Belly issues

A friend of mine suffers from many digestive issues, along with 35 million Americans who are affected by irritable bowel syndrome. Digestive issues are often marked by chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation and sometimes nausea, bloating and excess gas. IBS is the most common gut condition diagnosed by gastroenterologists, according to Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. 

New research suggests that strategic dietary changes can help. Just what are those? 

The standard diet approach has been to adhere to a regular meal pattern, avoid large meals, reduce intake of fatty, spicy and gas-producing foods, and limit caffeine, carbonated beverages and alcohol. All of those suggestions work, but a more individualized approach may be needed as well. 

The first step is to keep a detailed food log to match foods with symptoms. A second step may be to try a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. High FODMAP foods attract excess water into the gut and are fermented quickly by bacteria in the large intestine, causing bloating, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea. 

A small study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, looked at 84 adults with IBS and found that 51 percent of those following a dietitian-taught low FODMAP diet for four weeks had significant improvement in abdominal pain vs 23 percent in the control group. 

The low FODMAP diet includes eliminating all high FODMAP foods for a short period, typically 6 to 8 weeks, then reintroducing each type of FODMAP in a systematic way to find out what a person can tolerate. The goal is to expand the diet as much as possible without causing symptoms. 

High FODMAP foods include bulb onions, wheat, rye, barley, broccoli, kidney beans, soybeans, cow's milk, soft cheeses, apples, mangoes and watermelon, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums and sorbitol and erythritol.

Low FODMAP foods include green onion tops, cornmeal, rice, quinoa, oats, bok choy, tofu, tempeh, lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe, maple syrup, corn syrup, cane sugar, blueberries, oranges, kiwi and stevia. — Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. 

Q and A 

Q: Does psyllium powder interfere with the absorption of nutrients? 

A: The effect of standard doses of psyllium on vitamin and mineral absorption from a subsequent meal is minimal. People typically take psyllium for its milk laxative effect or as a fiber supplement that helps lower cholesterol or blood sugar. It's well known that large amounts of fiber can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients, especially certain minerals. But research has found that a standard psyllium dose (usually a teaspoon, with about 4 grams of mostly soluble fiber) taken immediately before mealtime has little or no effect on vitamins or minerals. In general, any small effect that moderate amounts of fiber - from food or a supplement - may have on nutrient absorption is not a worry, especially if your intake of nutrients is adequate. It is better, however, to get fiber from food than from a powder or pills, since fiber-rich foods are very nutritious. -- University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. 


This is one of my all-time favorite oatmeal recipes. I think it's because the oatmeal is cooked in apple cider or apple juice, giving it an extra boost of flavor. It's from Jane Fonda's Cooking for Healthy Living. You can make it ahead, store it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in the morning for a quick breakfast. 

Apple Raisin Oatmeal 

2 1/2 cups apple cider or apple juice 

1/4 cup raisins 

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced 

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 1/2 cups rolled oats 

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt 

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cider or juice to a boil. Stir in the raisins, apple and cinnamon and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the oats, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the oats are creamy, about 6 minutes. To serve, divide among 4 individual bowls. Top each with an equal amount of the yogurt and nutmeg. Serves 4. 

 Per serving: 265 calories, 7 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 29 mg sodium. 

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