Book review: The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen by Emma Hatcher

fodmap friendly kitchen review

I was so thrilled to learn a few months ago that the lovely Emma Hatcher (aka @shecanteatwhat) was working on a recipe book for the low FODMAP diet. Her book, The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen, is out now and contains 100 low FODMAP recipes that span breakfast, dinner, snacks and sweet treats to boot.

Em starts the book by sharing an experience that many of us relate to, walking us through the perils of IBS: the social stigma that exists around the syndrome and the journey that followed after she learned of the low FODMAP diet. I LOVE that Em talks about breaking the taboo around IBS. It’s not an easy topic to speak out about, and with 1 in 7 suffering from the syndrome it’s so important that we start talking openly about our experiences and the steps we can take to make our bodies feel better!

At the start of her book, Em takes the time to walk us through the diet, explaining how best to go through the various phases. She goes on to talk about this new way of cooking, and lists out staple kitchen ingredients which is hugely useful.

Then come the recipes. First, we get a good grounding in low FODMAP essentials like how to make fluffy quinoa and grains that many will be unfamiliar with, i.e. buckwheat. Very useful for those embarking on the diet for the first time.

There are then a whole host of yummy looking recipes, including low FODMAP juices if that’s your thing, snacks and sides and lots of sweet things in there too.  The mains look deliciously light and fresh, but the majority don’t look to be huge portions so I’m not sure how well the recipes would cater to those needing more hearty meals and bigger portion sizes.

A note on lactose! The materials my dietician supplied me with, distributed by the NHS, did make it clear that you can enjoy 2 tbsp of regular yoghurt (i.e. not lactose free) in one portion. This is a bit of a life saver but it didn’t come through in the book. Em also uses lactose-free butter, which is confusing to me as butter contains no carbohydrate and therefore no lactose. Too much fat can irritate your tummy if you have IBS, but there is no need to switch to dairy-free butter, just use sparingly if fat is a trigger for you.

What’s really useful is Em’s sample menus at the back of the book, where she combines recipes for five occasions i.e. having the girls round for dinner. It’s a really nice idea – it would have been brilliant if she’d included a weekly sample menu too!

The recipes I can’t wait to make…

  • Breakfast: Fluffy banana cinnamon pancakes
  • Lunch: Aubergine quinoa rolls
  • Dinner: Creamy polenta with mozzarella & burst tomatoes (right up my street!)
  • Sweet treat: Hippie bars

thoughts

I think this is a wonderful book, filled with inspiring recipes and content that make a hugely bewildering diet accessible and fun. This is a great step in the right direction for the low FODMAP diet and I’m confident that Em’s book will encourage many, many people wherever they are on their FODMAP journey!

The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen is published by the same publisher who brought us the Deliciously Ella series and a host of other aspirational diet books. Because of this, my fear is that this fantastic book might result in the low FODMAP diet being unfairly lumped together with these lifestyle fads so currently in vogue, potentially drawing the wrong kind of attention to what currently is the only proven long-term treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. This is a diet that should only be followed with the support of a GP and registered dietician. Em does stress this repeatedly, however if a book as aspirational as this one is published alongside books on clean eating, I can see its contents falling into all sorts of the wrong hands. Please only buy this book if you have already sought the proper medical guidance following your IBS diagnosis; the low FODMAP diet is not one to be adopted because you sometimes feel bloated after a big meal (we all do!).

I was at Em’s launch of The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen last week over at Borough Market, trying all sorts of wonderful sweet treats from her book. I’ve pictured some of these below so you can see for yourselves how tasty these look! Em, I wish you all the best for this book; it’s fab to see something like this in print and a brilliant achievement that I know will inspire many people.

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fodmap friendly kitchen review

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STOP DOING KEGELS.

This week I’m bringing you a very important post. We’re going to be talking about pelvic floor dysfunction and the part it could be playing in your IBS-C, specifically.

Here I’m mainly talking to the ladies. We have a big problem with women’s posture in our society. It’s deemed correct to stand tall, chest out, stomach pulled in and bum tucked. Even if none of us remember being taught this as such, a lot of us are guilty of positioning our bodies in this way without even thinking. This isn’t good – it has the capacity to seriously mess with your pelvic floor.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the pelvic floor is the muscles, the ligaments and the connective tissue in the ‘floor’ of your pelvis. Guess what these muscles are responsible for? They support your downstairs organs! That’s your bowel, your bladder and, ladies, your uterus and vagina. As IBS sufferers, we need to know about these muscles and ensure they’re functioning properly as if not, this could be a big contributor to your IBS related symptoms.

We’ve all been told to do kegels for one reason or another. I read the first instruction to adopt these exercises in a teen magazine when I was about 14 (which awful in itself – but that’s a different battle altogether). I was told more explicitly about the importance of kegels when I took my first pilates class, age 17. It seemed the entire practice of pilates centred around ‘activating the core’ – which begins by pulling up on the pelvic floor and maintaining this at about 30% (at least the way I was taught, anyway). When I become pregnant, I will be told again I’m sure, of the importance of pelvic floor exercises to strengthen those down-there muscles. It’s absolutely true of course that you need strong pelvic floor muscles when you’re pregnant and indeed in all stages of life.  It’s just that tight, toned muscles can often be confused with strong ones.

Tight muscles doesn’t necessarily mean strong muscles.

Picture the pelvic floor muscles as a perfect tightrope; running from below your belly button to your tailbone. It has a little elastic to it, and all your lovely organs are arranged on this perfectly.  When you pull up on your pelvic floor repeatedly (as in kegels) and tuck your bum in as part of  this posture many women have adopted habitually, over time this tightrope is pushed inward from both sides, drawing tighter and tighter, creating slack in the middle.  Instead of being a strong, supportive tightrope with a healthy amount of give, the pelvic floor becomes more like a hammock and is in a state of dysfunction. Combine this with weak glutes that can’t support the back of your pelvis, and you’re even more susceptible to associated symptoms, which can be:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • urinary symptoms including: frequency, hesitancy, urgency, dysuria and bladder pain
  • pelvic pain
  • lower back pain or pain in the thighs and groin
  • pain during sex / vulvodynia

Here’s a baby donkey in a hammock to make this all a little less distressing.

donkey hammock

hammocks aren’t always bad

 

For anyone who suffers from IBS-C, like me, I’d urge you to consider your pelvic posture. Do you tense up and tuck your bottom in when you stand, or is your tightrope a thing of beauty? It doesn’t matter what headway you might be making on the low FODMAP diet – if a pelvic floor disorder is causing your symptoms, nothing will change until your muscles are supporting your organs in the right way. The steps below, more than anything else, have helped cure my IBS.

Step 1: listen to katy

Watch Katy Bowman speak on the subject in this short video. She explains it far better than me and is an expert on the subject. She includes some exercises here on how you can lengthen those pelvic floor muscles.

STEP 2: see your doctor

Although this might lead you to seek a more specialist opinion down the line, you should see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms, or if you think you might have a pelvic floor disorder.

step 3: stop doing kegels

Stop it. Today. Unless your pelvic floor muscles are in great shape, these will not help you – they will just shorten the muscles further!

Stop the kegels

Stop the kegels.

Step 4: squat

In addition to those lengthening exercises Katy Bowman shows us, you need to start squatting. Squats will strengthen your glutes, supporting the back of your pelvis (helping it to stay untucked) and help lengthen those tight pelvic floor muscles in the process, creating proper support and strength for your organs where it’s needed.

step 5: and remember …

TIGHT MUSCLES DO NOT EQUAL STRONG MUSCLES.

Read some more helpful insights from Katy Bowman, queen of perfect alignment, here:

– ‘Real pelvic floor advice for women‘ – particularly helpful advice for those in pregnancy

– ‘1, 2, 3, 4. We like our pelvic floor‘ – a very good illustration of the problem with kegels and the butt tuck when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction

 

 

Life after the FODMAP diet: Part 1

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After almost two years, I’ve come out the other side of the low FODMAP diet infinitely more aware and in touch with my body’s responses to food. Like you I’m sure, I’ve kept food diaries, scoured hundreds of product labels, read countless articles and opinions and learnt entirely new limits to live within since embracing a low FODMAP diet.

In reintroducing FODMAPs into my daily life, I’ve concluded a few things from this gruelling test. The main thing I’ve learnt, thank God, is which foods I tolerate well and which foods I really don’t. Frustratingly, it also seems that some foods might seem fine one day, and totally screw me over another day. In this respect the test hasn’t been all that conclusive.

confused gif

Most annoyingly, a plate full of delicious, high FODMAP foods in groups that I have found I tolerate through reintroductions, can result in a lot of pain. This is because FODMAPs always build up in your stomach; so it doesn’t matter that I can tolerate glucose, lactose and GOS. If I wolf down a big bowl of lentils followed by some delicious chopped mango and a load of yoghurt – I’ll probably suffer due to the combination.

So my approach is to begin eating as normally as possible again, incorporating the FODMAPs that I can eat into my diet, while being conscious of my overall intake. Alongside this, something I’m trying to do now that I’ve completed my reintroductions is embrace a more balanced, gut friendly diet. This means making a conscious effort to eat FODMAP containing foods that are known to aid digestion and heal the gut. This means eating garlic for instance, and it means eating probiotics.

So today I thought I’d share a recipe for easy homemade kimchi. For those who don’t know, kimchi is a Korean dish, made from fermented cabbage with chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onions. Since trying it for the first time, I’ve been keen to try making it. It’s dead easy and will last a really long time. A tasty addition to salads and rice bowls, this probiotic miracle is rich in A and C vitamins and boosts the immune system generally by healing your gut.

Easy Homemade Kimchi

you will need:

A sealable 1 litre jar (e.g. Kilner)
Some food safe gloves (optional)
1/2 head of white cabbage, cut into chunks (this recipe is only suitable for those who tolerate GOS)
handful of radishes, sliced
1/2 cup sea salt
2 x chillis
3 x cloves of garlic (leave out if you don’t tolerate)
1 thumb of ginger
4 x green parts of spring onions (add the whole thing if you tolerate)
2 x tbsp fish sauce

method:

Slice your cabbage roughly into large-ish chunks and your radishes into thin slices. Pop in a big mixing bowl. Add the salt and massage into the veggies for a few minutes (do this with gloves on if you like). Salting the cabbage starts the fermentation process.

Next, add just enough cold water to cover the veggies. Pop a plate over them and weigh down with something heavy e.g. a bag of beans. Leave for 1-2 hours.

Make the paste easily by whizzing up the spring onions, garlic, chilli and ginger in a food processor (you can also chop by hand if you like). I love the smell of these ingredients together! I genuinely don’t remember the last time I cooked with fresh garlic, so this part was really exciting. If you don’t tolerate the fructans in garlic, do not substitute with garlic oil here, but rather just leave out of the recipe.

Add the fish sauce to the paste. Drain the cabbage and radishes and return to the bowl. Add the sauce to the cabbage and radishes and mix well with your hands. I really advise wearing some gloves here if you can, or using spoons instead to be sure the smell doesn’t stick to you!

You can now transfer to your sealable jar! Pack in tightly, allowing 2cm of breathing room at the top. Seal the jar and leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1 – 5 days. Once you start to see bubbles, the kimchi is ready and can be refrigerated.

It’s so easy, tastes totally delicious, and looks as though it might do us a lot of good! Fingers crossed… bring on the probiotics…

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The Natural Food Show 2016

The Natural Food Show 2016

As hard and inconvenient as the low FODMAP diet can be, at least we live in a fairly exciting time for free from food. With so many people across the globe taking more interest and care in what they’re putting in their bodies, endeavouring to learn more about and take control of their health, a huge range of organic, raw and free from products have materialised.

Part of the Natural & Organics Products Europe exhibition, the Natural Food Show in London is the culmination of this movement, housing hundreds of stands from brands just starting out to products that most of us now know and love. I was excited to head over there this morning to see these brands in a new light… it was a really great opportunity to chat with representatives from some of my favourite free from brands (and discover a whole load more!)

Some of the brands on show included…

Rude health
Biona
Pukka
Suma
Bioglan
Nakd
Lucy Bee
Pukka Tea
Yogi Tea
Suma
Meridian
Nairns
Planet Organic
Raw Health
Amisa
Biona Organics
Bounce

There was no shortage of sweet options (many, many delicious variations on the bliss ball and raw cacao theme!) … but what I was really after was some helpful savoury options.

There were a couple of standouts. I tried some really delicious noodles made from soy bean from a brand who disappointingly aren’t yet stocked in the UK, and spoke to a lovely guy from Really Healthy Pasta. Their pastas caught my eye – no maize ingredients in sight! All their pastas are made from really inspiring and inventive ingredients such as red lentil, chickpea, mung bean and black bean. And although these will be high in GOS – it might be an answer for some of us!

I’ll be reviewing a couple of flavours soon – but until then, have a gander at the photos below and consider getting over there next year. It’s sure to be even bigger and better as this market continues to grow.

Long may it continue!

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The Natural Food Show 2016

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Miss onion? Time to try asafoetida powder!

asafoetida

Just a quick post this week to sing the praises of something I’ve only recently welcomed to my kitchen. You might have heard of asafoetida powder, hailed by many as a low FODMAP onion substitute. I gave it a go recently and am pleased to confirm the rumours; this stuff really does give your recipes that  onion-y kick that the small amount of celery we’re permitted in one serving doesn’t quite achieve.

Popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, asafoetida powder is related to fennel. It’s potent stuff though, you’ll only really need a pinch of it in most cases. And don’t be put off by the smell; it disappears when cooking and will give your meals a lot more depth, I promise. So far I’ve tried it in stock, cooking up lentils, risotto, soup and stews; I’m definitely a convert.

So good.

Oh and P.S. If anyone has tried garlic leaves, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you felt – I’m looking into them as a garlic alternative but can’t find any concrete info yet on whether they’re low FODMAP. I’ll keep you all posted!