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Interview with Dietician Tamara Duker Freuman

How dietician Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, got to the root of a very common digestive issue.

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The Bloated Belly Whisperer

In her decade as a dietician at a New York-based gastroenterology clinic, the most common complaint Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, has heard from “patient after patient after patient”—including her very first patient— is “I’m bloated.” And again and again, despite medical confusion about bloating, she listened. “Without understanding what bloating really is, what it feels like, what causes it, there’s no way to know how to best remedy it,” she says.

In her new book, The Bloated Belly Whisperer, Duker Freuman help readers figure out what is behind their digestive distress—and gives them specific diets, tasty recipes, and other tools to beat the bloat.

How does the GI Gentle Diet remedy bloat originating in the stomach?

It’s designed to empty your stomach quickly without stretching it out too much. What that entails, the number-one thing, is texture modification. The analogy I always use with my patients is that your stomach is a blender. And it has two settings: squeezing and acid. And then I ask them, how much squeezing and churning and how much acid does your stomach blender need to liquefy a giant kale salad versus a kale smoothie? Same ingredients, but the way you process them will impact how you feel after you eat. If kale’s a problem, have a kale smoothie. If large amounts of salad are a problem, have a soup. Also, because fat slows stomach emptying, you don’t want the GI Gentle Diet to be too high in fat. It can be moderate fat—just not heavy-duty fatty stuff like a burger and fries or heavy creamy foods.

Why do you recommend a low-FODMAP Diet for lower abdominal bloat?

The goal of the low-FODMAP diet is to reduce the intestinal gas burden. That works for people with a variety of issues, mostly carbohydrate intolerance, like if you’re lactose intolerant or glucose intolerant, or if the type of fiber in beans really hits you in particular. It’s also for people who have bacterial overgrowth, who have too much bacteria in their small intestines. Any time those bacteria encounter a really fermentable carb, they’re going to create a ton of gas, so it helps people with that. It also helps people who are constipated. If you’re completely backed up and then you’re eating a super gassy diet, all of that gas gets trapped and can be incredibly uncomfortable. Often I put a patient who’s really constipated on that diet temporarily until we can figure out the constipation piece and get things moving.

What are some key low-FODMAP foods?

The classic low-FODMAP breakfast is oatmeal with blueberries. Or sourdough toast with peanut butter and a banana. Or eggs and a fruit salad made with berries and melon. As far as take-out lunches, most of your basic salad vegetables are low-FODMAP, as are the basic sushi combinations. Most low-FODMAP dinners are like the blue-plate special where there’s a protein, a carb, and a veg. (This includes) pretty much all starches like rice, potatoes, polenta, quinoa, certain portions of sweet potato; a vegetable like zucchini, green beans, or carrots; and a salad with peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. And all animal proteins are low-FODMAP.

Which of your book’s recipes are your favorite family staples?

The recipe I’ve been making the most is low-FODMAP. It’s Pumpkin Seed Coconut Granola. I make a double batch every week. My husband has it for breakfast, and my kids have it as a snack. It’s so delicious. A lot of granola can have honey in it, which for people who are fructose-intolerant can be really gassy. And certain nuts can be high-FODMAP, like cashews. So I made this granola to be nut- and honey-free. It’s a great way to get fiber on the low-FODMAP Diet. In terms of weeknight dinners, there’s one recipe on the GI Gentle Diet that’s so easy and versatile. I love a one-skillet meal because I work, and I have kids. The Turkey, Bell Pepper, and Sweet Potato Hash is really flavorful. I’d also crack an egg over the leftovers and have it for breakfast. 

Book Giveaway!

Good news, readers! We have 15 copies of The Bloated Belly Whisperer up for grabs. Enter to win a copy at Put “Bloated Belly” in the subject line.