Life

Fodmap diet has been an IBS life changer says blogger Emma Hatcher

A low Fodmap diet can bring blessed relief to those blighted by IBS, but knowing where to start can be daunting. Blogger-turned-cookbook author Emma Hatcher tells Gemma Dunn about her mission to make it all a bit more digestible

Emma Hatcher, who's blog is catchily titled She Can't Eat What?!

THE term 'low Fodmap diet' may leave you scratching your head – but not for much longer, if Emma Hatcher has anything to do with it. Fodmaps – fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols – are types of short-chain carbohydrates that can be tricky to digest, and they can wreak havoc for some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common condition associated with digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and cramps.

They can be found in a wide range of foods, including certain fruits, veggies, grains and nuts – onions, garlic and apples are prime examples (though not everybody with IBS is affected by the same foods in the same ways). But cutting out, or cutting down on key culprits can help – and if anyone can vouch for the effectiveness of a low Fodmap diet it's Hatcher, a long-term sufferer of IBS and a sensitive gut.

"It was a light bulb moment of, 'Oh my God, this could actually really help'," the 23-year-old recalls of her dietician's suggestion to try the plan, following years of cutting out various foods to no effect.

"You don't realise quite how much it affects your life until after your symptoms have gone, and you think, 'Wow, I'm not thinking about when I'm next going to need the bathroom, or what I'm going to eat on my work lunch break today'. It's been a massive life-changer for me, and by the sounds of it, for a lot of other people out there as well."

Discovering that the information available was minimal, the forward-thinking millennial embarked on a one-woman mission to show that the diet needn't be restrictive.

She has since offered support to countless others in a similar position, via her lifestyle blog, She Can't Eat What?! and is now sharing her insights in her debut cookbook, The Fodmap Friendly Kitchen.

Hatcher explains the tome – a colourful smorgasbord of recipes, helpful meal plans and tips – was created with the intent of "distilling" the diet into digestible chunks.

"I wanted to make it easy for other people, to provide them with another resource that's not really science-y but simplifies and relays it from a personal experience. Food is a massive part of IBS and dealing with symptoms, but at the same time, there's the anxiety and stress side of things," she elaborates. "There's the question of, 'What am I going to do when I go out to a restaurant with my friends and order food?'

"I was really conscious I wanted to answer some of those questions."

As well as avoiding processed foods and sugars, Hatcher devised a menu of simple, healthy and delicious dishes, that all require no unobtainable ingredients.

Fancy giving low Fodmap eating a go? Below are two tasty recipes from Hatcher's new book to try at home.

:: LIGHTENED UP LASAGNE

(Serves 6-8)

1 parsnip, peeled and diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, diced

2tbsp olive oil

1kg minced beef

2 tins (each 400g) chopped tomatoes

120ml water

2tsp dried oregano

2 bay leaves

20g basil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 butternut squash

200g spinach

100g grated mozzarella

In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of the oil and saute the parsnip, carrot and pepper until soft. Add the mince and cook until browned.

Pour in the tomatoes and water and stir in the oregano, bay leaves and basil. Simmer for roughly one hour until the meat is tender and saucy.

Taste and season.

Preheat the oven to 180C (gas 4). Peel and cut the squash into thin slices, as if lasagne sheets. Bake in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil for 15 minutes. Once tender, you can get to work on layering the lasagne, just quickly fish out your bay leaves from your meat first. In a baking dish, add one layer of the mince mixture, one layer of spinach and one layer of squash, repeating until all of the ingredients are used up. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the oven at the same temperature for 30 minutes, or until the top is crispy.

:: BUCKWHEAT RISOTTO WITH MACADAMIA CREAM

(Serves 4)

1 large aubergine, chopped into small chunks

2tbsp garlic-infused oil

255g buckwheat groats (available from good supermarkets)

80ml dry white wine

470ml vegetable stock or hot water

150g spring greens

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Grated parmesan, to serve (optional)

For the macadamia cream:

40g macadamia nuts, soaked for 5 hours or overnight

35g sunflower seeds

160ml water

1/2 tsp sea salt

1tbsp lemon juice

To make the macadamia cream, add all of the ingredients apart from the water into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. While the processor is still running, pour in the water bit by bit, until you reach a thick, cream-like consistency. Leave to one side whilst preparing the rest of the dish.

To make the risotto, heat the garlic-infused oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the aubergine and saute for about 10 minutes or until softened and starting to brown. Add the buckwheat groats to the pan. Toss and let cook, 'toasting' the buckwheat, for one to two minutes.

Add the wine, stir and let cook until completely absorbed. Ladle in the vegetable stock, a little bit at a time, keeping the mixture at a low simmer.

Each time the liquid is absorbed by the buckwheat, add a bit more, until you've used up all the stock and it's been absorbed fully by the buckwheat. Have a quick taste. The buckwheat should be tender at this point, but not mushy. Add in the spring greens and lemon juice and cook for another couple of minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir the macadamia cream.

Divide into bowls and serve topped with parsley, lemon zest, and a little parmesan, if you like.

:: The Fodmap Friendly Kitchen by Emma Hatcher is published by Yellow Kite, priced £20.

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