Fodmap diet is not good for intestinal flora in healthy people

Who doesn’t love a nice, toned stomach? To achieve this, many choose a diet. One of the popular diets for getting a flat stomach is the Fodmap diet. This intestinal-sparing diet was initially developed for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. However, this may cause serious problems in people without specific intestinal complaints.

  • What is a spastic colon?
  • What is the Fodmap diet?
  • Dangers: Experimenting with foods, damage to intestinal flora
  • Gluten-free diet in patients

What is a spastic colon?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic intestinal disorder in which the motility (mobility) of the intestinal tract is chronically disturbed; the intestines move too fast or too slow. This condition is accompanied by severe abdominal cramps in varying locations, a bloated abdomen and abnormal bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea). With the latter, no loss of blood, pus or mucous membrane occurs. Possible causes are stress, intestinal and stomach infections, certain foods or a diet that is too low in fiber. This mainly occurs in people at a younger or adult age. Technical investigations usually do not detect any problems. It is important to reassure patients and encourage them to consume a fiber-rich diet, exercise more and rest regularly, resulting in healthy intestinal peristalsis. But the Fodmap diet also provides relief in 80% of cases.

What is the Fodmap diet?

Fodmap is the abbreviation for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols”. These are all product groups that may cause intestinal complaints. The Fodmap diet was originally developed in Australia by Peter Gibson and Susan Shepherd at Monash University in Melbourne. The principle is as follows: For a few weeks, the patient eliminates a number of foods from the diet, which calms the intestinal flora. After six to eight weeks, the patient can gradually resume consuming previously omitted foods. The doctor examines exactly which foods cause complaints or aggravate them. The very strict elimination diet in which the patient avoids fermenting sugars (mainly found in fruit) and sugar substitutes, prevents gas development in the abdomen and therefore ensures a flatter stomach. ValĂ©rie Wandels (AZ Sint-Lucas) points out that the patient even eats completely lactose- and gluten-free during the first week of the diet. A list of prohibited, suitable and less suitable ingredients and products for the Fodmap diet can be found on a specially established Fodmap diet website. This website also contains testimonials, tips and news, useful addresses, information for healthcare professionals, … Even books and courses to start with this diet can be purchased via the site.

Dangers: Experimenting with foods, damage to intestinal flora

Because this diet is increasing in popularity, many nutritional plans appear on various websites. People without intestinal complaints therefore often want to try this diet and experiment with it. However, Belgian dieticians point out the dangers of such websites. These nutritional plans are not always reliable, insufficiently substantiated and contain too little information. Sofie Van Laar, nutrition and dietetics teacher at Artesis Plantijn University of Applied Sciences, reports that the nutritional plans are initially intended for dietitians and not for laypeople. Those who experiment themselves even run the risk of a diet that is too one-sided, which damages the balance of the intestinal flora. Shepherd himself investigated the effect of the Fodmap diet on healthy intestinal flora and came to the conclusion that the number of healthy intestinal bacteria decreased drastically. Sofie Van Laar points out that this damage was already visible after three days, which increases the risk of intestinal damage if this diet is followed for longer. Danny De Looze, gastrointestinal specialist at UZ Gent, agrees with Sofie Van Laar and reports that tampering with the balance of the intestinal flora is indeed extremely dangerous. He also fears that dietitians will not be able to stop the craze. After all, there is money to be made from it, which is not always to the advantage of real patients.

Gluten-free diet in patients

The role of gluten is complex. Wheat causes abdominal bloating in many patients. Gluten in wheat is believed to be the culprit. Patients often report an improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms when following a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free grain products usually also contain low Fodmaps. Consequently, symptoms improve in many patients with this diet. This partly explains the current popularity of the gluten-free diet. The gluten-free diet, originally developed for patients with celiac disease (stomach and intestinal problems after eating gluten), is otherwise rather harmless. This does not cause a nutrient deficiency, unlike the strict Fodmap diet. According to Jella Spaans of the Flemish Celiac Association, patients who really suffer from gluten intolerance and IBS syndrome seem to be more likely to be posers because gluten intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome have now become such a hype, while these people are really ill.

The advice is therefore to only follow the intestinal-sparing Fodmap diet under strict medical supervision when a spastic colon has been diagnosed. So consult a doctor and dietitian before starting this diet.

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