Although we are kept super busy each day at PhycoHealth, we still maintain our roots in science with many research partnerships.
Just this past week, an Honours research student at the University of Wollongong, Jess, completed her review of how seaweeds may be considered FODMAP friendly or not.
What is a FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym developed at Monash University to describe types of sugars or shorter-chain carbohydrates that are not digested well in the upper intestine in some people. FODMAPs can cause bloating and pain in up to 10% of people, while they are of no concern to others. Often this leads to a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
The really frustrating thing is that many foods with FODMAPs are normally meant to be very healthy!
Foods with FODMAPS include, but aren’t limited to wheat, rye, garlic (fructans); apples, pears, honey (excess fructose), legumes, cabbage, onion (GOS); stone fruits, mushrooms, artificial sweeteners (polyols); and dairy products (lactose).
This is why the FODMAPs Diet should be used first and foremost as a transitional diet to reset your gut function and dietary patterns around foods with FODMAPS that consistently cause you trouble.
Ideally, a successful FODMAPs diet period will see you being able to introduce most of these foods back into your diet again, at least in small quantities, for the longer term.
The irony of cutting out foods to develop a better gut flora is that you still need to feed the good bacteria and get adequate nutrition from a smaller range of foods. It is always important to work with your doctor or nutritionist when you eliminate foods to make sure that you don't lose important nutrition.
An opportunity to discover
There are probably many types of plants and foods that you can eat on a FODMAP-friendly diet, that you never took the time to explore while you were just eating away at what was normal food for you.
So is seaweed one of the FODMAP friendlies?
This is where we have to emphasize yet again, that seaweeds ain't seaweeds - just like a pea is not a potato. Seaweeds are actually even more diverse in terms of their sugars and fibers than land plants, and so it is a pretty mosaic to resolve.
FODMAPS are new knowledge and seaweed is being rediscovered.
The link between seaweeds and FODMAPS is very poorly explored to date, which is why we set the challenge to Jess, an Honours student in nutrition at the University of Wollongong. We asked her to explore the biochemistry of seaweeds to determine just how likely it was for different seaweeds to be in the risk zone of being rich in FODMAPs.
Go for Green, but small amounts of most seaweeds are usually OK.
Indeed the seaweeds delivered on their promise of diversity, and Jess found out that, overall, the presence of FODMAPs was recorded in predominately brown
seaweeds (kelps including Kombu) and some red seaweeds (notable Jellyweed). Mannitol was the most reported FODMAP, followed by excess fructose, sorbitol, and xylitol. But these seaweeds are often used in low quantities anyway due to a high iodine content - so small amounts might not affect you.
No FODMAPs were found in green seaweeds in research to date. This is a great opportunity that we will continue to explore, as it opens a door of nutrient dense solutions for people eliminating foods on a FODMAPs diet to avoid missing out on some essential nutrients. And you can eat much more green seaweed than others before you even come close to getting too much iodine.
If you want to better understand the strategy behind FODMAP-friendly diets and to talk to your doctor about it, then Monash University is the home base for this research.
We have now screened our other PhycoHealth products for their FODMAP-friendly ingredients and have pooled them together here. We will embark on some rigorous testing to certify these products as FODMAPS friendly - watch this space for some nutrient-dense solutions for those with IBS and SIBO on a FODMAP transition.
Best in health and good guts
Pia and the PhycoHealth team