07 Jan 2018
What are you Sipping On? Tea Tips for Low FODMAPers
Anyone who knows me well knows that Tea is my lifelong partner, the Yin to my Yang. There is something so nurturing and comforting about cradling a hot cuppa to calm the belly and the mind. I must admit, I do use tea as my ‘caffeine substitute’ to coffee, and tend to opt for higher caffeine green varieties, but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as I’m not consuming caffeinated tea in excess. Remember, caffeine acts as a gut stimulant in large quantities … potentially sending you racing for the loo! This is why tea tends to be friendlier for the gut than coffee, it is naturally lower in caffeine and/or has zero caffeine if you’re opting for the herbal varieties.
However, not all teas are created equal when it comes to preventing or treating digestive issues. If you find your cup of warm tea is irritating your digestive system, this could be due to one of two reasons:
- Caffeine: Similar to coffee, a very strong caffeinated tea can act as a gut stimulant. IBS sufferers (especially those suffering IBS-D) already struggle with diarrhea, loose stools, and/or multiple bowel movements each day. In these cases, it is best to avoid gut stimulants, such as caffeine, to help regulate bowel movements and prevent dehydration. Caffeine can also interfere with sleep patterns and proper rest, which can further exacerbate sluggish digestion and IBS symptoms.
- High FODMAP Content: Certain teas are naturally high in FODMAPs. Put simply, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with IBS. Below is a list of tea varieties that are considered moderate – high in FODMAP content and should be limited/eliminated if following a low FODMAP diet (limited in a modified low FODMAP diet and eliminated during the, well, elimination phase):
- Kombucha (high in Oligosaccharides)
- Strong chai tea (made on either water or milk – high in Oligosaccharides)
- Chamomile tea – even brewed weakly (high in Oligosaccharides)
- Oolong tea – even brewed weakly (high in Oligosaccharides)
- Fennel tea – even brewed weakly (high in Oligosaccharides)
- Strong Herbal tea (high in Oligosaccharides – note: brewed weakly, Herbal is considered moderate FODMAP)
- Strong Black tea made up with water is considered moderate (note: made weakly on water Black Tea is considered low FODMAP)
- Strong Dandelion tea (high in Oligosaccharides – note: made weakly Dandelion tea is considered low FODMAP)
Note: consider FODMAP load. You can’t have 3 weak black teas one after the other (low FODMAP individually) and not expect to experience symptoms … it will add up in your stomach if not given sufficient time to clear out.
Interestingly, two of the most popular ingredients in digestive teas are high in FODMAP content – chamomile and fennel! This comes as no surprise to me, with many of my clients finding that herbal blends can sometimes > excessive bloating.
When picking teas consider the following:
- Your safest low FODMAP bets are: Green, White, Peppermint, Lemongrass and Ginger varieties
- Avoid adding sweeteners, instead opt for teas that contain natural sweeteners like liquorice (caution if you have high blood pressure and/or are pregnant), dried berries and citrus peels.
- Pick a decaffeinated tea. Although black tea is low FODMAP when brewed weakly, if it’s caffeinated it can still cause digestive distress.
- Choose ingredients that are known to be calming on the gut. Peppermint, liquorice and ginger can aid with digestion.
- The amount of time you steep the tea in water can affect how much digestive symptoms are aggravated. Consider brewing your tea for less time to see if it helps.
- Get creative and make your own fresh brew of digestive tea. You can experiment with dried herbs or fresh ingredients. Or (for those of your who thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that!”) check out my good friends’ range over at Tea Story. Their Wellness Tisane range is specially hand blended here in Australia using formulated herbal medicine with the finest organic ingredients designed for promoting health and wellbeing. Ingredients used are sourced locally where possible, and are 100% organic and farm grown. Tea Story teas make great gifts too thanks to the beautiful packaging. My favourite FODMAP-friendly selections from their beautiful range include:
- Dragon Well (Long Jin): The most famous green tea in China (literally translated as “Dragon Well”), Long Jin leaves have a distinct shape: smooth, flattened along the side and are a result of highly skilled shaping in a hot wok by Tea Masters. Flavour wise, the smooth vegetal notes and mild roasted chestnut undertones give rise to a sweet refreshing finish. Green tea is often hailed as the healthiest beverage on the planet. Why? It is loaded with antioxidants, and has been linked to improved: brain function, athletic performance, dental health, cardiovascular disease, fat loss … even a lower risk of several cancers due to its powerful bioactive compounds. As an avid green tea-drinker, this blend is hands down one of my favourites.
- Morning Detox: Start the day with this gentle and beautiful blend that promotes healthy skin, improves liver function and may assist in cleansing the body of toxins. Ingredients include Organic Red Clover, Organic Nettle, Organic Lemongrass, Organic Lemon Verbena, Organic Liquorice Root, Organic Peppermint, Organic Goji Berry, and Organic Ginger. This blend offers a distinct herbal taste with fresh notes of mint and lemon and a touch of sweetness (no need for yucky sweeteners here!) In particular, liquorice and peppermint have been used for centuries to reduce abdominal gas and bloating, and relieve symptoms of IBS. Peppermint tea relaxes muscles, which can relax the intestinal muscles. That being said, if you suffer from acid reflux, peppermint is best avoided, as it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Ginger is a common Ayuverdic digestive aid, and is best consumed 20-30 minutes before meals. It can help settle your stomach if you have a stomach ache, nausea, or vomiting. If you have motion sickness, morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidurm, ginger tea may be your saviour! One study even found ginger decreased the severity of nausea and vomiting in women during early pregnancy!
- Pureh: Puerh production can be traced back to the Yunnan Province during the Tang Dynasty (618 CE- 907CE). History has it that the people of Tibet are presumed to have consumed the tea daily as they lacked vegetables in their everyday meals, and believed the tea assisted with the absorption of essential minerals and vital nutrients. This rich, full-bodied and smooth tea boasts an earthy sweetness. Unlike other teas, which get stale over time, pu-erh can mellow and improve with age like fine wine. A Chinese study performed on rats and published in 2009 showed lowering of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels after the animals were fed a pu-erh tea extract, along with an increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol).
I hope these recommendations have been of some benefit to you low FODMAPer tea fanatics or those coffee drinkers looking for a healthy substitute. As always though, listen to your body, as tolerance to FODMAPs is individual … even changing over time. Diet variety is key to good health so try to experiment with a different blend each day.