Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Low FODMAP diet

New studies show some 75 percent of Americans are living with some kind of digestive complaints from day to day.

Digestive issues can certainly be complicated to understand and to solve, and many of these problems fall under the heading of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is more common in women.

Some are finding relief in something called the low FODMAP diet so we went to a local doctor to find out more.

Six months ago, Emily Pellegrino decided she had to do something about the issues in her gut.

"I just felt lousy, uncomfortable," she recalled.

So she came to see Dr. Kristen Bentson, creator of YouAnew Lifestyle Nutrition in Bethlehem. Dr. Bentson suggested a low FODMAP diet.

"It's an acronym which stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. It sounds really complicated I understand but basically what we're saying is some carbohydrates are more likely to ferment," she explained.

A low FODMAP diet, or FODMAP elimination diet, refers to a temporary eating pattern that has a very low amount of food compounds called FODMAPs.

The acronym (as described by co-creator Sue Shepard) stands for:
•    Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel
•    Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules are made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain
•    Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule
•    Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single sugar molecule
•    And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however, they don’t lead to intoxication!)

FODMAPS are in dairy, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. Poorly absorbed FODMAPs are thought to directly upset the bacterial balance in our gut.

"It's kind of this maddening mix of diarrhea, gas and constipation and bloating all caused by these highly fermentable foods.. The big idea for someone who has IBS, I think of a pot on the stove and it's like the pot is just about to boil over so they're eating these highly fermentable high FODMAP foods and they're right at the top and you add a little pinch of something and they're exploding," said Bentson.

Bentson created a whole system to help people understand the foods that have high FODMAPs and the ones that are low. She outlines everything, including a starter kit you can download, at

"It really is about following the lists and sticking to portion sizes as well," Bentson said.

And knowing what works for you.

"You can change your approach to food and it completely changes your life," she said.

Now, after six months, Pellegrino feels much better.

"I know what things I can eat and what things I can't eat and that is really empowering to just give you the freedom to live your life again," she said.

Doctors say a low FODMAP diet may also help for a host of other issues like fibromyalgia, certain auto immune diseases like eczema, even migraines. Talk to your doctor if you'd like more information.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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