IBS and the Low FODMAP Diet

By Samantha

One thing that has been a revelation since we began Wildcraft bakery is how many people come through our door and share intimate details of their digestive problems. Having worked in the maternity services for 15 years prior to running the bakery, I am thankfully completely okay with all the gory details!

People turn to gluten free products for a number of reasons, but what they generally have in common is poor gut health. Some are diagnosed coeliac, some just feel better for not eating gluten. We’re not judgemental, if it feels better, do it!

Quite a number of people have been diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome, and come to us looking for products to follow a low fodmap diet. IBS is a pretty common complaint which, while not seriously harmful to your long term health, can have really unpleasant symptoms which can negatively affect your quality of life. It’s also more common that you won’t absorb the right amount of nutrients from your food which can lead to persistent tiredness and a weakened immune system.

One treatment recommended by gastroenterologists is a low fodmap programme of treatment. Fodmaps (or Fermentable oligo- di – mono saccarides and polyols) are foods which contain certain carbohydrates that many people find hard to digest and cause a build up of gas, leading to bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea or constipation. You may think the solution is cutting out all high fodmap foods, but this isn’t wise. Firstly, there are a lot of them! Secondly, many of them are really good for us and contain vital nutrients. So the treatment involves cutting out high fodmap foods for a period of 6 to 8 weeks, then reintroducing each high fodmap food one at a time for 3 or 4 days each. The purpose of this is to find out which ones trigger our own particular symptoms, as each person with Irritable bowel syndrome has unique triggers. And it isn’t just about the type of food, it’s also the amount. Some of us may tolerate a tiny bit of onion in something, or a few beans. Without following this strict programme it’s impossible to know which food stuffs someone is intolerant to. Every week people contact us asking for foods without all kinds of things some of which may or may not be the problem. As a Freefrom bakery we are conscious of common allergens and intolerances and try to make things for everyone, it may not always be possible but we try!

Gluten is one of the common culprits of irritable bowel syndrome. Many people find they suffer bloating and stomach cramps after eating bread. Other common foods include onions, garlic, pulses and cows milk.

As a coeliac, I’m quite used to living without gluten in my diet, and I’m a vegetarian so it’s fine living without meat. But I really tried to ignore my ongoing acid reflux and stomach pain as I knew it meant more things to give up. The reason Mina and I run Wildcraft is because we are foodies. I love good food, and it’s taken me many years of burying my head in the sand to confront the fact that some of it doesn’t love me. Christmas unfortunately left me in such a state I knew the time had come to do something, so I’m learning to cook interesting food without onion and garlic. It’s a challenge but I’m finding that with the right spicing and herbs it is possible. Our future plans include opening a shop and cafe, so at least I should be well practiced by then to produce super tasty low fodmap options to my fellow sufferers. If anyone has any recipe suggestions, I never say no to a recipe.