Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders and symptoms can keep us from obtaining proper nutrition. It is a catch-22! We eat, and our gut hurts and then because our gut hurts, we don’t eat.
Thankfully, companies such as FODMAP Foods LLC are creating products to help those of us with sensitive digestive tracts, and the products are not only gut friendly and Monash University lab tested and certified as low FODMAP, but they are delicious as well.
Dr. Steve Harmon DO and his wife, Lynsie Harmon, have created a low FODMAP, plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO free, egg free, and nut free meal replacement powder. We are thrilled to introduce them and their new company, FODMAP Foods LLC, to you.
Dédé Wilson: Steve, we are thrilled to be doing this interview because the millions of people around the world who are dealing with digestive upset are always looking for something that is convenient, delicious, and nutritious that they can eat, which will not upset their digestion. First, Steve we would love to hear about your medical background.
It is great privilege to be with you, thanks for having us here, and all you are doing to help the IBS community. My medical background is a bit vanilla. I have a pretty standard path of undergraduate education. I went to medical school at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic. Then went to a Family Medicine Residency in Idaho. This was a rural track where I spent 2 of the 3 years in Jerome and Twin Falls. I practiced in Salt Lake City Utah for about 8 years and now I practice medicine at a community clinic associated with Rocky Vista University’s Medical school in Southern Utah.
Do either of you experience digestive problems yourself, or was it mostly that Steve was encountering so many patients that are?
I personally do not. I have several family members who do have IBS and food intolerance. Though when I was really exposed to family and IBS, the low FODMAP diet was not even a thing. So, yes it was really my exposure as a physician to numerous patients suffering from IBS.
From reading various parts of your website, it is evident that you both have a truly empathetic understanding of those who are suffering with digestive issues.
In medicine there are diagnosis that are somewhat dreaded because they are hard to treat. One of these for me was IBS. This was specifically a disappointment to me because of the lack of good treatment options and the impact on patient quality of life. Before the FODMAP diet the option for these people was send them to GI or put them on an anti-depressants, which was frustrating to me and even more disappointing to patients. So, when I learned about the low FODMAP diet and how successful it can be in eliminating symptoms I was ecstatic and became a low FOMAP preacher. The issue was the challenge of finding simple meals, like a protein shake, for people to use on the diet.
Tell us how and why you developed FODMAP Foods LLC, and why did you zero in on a meal replacement to be your inaugural product.
I was preaching the low FODMAP diet for probably 3 years thinking someone needs to make a low FODMAP protein drink. It would help patients so much, and help me as a physician to recommend it to my patients. Well, finally last year the timing was right, and I set out to make a product.
I have really been inspired by balanced nutrition, or diets that allow for balanced macros. I wanted my product to be something that would provide macro balance to help people feel full and have carbohydrates for energy. Something that your body would recognize as a complete meal, and help with energy and satiety. Also, if you really have IBS and are starving for food, you need way to get real calories, not just a zero carb, protein heavy drink to help you stick to a weight loss diet.
In your words, I would love to hear you describe why your product has the balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that it does. And also, if you could educate our community about the difference between the types of similar products on the market. As a consumer we see labels that deem a product an energy drink, or a protein drink, or a meal replacement and it can be confusing.
Great question, a meal replacement is a product that has all three macro nutrients that provide humans with energy; protein, carbs, and fats. A protein drink typically will have a heavy percent of the calories coming from protein. These were really born out of the body building sport, which used them for fitness, and starting out as a protein source for building muscle.
Nowadays they are still used to meet fitness benefits, but also used for dieting. For example, there are many protein drinks that boast zero or maybe 1 gram of carbs, but 20 + grams of protein. Energy drinks typically use the drug caffeine, and use it as a stimulant, making them similar to a cup of coffee.
Meal replacements are the minority on the market, but will have a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Despite all the hate that carbs get, they are actually the currency of energy in humans. What I mean by this is that carbohydrates are the preferred energy for the brain as well as for muscle and biological work in the body. By balancing out our product with 40% carb, 30% protein, and 30% fats, we get several benefits. This shake is low calorie, which is good because it can be used to lose or maintain weight. It has carbs in it so that they are available to use for energy.
It is evident that you took care to make sure that your product was going to be suitable for as wide a group of people as possible. For instance, it is vegan, and also low FODMAP. Tell us about your thought process in developing the product, and also why you decided to get your product certified by Monash University.
First and foremost, I wanted this product to be low FODMAP. I did research to find what options there were for the protein. I settled on a vegan source, because it is great source of protein. It is also a low allergy risk, more environmentally friendly, and you can get all 9 essential amino acids. It really made sense to use pea and rice for the protein.
As far as certification, we knew our product was low FODMAP on paper, but this doesn’t mean it really was low FODMAP. When our product was finally through all the testing and changes, we jumped at the chance to get Monash Certification. It really provides confidence to the consumer and validates our product as being as good as we say that it is. We are excited to have this stringent certification.
Tell us about the particulars of the product itself. What are the ingredients, and how did you decide upon what to use?
Really, I’ve got to tell you we used the highest quality product that we could find. There were several times when we had different flavors and proteins to choose from and my business partner would say, “this is about making a product to help the customer, we can’t skimp on quality”. He was right. In fact, our product blends so well that you don’t have to have a shaker ball to blend it. I have tried to see if it really blends that well and you can put the dry powder in and water on top with no shaker and there is no protein in the corners at the bottom of the blender bottle.
As far as the other macro ingredients, we used cane sugar with a little stevia for the sweetener. For our fat I chose canola. Fats can be very controversial and hard to pick from. Olive is great, but typically caries a bit of a taste with it that is not palatable for everyone. Canola has a great flavor, as well as research that it is a more heart friendly compared to some of the other oils out there. Tropical oils taste great and are very popular, but more recently have some data showing a negative impact on heart health.
I love that you address the inclusion of sugar, in detail on the site. As you state, many people have misconceptions about sugar. And white sugar contains no FODMAPs!
Yes, many people are afraid of sugar being in products and there are good reasons for this. Though, we should be cautious of making everything “zero carb”. If you remember back in the 90s, we were at the peak of foods being fat-free. Which is funny because America got, not to be derogatory but, fatter on fat- free foods. This was in part because the calories were coming from carbs. Without wonder we are a little hesitant to have high carb foods, but as I mentioned before, carbs are the currency of energy for the body.
We use cane sugar, which is commonly thought to be a bad guy, but we all eat it, and have been doing so for centuries. Table sugar is a cool sugar because it is medium glycemic index. The glycemic index of a food is how fast the sugar goes into the blood stream. High glycemic index foods can stress the endocrine and metabolic system with too high sugar loads. Using a medium glycemic index sugar helps to take a “Goldilocks” approach to making sugar available to use. We do use a small amount of stevia, which helps with flavor and to keep the carbs in the ratio we like.
What flavors do you have? How does one use the product? And when would be the most appropriate time be for someone to use your product?
Right now we only have 5 flavors. Chocolate and Vanilla are the most popular common flavors. We also have Raspberry for a berry flavor, and then Orange and Lemon. These last two are not very common in meal replacements, but are naturally low FODMAP flavors and I have to say are my favorites. A lot like drinking a glass of orange juice for breakfast.
Using this product is really easy. Substitute it for a meal. This could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Use it any time you need something fast or suitable to drink.
One of the best times to use this product is when you’re in the Elimination Phase of the low FODMAP diet. Because it is appropriate to use in the Elimination Phase, and you have 5 flavor options, this is where the product can really shine to help you abide the more restrictive first phase. That said, I don’t have gut issue and love drinking it for my morning meal.
How can folks buy your product?
We are an ecommerce store so go to our website www.FODMAPfoods.com. Currently, we are only in the U.S., but we will be international at some point.
You are also donating 1% of profits and looking to reduce your carbon footprint. Tell us a little more about that. More and more of these days people are interested in companies that are taking such approaches to business.
We feel like we have a responsibility that if we have success, we need to share some of that to our fellow travelers. Really in the U.S. we are so fortunate. We have so much excess compared to the rest of the world that we would be ungrateful to miss the chance to do good good.
In fact, one of the first conversations we had as a company was working out what we would do in a humanitarian sort of way. Really, 1% is just a starting point for us as a company and we are excited to see what we can do someday.
As far as decreasing our carbon footprint, we are constantly mindful in thinking of different ways to do this, especially how to reduce our plastic use. We are really excited for some of the packaging films that are coming out that are a plant-based product or have better break down attributes.