine is generally low in FODMAPs, plus distilled spirits like vodka and gin are gluten free, thanks to the distillation process that separates the alcohol from the gluten proteins. Rum, ciders and cocktails are all high in FODMAPs, however.
For more information on gut health plus heaps of gut-friendly recipes and cooking tips, visit loveyourgut.com/gut-week.