Top 3 Nutrition Debates for Digestive Health
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Food sensitivity testing, gluten-free diet & low FODMAP diet

nutrition expert Andrea Holwegner on AM770

Thousands of people struggle with digestive health issues every day including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Since these symptoms can seriously influence day-to-day quality of life and overall well-being I’ve noticed people will try just about anything in order to feel better.


Below I explore 3 of the most common routes many people have heard may provide benefit and weigh in on if there is research to support this to be beneficial.



Listen to Part #1:

Listen to Part #2:


Food sensitivity testing (IgG testing)

glass of milk

Are IgG food sensitivity test necessary?


The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) released a position statement after largely being concerned about the increased marketing of food-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) testing used to identify “food sensitivity,” food allergies and food intolerances by alternative health practitioners, online marketers and some pharmacies.


Unfortunately, despite some third-party insurance providers providing coverage for the $400-$1,000 tests, there is no body of research to support the use of this test to diagnose adverse reactions to food or predict future food reactions.


Scientific evidence clearly suggests that positive test results for food-specific IgG is a result of recently eating that food and is a normal response to eating for all of us. These tests are unfortunately increasing the likelihood of false diagnoses resulting in sometimes long lists of unnecessary food restrictions.  


The bottom line:


  • If you are struggling with digestive issues and worried that you may have a food allergy or intolerance your best bet is to work with your family physician to properly diagnose the correct medical or gastrointestinal issue with the help of a gastrointestinal specialist and/or allergist/immunologist.  
  • Then working with a Registered Dietitian can properly educate you on the best practical nutrition plan going forward to help you manage your symptoms as well as get all the nutrients you require for long-term health.


Gluten-free diet


What is gluten?

Gluten is one of the proteins found naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross contaminated oats. Gluten in flour helps to provide baked goods such as bread with structure, strength and texture. Gluten can also be found in smaller amounts in foods such as commercial soups, salad dressings, sauces and other foods made with hydrolyzed wheat protein or other gluten-containing ingredients.

Should I follow a gluten-free diet?

bread with peanut butter and jam


Unnecessarily removing wheat and other gluten-containing foods from your diet could do more harm than good. Wheat, rye, barley and oats supply key nutrients such as fibre and B-vitamins that are good for your health.


Unless you have celiac disease (which the Canadian Celiac Association estimates affects approximately 1 in 133 Canadians) or if you have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity that affects an estimated two to six percent of us, there is no reason to give up gluten and wheat.


Health Canada, as well as health authorities internationally, support whole grains in t

he diet. Research shows consuming whole grains can be helpful in weight management and offer overall satiety in meals.


Do not be misled by popular claims that you can skip grains and just eat vegetables and fruit. Grains provide different types of fibre, B-vitamins, other nutrients as well as phytochemicals that are not found in fruits and vegetables. For optimal health, choose a wide variety of foods.


Low FODMAP diet

bowl of fresh fruit

You may have heard about what is known as the low FODMAP diet as a potential treatment for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharide Polyols. FODMAPs are certain types of sugars and fibres that are found in many common foods such as a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, milk products and sweetening agents.


Although research is still developing, there is some evidence to suggest that a low FODMAP diet can reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and excessive gas in individuals with IBS.


Should I follow a low FODMAP diet?

  • If you have been diagnosed with IBS, before following the very restrictive and complicated low FODMAP diet, consider first working with a Registered Dietitian on overall digestive health strategies. Work on a healthy overall routine for timing and volume of food consumed throughout the day. Then work on a proper fibre and hydration plan and reduce the highest gas producing foods.  
  • If you are then still struggling with digestive symptoms, explore the low FODMAP diet with your Registered Dietitian as a secondary option. Come up with a clear practical understanding on how to meet your overall health and nutrition requirements with the wide range of foods that are taken out of your diet when following a low FODMAP diet.
  • Also note that stress and overall mental health play a significant role in overall digestive health symptoms so overall stress management and working with a Registered Psychologist can sometimes be equally important as nutrition strategies in managing good digestive health.


Where can I go for more information?

Working one-on-one with a Registered Nutritionist that specializes in the gluten-free diet for celiac disease, a good digestive nutrition plan and/or the low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal issue is often helpful. Contact us for a complimentary consultation about working with one of our Calgary nutritionists/dietitians for nutrition counselling support at our office (or by phone or skype based appointments if you live outside of Calgary).

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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