When Gluten Free Isn’t Enough…

When Gluten Free Isn’t Enough… By Stephanie Geurts (@NochefSteph)


Many people know they feel better skipping the gluten but not everyone gets relief from simply cutting out the gluten containing grains.  Most of these grains are oligosaccharides, one of the FODMAPs.

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and some are not well absorbed.  The acronym stands for fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, mon-saccharides and polyols.  Some of the FODMAPs can be absorbed by individuals who have the correct enzymes – lactose is good example of this.  Lactose is a di-saccharide, it has 2 sugar units that require the enzyme lactase to absorb it.  People who do not have this enzyme are known as “lactose intolerant”

The oligo-saccharides are not absorbed by anyone, humans do not have enzymes to “digest” these so they can cause multiple unpleasant symptoms.  The most notable oligo-saccharides are wheat, rye, beans, garlic & onions.  While many people associate bloating with wheat and beans, they might not realize the amount of other foods that are a part of this same group.

The good news is there are many safe swaps out there for cooking and baking.  We go through jugs of garlic infused olive oil in our house.  Garlic is water soluble but not oil soluble so it is safe to use the infused oil even if garlic bothers you – just make sure it is strained to be pure oil and does not contain chunks or residue.  Spring/green onions do not contain FODMAPs if you use only the green tops.  These and chives are a good swap for white/red onions.

The grain free market for flour has been an amazing alternative to using gluten and many of them are also low FODMAP.  Green banana (staple in our house) and yam flour are good examples of gluten free, grain free, and low FODMAP alternatives.  Almond flour has gotten so popular but does contain high amounts of oligos so we use pecan in our house as a substitute.

Diagnosing FODMAP intolerance is a bit of trial and error.  There is breath testing for some of the categories and of course the elimination diet.  Thankfully there are many great alternatives, for those that need to adapt their diet, as we continue to see products coming on the market with FODMAP labeling.