Love your beautiful belly! Yes your belly is more likely to be its naturally flat beautiful self when you eat low FODMAP foods, because there is less struggle for your small and large intestines to complete digestion of some difficult fermentable foods, sugars, and polyols.

“What?” I hear you say. Polyols. They are sugar alcohols, which is the ‘P’ in FODMAP.

The other letters stand for Fermentables (to be broken down by bacteria); Oligosaccharides (which just means few sugars); Disaccharides (two sugars); Monosaccharides (one sugar); A (just stands for and); Polyols.

These Fermentables, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols have short chains that are not broken down in the small intestine, and for some people their large intestine does not have the required bacteria to break them down either. Remembering that your gut is your second brain – or my better brain as I like to call it – of course its nervous system will be upset by all the bloating and struggling to deal with the FODMAP foods, which are also described as short chain carbohydrates such as fructans, sorbitol, lactose, and fructose.

Enter an intriguing book by Giulia Enders published 2015 called “Gut” If you want to know more about how the intestines work to deal with food and the complete digestion process from smelling and seeing food to expelling, this is the book for you. Or you can read my blog next week which is a review of “Gut”

The effects of FODMAP foods on some guts was brought to light by Monash University (Melbourne) researchers Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson. Essentially, if you digest FODMAP foods poorly then they ferment in your large intestine or bowel and absorb water; cause arthritis like symptoms; produce gas; cause inflammation and stomach pain; cause some auto-immune conditions and in some, psoriasis and eczema. There are also the psychological effects such as low mood and anxiety. Sometimes it contributes to depression, as you will know if you watched the video I included in my last blog on Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”

Most people think of the heart line, and the spine as being essential lines through the body, but in yogic medicine especially we are invited to be very aware of our gut and how it behaves. It has a huge number of nerve endings and it is an accurate barometer of health. The main precept of Kundalini and Ashtanga is Prana/Apana balance. Prana is the energy in the body, or all the upward energetic movements in the practice. Apana is the eliminating or dissolution force, or all the downward insular movements and rest phases in the practice. Yogis are constantly keeping antennae poised to find this balance, not just through practice, but through meditation and nutrition as well as Ahimsa and compassionate living balanced with Tapas – the fire of will and action.

This diagram shows the different possible ways food can act in the gut. The lumens are just small openings inside the intestinal structure. These can get swollen with fluid when trying to deal with foods that are mismatched to the wrong gut. Yoga wants us to be completely aware of our bodies and have union all round, which puts us in the position to be our own physicians. We have the expertise we need within, it just needs accessing.

If you are concerned, you could try eliminating any suspect foods for a month or two, give your intestines time to heal, and the gut bacteria a chance to re-balance. Then slowly re-introduce foods and note carefully their effect on your well-being. I don’t want to give a definitive list because it is different for everyone. Here are some foods that were identified as high/low FODMAP in the Monash University research:

Gluten is not strictly a FODMAP as it is a protein, but it can cause trouble for some: gluten-free products contain far less oligosaccharides and fructans than gluten products.

Remember the classics: Hippocrates ‘Let your food be your medicine, your medicine be your food’ i.e. Listen to your gut!

Next week a review of “GUT” by Giulia Enders