Lifestyle | Interviews

Danielle Capalino Interview: Let’s Talk Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach!

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Danielle Capalino MSPH, RD, CDN has a new book with low FODMAP recipes, this one focused on liquids. Does that sound funny? Well, there is no better way to say it than her title and subtitle: Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach Drinks; 75 Low-FODMAP Tonics, Infusions, and More. Danielle even includes hot sip-able savory soups and broths, in addition to teas, smoothies – you name it. If it is liquid, can be poured in a glass and is low FODMAP, she’s covered it.

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We got together with Danielle to chat with her about her books, recipes and her interest in the low FODMAP diet.

      Low FODMAP Anti Inflammatory Cacao from Danielle Capalino

Dédé Wilson: Danielle, thank you so much for doing an interview with us! Let’s start at the beginning, so those who don’t know you get some background. You work in New York City, graduated from MIT as well as John Hopkins School of Public Health. Your first book, which also offers low FODMAP recipes, is Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach. Did your interest in FODMAPs come from your own patients?

Danielle Capalino: I first learned about the low-FODMAP diet from Dr. Gerry Mullin at Johns Hopkins when I was in graduate school. I had the unique and amazing experience of interning with Dr. Mullin and sitting in on many of his patient visits. I heard him telling his patients to try the diet and sending them to work with a dietitian and I saw how much it changed people’s lives. When I first opened up a private practice it was in a gastroenterology practice with the intention of using the FODMAP diet to help patients suffering from GI issues.

What an optimal experience! Not only for you, but for these lucky patients. We are always banging that drum – that your best chance of success is by working with a RD. What do you see as your patient’s greatest challenges with the diet?

The greatest challenge I see is eating out. Living in New York I see a lot of people who love eating out and have access to so many dining options. It really is hard to avoid onions and garlic when you are eating in a restaurant because you might not see them. I find those are the hardest things to avoid.

This is completely consistent with my own experience and what we hear from our community. Tell us about your WTF Program (calm down, people. It stands for What The FODMAP!)

I created the WTF program for people who want to learn the low-FODMAP diet at their own pace. It is not always possible to work one-on-one so the online program makes it accessible for me to walk you through the diet on your own.

I love it, because if you cannot see a RD in person, then having them as a resource in a different form makes perfect sense. Did the books come after the WTF Program as a way for folks to further support themselves at home?

The books came before the program. I created the program to continue the relationship I had with my readers and offer them video content and downloads to supplement the book.

Let’s talk about the newest book, Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach Drinks; 75 Low-FODMAP Tonics, Infusions, and More. What inspired you to write about drinks and beverages?

So many patients that I see really like smoothies and juices and struggle to find options that work with their dietary restrictions. There are some wonderful juice shops but they almost all use apple, and other FODMAP no-nos. A lot of people I speak to also have lots of questions about cocktails, which can be OK on the low-FODMAP diet. The book is designed as an inspiration for people to show them how many amazing low-FODMAP drink options are available to them.

Tell us how you develop the recipes. Are you mainly using Monash University lab tested ingredients as your guide? Does your clinical experience come into play?

Yes I developed the recipes using the Monash University lab tested ingredients as my guide. I also factor in my clinical experience!

Your Low FODMAP Anti-Inflammatory Cacao is perfect when you want a hot drink on a cold day! You feature some recipes from friend’s of yours, such as Rachel, an Equinox fitness instructor who brings us her Rachel’s Morning Mix smoothie complete with almond milk, banana, spinach, flax, protein powder and more. Are you finding that more and more people are aware of the diet?

Yes definitely. I am seeing more patients come to me already knowing about the diet and needing specific guidance.

If someone is reading this, who has been diagnosed with IBS, but is still trying to decide whether the low FODMAP diet is worth a shot – what do you have to say to them?

I would ask them to look at a list of high FODMAP foods and see if they are eating a lot of them. Sometimes people want to try the diet but when you look at what they are eating, it doesn’t make sense. For others it’s extremely hard to try because they are eating so many FODMAPs. I think there is some level of “gut feeling” involved in deciding to try the diet too. Sometimes I am going through the list of foods and a patient has an “aha moment” when I mention a particular food, and that is usually their culprit. The last thing I have to say on this topic is that the diet is really used as a test to figure out what your sensitivities are so I must remind people not to stay on the Elimination diet for the long term.

Thank you for mentioning this. We point this out as often as possible as well. The point is ultimately to eat as broadly as possible – and working with a RD or using RD developed resources is a way to create that structured Challenge phase so that you CAN move on beyond Elimination by learning your personal triggers!

Danielle, thank you for all that you do for those who are suffering with IBS and for educating about the low FODMAP diet. It can truly change lives for the better and books like yours are a perfect home companion.

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