Di­ges­tive com­plaints af­fect nearly 100 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. In most cases, the symp­toms re­flect dis­turbed di­ges­tive func­tion or food in­tol­er­ance rather than an un­der­ly­ing disease. Func­tional gas­troin­testi­nal dis­or­ders in­clude oc­ca­sional in­di­ges­tion or heart­burn, dys­pep­sia, ex­ces­sive flat­u­lence, and ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome (IBS). Sup­port­ing di­ges­tion with the help of di­ges­tive en­zymes and other nat­u­ral ap­proaches is of­ten the best route to elim­i­nat­ing these both­er­some (and some­times em­bar­rass­ing) symp­toms.


A food al­lergy or food in­tol­er­ance oc­curs when there is an ad­verse re­ac­tion to the in­ges­tion of a food. In a clas­sic food al­lergy, the im­mune sys­tem is in­volved, pro­duc­ing a true al­ler­gic re­ac­tion that can po­ten­tially re­sult in se­vere symp­toms—in­clud­ing ana­phy­laxis, a life-threat­en­ing re­ac­tion that im­pairs breath­ing. In a food in­tol­er­ance, the im­mune sys­tem is not in­volved; symp­toms are gen­er­ally less se­ri­ous and of­ten limited to di­ges­tive prob­lems.

A clas­sic food al­lergy oc­curs when an in­gested food mol­e­cule acts as an anti­gen—a sub­stance that can be bound by an antibody. An­ti­bod­ies are the pro­tein mol­e­cules made by white blood cells that bind to for­eign sub­stances, in this case, var­i­ous com­po­nents of foods. Al­ler­gic re­ac­tions can be de­layed or im­me­di­ate. Im­me­di­ate al­ler­gic re­ac­tions can be quite se­ri­ous and po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing, as food anti­gens bind to spe­cial­ized white blood cells that re­lease his­tamines, which cause swelling and in­flam­ma­tion.

With food in­tol­er­ances, the root cause of­ten is an in­abil­ity to digest cer­tain foods due to a lack of cer­tain di­ges­tive en­zymes. For ex­am­ple, ap­prox­i­mately 65 per­cent of adults have a re­duced abil­ity to digest lac­tose af­ter in­fancy. Lac­tose, a sugar in milk and milk prod­ucts, is bro­ken down by the en­zyme lac­tase, pro­duced in the small in­tes­tine. If the lac­tose is not bro­ken down by the en­zyme lac­tase, it can pro­duce a lot of

gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms es­pe­cially gas, bloat­ing, cramp­ing pain, and diarrhea. Tak­ing sup­ple­men­tal lac­tase can help with lac­tase di­ges­tion and al­low peo­ple with lac­tose in­tol­er­ance to elim­i­nate symp­toms of food in­tol­er­ance.


There are a va­ri­ety of di­etary ap­proaches to deal with food al­ler­gies and in­tol­er­ances. For ex­am­ple, an al­lergy elim­i­na­tion diet is one pop­u­lar method in which com­monly eaten foods are elim­i­nated and re­placed with ei­ther hy­poal­ler­genic foods or foods that are rarely eaten. e in­di­vid­ual stays on the elim­i­na­tion diet for at least one week. If the symp­toms are re­lated to a food al­lergy or in­tol­er­ance sen­si­tiv­ity, they will typ­i­cally dis­ap­pear by the

fth or sixth day of the diet. If the symp­toms do not dis­ap­pear, it is pos­si­ble that a re­ac­tion to a food in the elim­i­na­tion diet is re­spon­si­ble. In that case, an even more re­stricted diet must be uti­lized.

Af­ter the elim­i­na­tion diet pe­riod, in­di­vid­ual foods are rein­tro­duced ev­ery two days. Meth­ods range from rein­tro­duc­ing only a sin­gle food ev­ery two days, to rein­tro­duc­ing a food ev­ery one or two meals. Rein­tro­duc­tion of an of­fend­ing food will typ­i­cally pro­duce a more se­vere or rec­og­niz­able symp­tom than be­fore, al­low­ing for easy identi cation of a food al­lergy or in­tol­er­ance.

A pop­u­lar diet to help deal with com­mon di­ges­tive dis­tur­bances is the low FODMAP diet. is diet fo­cuses on elim­i­nat­ing cer­tain foods known to cause ex­ces­sive gas, bloat­ing, and changes in reg­u­lar­ity. FODMAP is an acro­nym for:

Fer­mentable – foods that are quickly bro­ken down (fer­mented) by bac­te­ria in the large in­tes­tine.

Oligosac­cha­rides – “oligo” means “few” and “sac­cha­ride” means sugar. ese mol­e­cules are made up of in­di­vid­ual sugars joined to­gether in a chain. Beans are a com­mon source of oligosac­cha­rides.

Disac­cha­rides – “di” means two, so a dis­ac­cha­ride is com­posed of two sugar mol­e­cules bonded to­gether. Su­crose is a dis­ac­cha­ride.

Monosac­cha­rides – “mono” means sin­gle, so a monosac­cha­ride is a sin­gle sugar mol­e­cule. Fruc­tose is a monosac­cha­ride.

Poly­ols – these are sugar al­co­hols of­ten used as sweet­en­ers. Some ex­am­ples are xyl­i­tol, malti­tol, and ery­thri­tol.

A low-FODMAP diet refers to a tem­po­rary eat­ing pat­tern, usu­ally 7 to 10 days, that has a very low amount of FODMAPs. It is used in clin­i­cal medicine to re­lieve di­ges­tion-re­lated symp­toms such as gas, bloat­ing, and ir­reg­u­lar­ity in peo­ple deal­ing with: Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome (IBS) Other forms of Func­tional Gas­troin­testi­nal Dis­or­der (FGID) Small in­testi­nal bac­te­rial over­growth (SIBO) Cer­tain au­toim­mune con­di­tions/diseases like (po­ten­tially) rheuma­toid arthri­tis, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, or eczema Fi­bromyal­gia or other health is­sues you’ve no­ticed are trig­gered by cer­tain foods Fre­quent mi­graines that ap­pear to be trig­gered af­ter cer­tain meals

Here is a list of some com­mon foods and in­gre­di­ents that are high in FODMAPs. To fol­low a low FODMAP diet avoid these foods for 10 days:

Veg­eta­bles: Ar­ti­chokes, as­para­gus, broc­coli, beetroot, Brus­sels sprouts, cab­bage, cau­li­flower, gar­lic, fen­nel, leaks, mush­rooms, okra, onions, peas, shal­lots. Fruit: Ap­ples, ap­ple­sauce, apri­cots, black­ber­ries, boy­sen­ber­ries, cherries, canned fruit, dates, figs, pears, peaches, water­melon. Dairy prod­ucts: Milk (from cows, goats, and sheep), ice cream, most yo­gurts, sour cream, soft and fresh cheeses (cottage, ri­cotta, etc). Legumes: Beans, chick­peas, lentils, red kid­ney beans, baked beans, soy­beans. Wheat: Bread, pasta, most breakfast ce­re­als, tor­tillas, waf­fles, pan­cakes, crack­ers, bis­cuits. Other grains: Bar­ley and rye. Beverages: Beer, forti ed wines, soft drinks with high fruc­tose corn syrup, milk, soy milk, fruit juices. Sweet­en­ers: Fruc­tose, honey, high fruc­tose corn syrup, xyl­i­tol, man­ni­tol, malti­tol, sor­bitol.

MEET THE EX­PERT: Nathan Ma­tush­eski, PhD, is a Sci­en­tific Leader, Nutri­tion Science & Ad­vo­cacy, with DSM Nu­tri­tional Prod­ucts.

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