Q & A's with Sonia Fox, Founder of Slightly Different Foods & Alana Scott, Founder of A Little Bit Yummy
Tell me about your own personal experience as an IBS sufferer.
Alana: ‘My first gut issues happened when I was at university. I used to be the girl who would sneakily unzip their jeans to relieve the pressure on my bloated belly during class. Then I became so ill, I didn’t want to leave the house anymore. I lost the sense of who I was because I was feeling so unwell all of the time. My bowel habits were unpredictable and I had lost a lot of weight. I knew something was wrong.
I visited my local GP and then a gastroenterologist. Eventually, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and started working with a dietitian.
My dietitian put me on a strict gluten free diet for life which stopped me from throwing up, but after several months I still had some gut-based symptoms that wouldn’t settle. At this stage, I was also diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and my dietitian suggested the Low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet helped me turn my life around and I am really grateful for the support I had from my medical team.
When you were first diagnosed with IBS how did you adapt to a Low FODMAP diet?
Alana: ‘When I first started the Low FODMAP diet I was given a low FODMAP food list and I struggled to get to grips with the diet. It felt overwhelming and hard and I just couldn’t find low FODMAP products in the supermarket – back then they just weren’t available. I had to find a different solution and get into the kitchen and cook. What most people don’t know is that I grew up in a restaurant on my family farm, so I decide to take the food philosophy I learnt there and start developing recipes. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t eat, I started focusing on all the low FODMAP foods I could still enjoy and made them the priority of my meals.’
What do you consider when creating your low FODMAP recipes?
Alana: ‘First I look for inspiration! This might be a meal I’m craving, a fun recipe idea I’ve seen, or a request that’s been sent in by a follower.
Next, I look at ways to make the recipe low FODMAP, gluten free and check that it has some allergy friendly options. Then I look at what’s going to bring flavour to the recipe – I love working with herbs, spices, or making dressings and sauces to give the dish personality. For me food is life - I don’t want anyone to endure boring meals when they have food intolerances. Once we are happy with the recipe, I photograph it so it looks as droolworthy as it tastes. Then the recipe is dietitian reviewed to make sure it is suitable for the low FODMAP diet before it is published on alittlebityummy.com.
What about you Sonia – what do you think about when making products?
Sonia: ‘We look at ways we can make our products safe for those with allergies or with sensitive tummies. For example, when creating our Thai Red curry, I left out the fish sauce. When making our Tikka Masala I used coconut milk, orange and Papaya as I wanted to make a curry sauce that was slightly different with more nutrition.
I have also enjoy hiding vegetables in some of my recipes/products to make them healthier and tastier. It makes them a great option for sneaking more vegetables onto a child’s plate without them knowing.
All my recipes/products are also based on my cravings. When I was initially developing the products - I wanted quick fix everyday meals that didn’t take long to make so I could spend more time with my children.’
Are all your recipes are reviewed by dietitians?
Alana: ‘Yes all of our recipes are dietitian reviewed. I’m lucky enough to work with an amazing international team of FODMAP trained dietitians and many of them have completed the Monash University Low FODMAP Course for Healthcare Professionals. Every time we write a recipe the ingredients and the portion sizes used are checked by our dietitian team to make sure they are low FODMAP and to avoid FODMAP stacking. We end up with super tasty recipes that are tummy friendly and get great reviews from the clients.
Along with the recipes, all of our articles and online courses are also dietitian reviewed to make sure they scientifically accurate and up-to-date.’
Tell me about your approach to helping IBS sufferers.
Alana: ‘We believe that people shouldn’t have to wait months or years to be given strategies to reduce their gut symptoms. We want to make IBS education simple and practical. We also want to help people take control of their gut symptoms while making food that is nutritious and tasty. That means we go beyond printed handouts that you get given by your doctor and give people access to online tools that help them understand they symptoms and make implementing the low FODMAP diet easy.
In our online FODMAP programmes we have two options. We have an online Low FODMAP Recipe Club that gives people instant access to over 700+ low FODMAP recipes, help adapting recipes and email support.
We also have a FODMAP Wellness Club that has all of the recipe club perks plus low FODMAP meal planning tools, online courses for each of the FODMAP diet phases (elimination, reintroduction, adapted FODMAP phase), online dietitian-led gut health classes, as well as email support.
What led you to publishing your own cookbook?
Alana: ‘My dietitian encouraged me to start publishing my recipes online in 2014 so I could help other people with gut issues going through the low FODMAP diet. As A Little Bit Yummy grew I started getting approached by people asking for more recipes and meal planning tools or who needed more support.
Eventually the demand for a cookbook became overwhelming, so I wrote The Gut Friendly Cookbook, which has a collection of 100 of my favourite low FODMAP and gluten free recipes. The cookbook has been a best seller in New Zealand and has done well overseas as well.’
Do you give into temptation for certain food cravings?
Alana: ‘I think it’s really normal to have food cravings and I often try food that I’m craving. My one exception is that I can’t eat anything with gluten in it due to my coeliac disease or I will end up in hospital.Everything else is fair game.
I’ve been on the FODMAP diet for a while now, so I eat a range of high and low FODMAP foods everyday based on what I tolerate. I know my FODMAP limits and how much of each of the FODMAP groups I can enjoy – I also like to push the boundaries and try new foods so I do give in to temptation (and I don’t feel guilty about it). Sometimes I find new foods I can enjoy without issues and other times I get some short-term gut symptoms and learn a bit more about my body.
Do you use any medication to assist with relieving your symptoms?
Alana: ‘No, I don’t take any regular medication as I don’t need it to manage my symptoms. However, we work with a lot of people who don’t get enough fibre which can contribute towards diarrhoea and constipation. This means sometimes a fibre supplement can help to manage symptoms. My top tip is to speak to your medical team and ask them what options are available to help you manage your symptoms.’
What Low FODMAP products would you like to see available in stores?
Alana: ‘That’s a really good question. I haven’t found any really tasty low FODMAP curries here in New Zealand, so a curry base would be awesome and I know you have some fantastic ones in your range. There is also a lack of low FODMAP salad dressings on the market where I live so those would be lovely too – especially something that’s fresh and zingy with lime.’
Sonia: ‘We have three salad dressings coming out very soon which I am sure you will like, and I will send you some.’
Sonia’s commitment to allergen free products:
Sonia: ‘We have had all of our products tested and certified Gluten Free and our products are produced in a nut free factory. We are also dedicated to creating products that exclude the 14 major allergens is so there was something out there for most people to enjoy!’