For someone who has shifted to a high fiber, low fat plant-based diet, bloating comes as part of the package. For some, this is too much to handle, and for others it is tameable. But the universal fact is if you are a meat eater then a shift towards plant-based recipes would have put your body’s system on its head.
However, in some cases, the bloating that happens when you eat only certain foods- this could mean that you are sensitive to FODMAPs. What are FODMAPs and how are they giving you trouble?
What Are FODMAPs?
These are a group of carbohydrates that are abundantly present in plant foods and it stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. The group of carbs includes sugars and alcohols such as:
During the process of digestion, the enzymes break the short-chain carbohydrates up into smaller parts. The extent to which these carbs or FODMAPs are broken down depends on the person’s digestive system. For some, the sugars in the FODMAPs aren’t broken down, and they travel down the length of the small intestine where they pull water and absorb it.
Once in the upper parts of the small intestine, the gut microbes ferment the FODMAPs and produce a series of gaseous emissions that include carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen. The build-up of gas in the gut causes bloating and can cause serious discomfort for people, especially for those with digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
How Do You Know If You Are Sensitive To FODMAPs?
People having digestive issues like IBS can have adverse reactions when fed with FODMAPs more than people without any digestive issues whatsoever. This is linked to the increased sensitivity of the gut caused by the increase in the volume of gas and water in the intestines. This is a situation called visceral hypersensitivity and can cause side effects like:
- Feeling full even after only clearing a small portion of your plate
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention
Since the FODMAPs are fermented in the colon slowly, it can take up to a day or two for the symptoms to completely subside. When the symptoms show up within an hour of eating, then it is because of the peristaltic action of the digestive tract muscles which are triggered when the incoming food moves the previous food down the gastrointestinal tract.
The receptors along the walls of the gut react to the abdominal distention, and because of this, the aforementioned symptoms show up. Healthy foods tend to worsen the situation, and many people feel relief after there is a positive bowel movement.
If you think that you could be falling for FODMAPs, then keep these foods away from your diet and see if the symptoms improve.
A Diet Low On FODMAPs
This is a diet that is apt for those with IBS or a sensitive gut. The secret to reducing the symptoms is to minimize the FODMAPs that you consume, which in turn reduces the water that is drawn from the gut and reduces the on-going fermentation.
Here are the series of steps you can follow to reduce the symptoms:
- Reduce the intake of FODMAPs for 2-6 weeks
- Reintroduce FODMAPs one item at a time over the course of 8-12 weeks. This allows you to pinpoint which food item causes the most harm.
- Based on the results above, reduce the problem causing FODMAPs foods
If you stick to the above mentioned stages, then even those with IBS can easily tackle the symptoms and progress towards fully experiencing the plant-based lifestyle without full-stops.
Are There Any Risks Of Reducing FODMAPs?
There are several foods that can be put in the category of FODMAPs. Most of them provide important nutrients which are essential for someone on a plant-based diet. Reducing the prebiotic fiber on which the good bacteria can be fed can lead to a change in the gut microbial environment. This can create unfavorable circumstances.
For people with unhealthy and disordered eating, the restrictions can cause issues in the early stages of the shift. Vegetarians find it easier to make the jump than meat eaters, for this exact reason. Due to the potential risks that you may be placing yourself into, it is important that you talk about this to your dietician. They can help you to formulate a nutrient-rich meal plan that eliminates and reintroduces the FODMAPs as and when needed.
Is Bloating Still Not Going Away?
If even after carefully scrutinizing, you find yourself bloated and feeling gassy, long after making the jump to plant-based eating, then it could mean an underlying condition. The best bet would be to continue staying vigilant and letting your doctor know as early as possible. Make the change and reap the health benefits of plant-based living!