Feed you, not the bugs!

July 23, 2018

Scientists are unraveling the mystery behind the success of the low FODMAP diet.  As it turns out, it’s all about the bugs!  By bugs, I mean the many types of bacteria that live in the human gastrointestinal (GI) system.  The macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) found in low FODMAP foods are better absorbed by the GI system, which means the nutrients are going to fuel you and not the bacteria in your intestine.

So what happens when you eat high FODMAP foods?  The theory goes like this.  Your system doesn’t absorb the macronutrients well, and the bugs feast on those nutrients.  Some species of bacteria thrive on those nutrients, so they start to grow and expand, which leaves little room for the more beneficial bacteria in your intestine.  The bacteria that took over compete with your body for key building blocks of a healthy intestinal lining.  Those bacteria also produce toxins, known as endotoxins, which stimulate a local inflammatory response and punch microscopic holes in the intestinal lining.  Not a good combination!  There is a feedback loop between the inflammatory response and the endotoxins that makes the situation worse.  This over stimulates the neurons in the colon.  As a result, the intestine swells and is extremely sensitive.  Sound familiar?  Switching to a low FODMAP diet reverses that entire process, resulting in a happier tummy that isn’t swollen and sensitive.

There is still a lot to learn about the GI system, the bugs that live there, and how dietary changes improve symptoms.  This is an active area of study, and ETP will keep you up-to-date.

If you’re interested in the scientific details, check out the following scholarly journal articles.

Zhou SY, Gillilland M 3rd, Wu X, Leelasinjaroen P, Zhang G, Zhou H, Ye B, Lu Y, Owyang C. FODMAP diet modulates visceral nociception by lipopolysaccharide-mediated intestinal inflammation and barrier dysfunction. J Clin Invest. 2018;128(1):267-280.

Halmos EP, Christophersen CT, Bird AR, Shepherd SJ, Gibson PR, Muir JG. Diets that differ in their FODMAP content alter the colonic luminal microenvironment. Gut. 2015;64(1):93–100.

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