We’re well into Summer now and if like many men and women you regularly experience bloating, you will be having wardrobe dramas in addition to the miserable abdominal discomfort bloating brings. No matter if you are a size 16 or a size 8 a bloated belly is not compatible with bikinis or bodycon dresses. The good news is that making some simple changes to your diet and the way you eat can help to ease symptoms.
Not everyone can eat anything they would like without suffering abdominal discomfort. If you regularly experience abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, wind, or a change in bowel habit like diarrhea or constipation you may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. According to The IBS Network this condition affects around a third of the population at some point in their lives. You may be thinking ‘that’s me! I have IBS!’ but remember it is important not to self-diagnose, and to see your GP so that other conditions such as Coeliac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be ruled out.
As a freelance dietitian I am seeing an increasing number of clients with IBS. It often comes up as a side issue to the main reason for seeking dietary intervention, but inevitably ends up being the main focus of their dietary aims. The symptoms may be embarrassing but immense relief can be gained from simple dietary interventions.
So what actually causes IBS? Well even the experts don’t really know, but we do see that mind-gut sensitivity is increased in sufferers. The concept of mind-gut relationship is only too apparent to people even with ‘normal’ gut health put into stressful situations. For myself this manifests as butterflies, nausea, and the need to fully ‘evacuate’ in the nearest possible loo before any sporting event I take part in. This mind-gut sensitivity is amplified in IBS sufferers. In some cases this is possibly due to difficult experiences in your past, which makes you permanently more sensitive to stress and symptoms of pain and discomfort.
But nevermind the cause, what can we do about it? The great news is that you can take control and help ease IBS symptoms by optimizing your dietary intake. Very simple changes such as eating three regular meals a day, and not skipping meals can help. Stay hydrated. Reduce irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, high fat and spicy foods. Overall ‘Just Eat Real Food’, take time out for your food, and chew well. The British Dietetic Association have a great ‘Food Facts’ sheet that covers first line diet changes in more detail www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/IBSfoodfacts/pdf .
Most people with bloating and IBS in my experience will have taken note of basic healthy eating habits already. At this stage if you are still experiencing symptoms you may be ready to try a low FODMAP diet. Recent research has shown that certain carbohydrates contribute to IBS symptoms. These are Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides , Mono-saccharides And Polyols or FODMAPs. Reducing intake of FODMAPs has been shown to improve gut symptoms in most people with IBS like symptoms. In general a low FODMAP diet will exclude wheat and rye, chickpeas and lentils, lactose, and various fruits and vegetables. For many IBS sufferers reading this list will be like an epiphany – these are the foods that have been hurting me all this time!
A low FODMAP diet can be intimidating at first as it is extremely restrictive in the initial stages. A registered dietitian can help guide you through the process of eliminating high FODMAP foods for 4-8 weeks, and then reintroducing them to ascertain which you are able to tolerate, and in what quantities. Dietitians will also be able to balance your diet to ensure you are meeting all essential nutrients during this period.
Let me get you started on your low FODMAP journey towards a flat stomach, your bikini and that bodycon dress! Here’s a delicious low FODMAP recipe for the whole family to enjoy.
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- 500g lean pork mince
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp chopped chives
- 280g jasmine rice
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 240g baby leaf spinach
- 4 eggs
- 1 cucumber
- juice of ½ a lime
- large dash of fish sauce
- Cook one cup of jasmine rice as per packet instructions.
- Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork mince and fry until browned. Mix in the soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
- In the same pan add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add the cooked rice and chives. Mix and heat until you get some nice crispy bits, then transfer to the serving bowl with the pork. Cover.
- In the same pan add the sesame seed oil and then the washed spinach. Cook until wilted then transfer to the serving dish.
- Spiralize the cucumber and add to the serving bowl – dress with lime juice and fish sauce. If you don’t have a spiralizer just grate long strips with a vegetable peeler.
- Fry the eggs sunny side up and put on top of the finished family rice bowl.
- Serve immediately – mix the egg yolk into the rice and pork for the best effect!
- Rice bowls are a popular south east Asian home cooked dish. They are easy to make, delicious, nutritionally balanced, and with just a couple of flavouring adaptations completely FODMAP free. My kids especially love the spiralized cucumber.