Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down the sugars that belong specifically to milk. If you get gassy or feel a cramping sensation after you drink milk or eat anything that contains milk, it may be the milk sugars that you cannot digest.
These sugars do not get absorbed where they should, in the small intestine, and instead they end up being food for bacteria later on down the line. Fermentation of undigested sugars happens in the large intestine, which is where stools are formed.
These sugars, which we cannot digest and that end up feeding bacteria and fungal overgrowth in the gut, are known as FODMAPs.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligo- di- mono-saccharides and polyols. Gastroenterologist Dr. Peter Gibson developed the FODMAP list of foods to treat patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
What all FODMAPs have in common is that they are all rapidly fermented somewhere along the gastrointestinal tract, specifically in the far end of the small intestine or in the large intestine.
What does this rapid fermentation look like? There may be:
FODMAPs are sugars that are difficult to digest and feed harmful bacteria in the gut. These foods may include beans, lentils, fruit, honey, and even milk.
- Abdominal cramping
- Brain fog
Lactose is the most famous FODMAP. But there are several other common foods that make the FODMAP list.
This means that you while you may digest some sugars, you may find that you feel better when you avoid others. And because a neighbor or a family member has different bacteria and different enzymes in their gut, they may have a completely different experience with these same foods!
1. Beans and lentils: Oligosaccharides are short strands of simple sugars. Remember, to be a FODMAP, these sugars have to be difficult to break down.
- Common foods in this group are several varieties of beans and lentils.
- One enzyme that the human gut does not have (but bacteria do) is called alpha galactosidase (a-gal). This enzyme is particularly important for digesting beans, and it is the active ingredient in “Beano.”
2. Wheat, onions, and cabbage: Also an oligosaccharide, wheat contains a type of sugar called a fructan.
- Fructans are found inulin and other common foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, onions, scallions, and avocados.
3. Milk sugars: Lactose is a milk sugar and a disaccharide. Cow, sheep, and goat’s milk all contain lactose.
4. Fruit, agave, and honey: Fructose, which is fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide.
- If you eat more fructose than your small intestine can absorb, it becomes food for bacteria and ferments.
- Keep in mind: We can only digest 20 – 25 grams of fructose in one sitting.
- All high-fructose fruits fall into this category. Also, sweeteners that contain fructose like agave, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and honey.
5. Xylitol, apples, and peaches: Polyols are sugar alcohols. Examples of sugar alcohols are xylitol, maltitol, and sorbitol.
- These sugar alcohols taste sweet but are not absorbed as sugar. They are commonly used in “diabetic candy,” in sugar-free mints, and in chewing gum.
- Xylitol is a popular sweetener for those who avoid sugar and is a FODMAP polyol.
- If you find that you have trouble with sugar alcohols like xylitol, try using Body Ecology Lakanto, which contains erythritol. Erythritol is a four-carbon polyol and, unlike other polyols, it is well absorbed.
- While sugar alcohols are fermentable in the large intestine, when eaten in excess they can also lead to osmotic diarrhea.
- Natural sources of polyols are apples, peaches, and pears.
These digestive problems could be minor, like a bloated belly. Or they could be far more noticeable, such as abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
When we eat food, it should digest easily. If it does not, especially if on a regular basis, this means that the trigger food is still being consumed.
Figuring this out can be tricky because oftentimes reaction is dose-dependant. This means that you could react to a certain food one day and not another! Sometimes, it can all depend on how much of a trigger food is consumed. Other times, no amount of a trigger food should ever be consumed.
If you know what the foods are at the root of digestive discomfort, then it becomes a lot easier to make sense of gut troubles that never seem to go away.
Healing the gut takes a foundational approach that will improve digestion and repopulate the beneficial microorganisms that make up your inner-ecology. The Body Ecology Core Programs are designed specifically to increase energy, improve digestion, cleanse toxins, and conquer infection.
Keep in Mind the Principle of Uniqueness!
Figuring out which foods are hard to digest could be the key to your digestive success.
- Remember that you may not need to eliminate all FODMAP foods.
- Often, the foods we eat every day are the ones that affect us most.
- It takes time and patience to figure out which foods you cannot fully digest.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
When you can't digest certain sugars, they will feed harmful bacteria in the small intestine over time. Sugars that are commonly difficult to digest and that feed fungal overgrowth in the gut are called FODMAPs. FODMAPs cause rapid fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in gas, heartburn, diarrhea, fatigue, and other related symptoms.
Everyone is different in how they respond to FODMAPs. You may be able to digest some sugars easily and have a difficulty digesting others. Any food you eat should digest easily, which all begins with healing the gut and balancing your inner ecology with beneficial bacteria.