A Dietitian Answers 3 Questions On Food Intolerances

by Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Last Updated: January 18, 2021

Nearly all of us experience unpleasant digestion at some time or another, but some may have intestinal and stomach trouble regularly, which can become a concern. This issue could potentially be related to food intolerances. One of our expert dietitians can shed light on this, and provide some information regarding food allergies.
  1. Can you explain what FODMAP means and the benefits of a low FODMAP diet?
    FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.” Yep, that’s a mouthful. This is a fancy way of summarizing the short-chain carbohydrates (fibers, sugars, and sugar substitutes), which can be gas-producing, bloat-forming, stomach-cramping, and diarrhea-inducing for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and certain other digestive sensitivities.

    It’s reported that about 1 in 7 people worldwide suffer from IBS and that about 75% of those people experience relief of their symptoms by following a low FODMAP diet.

    FODMAP foods can be found, well, just about everywhere: from some fruits and vegetables to specific beans, grains, nuts, teas, dairy, alcohol and sweeteners.

    Selecting more foods on the low end of the FODMAP spectrum and less on the high end could improve digestion and absorption if you suffer from icky gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Switching out asparagus for green beans, watermelon for honeydew melon, cow’s milk for almond milk, baked beans for tofu, cashews for walnuts, or couscous for quinoa are some simple tweaks that could really alleviate stomach discomfort.

    If you’re unsure whether a low FODMAP diet is right for you, consult with your doctor to confirm if you have IBS. Next, work with a dietitian to eliminate your trigger FODMAP foods for a 2-6-week trial period. Then, reintroduce FODMAP foods in a stepwise process with your dietitian to identify troublesome foods and layout a customized long-term eating plan.

    Further resources: Monash University FODMAP App and Nestlé Health Science Low FODMAP Central.
  2. Is celiac a disease or allergy? Can it be cured?
    Bad news first. The bad: celiac disease can’t be cured, and the only treatment is a life-long gluten-free (i.e., no wheat, barley, or rye) diet. The good: there are numerous gluten-free alternatives on the market, and many foods are naturally gluten-free (e.g., fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.)! Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder or intolerance, not an allergy. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, it damages the finger-like projections (“microvilli”) inside the small intestine responsible for nutrient absorption, thereby leading to malabsorption. This presents as symptoms ranging from diarrhea to joint pain to fatigue. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have gluten intolerance so you can get tested.
  3. How do you feel about pea and other legume proteins growing in popularity? Is there potential for developing an allergy if they’re overused?
    The presence of legumes, which include black-eyed peas, split peas, beans, soy, peanuts, and lentils, in our diets is something to celebrate! Many of these powerhouse foods are a good source of fiber, protein, iron, and zinc. We should strive for 1½ cups of legumes weekly, plus one serving of soy (tofu, soy milk, edamame, tempeh, etc.) daily. Double this amount if you strictly follow a plant-based diet.

    Protein supplements made from pea and soy protein offer a safe and effective alternative for those who can’t tolerate milk, while “faux meats” with added legume protein can easily be substituted for their animal-derived counterparts.

    The major eight allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, soy, milk, and wheat. These foods are responsible for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions. There is no evidence that eating more of a food (even soy) increases your chance of developing an allergy to that food. Research has not concluded what causes food allergies, but a family history of food allergies or related conditions like eczema and asthma could increase risk.

Do you have any other questions you wish you could ask a nutrition professional? Or do you need someone to help guide you along your food and nutrition journey? Sign up for a free virtual telenutrition session during the COVID-19 pandemic with one of our expert dietitians at www.kroger.com/dietitian.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly can help you simplify eating, all while building excitement around good food and freeing up time for all the things that really matter in your life. With a knack for food labeling and regulations, weight management, food intolerances, and plant-based eating, Molly is ready to help you make sense of food again. When not on the clock, Molly can be found hip-hop dancing, cuddling up with her two mischievous cats, playing trombone, or honing in on her food photography skills.