Even as a nutritionist, if someone said to me “remove oligosaccharides from your diet immediately”, my face would be blank. Partly because I would have to do some serious reading on high and low oligosaccharide food sources as there is not really a systematic way of knowing, and partly because they are found in a lot of favourite foods!
In my last post about FODMAPs, I briefly touched on “F” for FERMENTABLE and how this effects the bowel – all you need to remember is they are rapidly broken down, poorly digested by us, but really well digested by bacteria in the gut, which results in bloating, wind, irregular bowel motions, pain, and all of those other fun symptoms experienced by IBS sufferers. Now onto the food stuff…
Oligosaccharides, as I mentioned in my last post, are chains of more than 2, but less than 10 sugar molecules. The 2 main groups of dietary oligosaccharides are FRUCTANS and GALACTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (GOS).
Unlike asking someone to remove gluten, dairy or sugar from their diet, where there is a relatively easy to identify list of foods that you can and can’t consume, removing oligosaccharides takes a little more attention and definitely a lot more planning.
Another brief chemistry lesson…
Fructans are chains of fructose molecules with a glucose molecule at the end. While excessive consumption of fructose is not great, that isn’t the inherent problem with fructans. Basically, it comes down to the body’s ability to split the molecules apart during digestion – something that no human digestive system is capable of. For non-IBS sufferers this does not cause a problem, or at least not to the same degree, but for IBS sufferers this group of foods can be key triggers of their symptoms.
Fructans are found in wheat, rye and barley, as well as a number of fruits and vegetables – including garlic and onion which I found devastating! They also occur in inulin – a type of dietary fibre that is increasingly found in processed food (not to be confused with insulin!), and fructo-oligosaccharides – another food constituent increasingly found in processed foods and beverages as a “natural” alternative sweetener.
“So what do I avoid?” I hear you ask… Here is a list of the foods and beverages highest in fructans according to Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson.
- GRAINS – Wheat, rye and barley and products made from these such as pasta, bread, cereal, crackers etc
- FRUITS – custard apples, nectarines, watermelon, persimmon, white peaches and rambutan
- VEGETABLES – Garlic, onion (all varieties including spring onion), artichoke (all varieties), asparagus, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chicory, dandelion leaves, fennel, leek, okra, peas, radicchio, all legumes (chickpeas, lentils, white beans, adzuki beans, broad beans, mung beans etc)
- NUTS – pistachios
- DRINKS – dandelion tea and most coffee alternatives (read the labels and look out for chicory and barley)
- OTHER – anything with added inulin or fructo-oligosaccharides. These will most likely be found in foods with “added fibre”, as well as low-fat food products (which we don’t like anyway… see my last article ), and some nutritional drink products – including supplement powders.
I don’t know about you… but for me that little list really wiped out a large number of my favourite ingredients. Garlic and onions are staple flavours in my cooking, I love dandelion tea, lentils and beetroot, and cabbage (in the form of sauerkraut) visits my plate on most days. What we need to remember though, is these foods aren’t inherently bad. In fact many of them are extremely therapeutic, but in terms of IBS symptom management according to the FODMAP diet, they need to be removed for at least 4-6 weeks to allow the body time to heal. For some people they may be able to be reintroduced after this time, for others it might take much longer. But for now, and for me, the goal is 4-6 weeks.
On to galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). These again are chains of sugar molecules (greater than 2, but less than 10), but this time are made up of galactose with a fructose and a glucose molecule on the end. High galactose foods are more easily identifiable… they are all of your legumes, which, because they are high in fructans also, we had already removed. Hooray!
Interestingly, most of the IBS sufferers that I have spoken to, have naturally moved away from consuming legumes anyway – even if they were properly prepared – as they found that they exacerbated their symptoms and were very difficult to digest.
So that is the OLIGOSACCHARIDES. Over the coming days I will go into more detail about the remaining FODMAP foods and by the end we will have developed a comprehensive list of the trouble makers, as well as what you can still enjoy.
I hope everyone is having a beautiful Easter, remember to take some time out to do something relaxing and nourishing for yourself.
Sending lots of love (and virtual raw chocolate Easter eggs!) xoxox