Danielle Capalino, MSPH, RD, CDN has pretty impressive credentials. Author of two new books, Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach and The Microbiome Diet Plan, she’s a registered dietitian with a master’s in Public Health Nutrition and undergrad degree in Brain and Cognitive Science.
Also a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist in the state of New York, Danielle runs a private practice in Manhattan where she provides nutrition counseling services with a specialty in all things gut health.
I couldn’t resist interviewing Danielle this IBS Awareness Month, to get the low down across the pond.
When were you made aware of the Low FODMAP Diet and what made you embrace it in your private practice?
I first learned about the Low-FODMAP diet reading in preparation for my dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins. The day it really entered my radar was my first day in clinic with Dr. Gerard Mullin. I had the incredible opportunity to sit in on his patients and it was immediately clear to me that the low-FODMAP diet was a tool he was using regularly with his patients and that it was making a tremendous difference in their lives.
What do you find the most challenging thing when explaining it to others or clients?
The first challenge I experience is explaining the name! For some reason people find it difficult to pronounce, but on top of that, even if you can spell out the whole acronym no one knows what oligosaccharides (and the others) are! Another big challenge with new patients is that they feel overwhelmed by looking at the list of foods they have to avoid at first. I try to work with my patients to make the elimination phase as manageable as possible and will customise the experience to the individual because I believe if you are anxious and stressed it will slow down your progress.
How aware do you think people are in New York City and the US of the diet compared to here in the UK and in Australia?
I think the diet is gaining in popularity in New York as more Gastroenterologists are talking about it. Also it is helpful that there are some food brands entering the marketplace which creates more exposure for the diet. When I first started my practice I was explaining the diet a lot more. Now, a few years later I find that people are coming to me specifically to help implement the diet, knowing more about it.
Why do you think it is important for a person to work with a dietitian when they start the Low-FODMAP Diet?
I think it can be helpful to work with a dietitian for several reasons. First off, you want to make sure you are undertaking the elimination diet properly. It can be tricky to get started. You also might need help making sure you are getting the nutrients you need, particularly if you have other food allergies or sensitivities. Another thing I see frequently is that people don’t want to reintroduce foods once they are feeling good on the elimination phase so I try to coach people through the testing process so they can end up with as varied a diet as possible.
What would you like to tell anybody suffering from IBS/is there something common you see with clients?
I would like to tell people that there is hope! It is not all in your head, and even if every test you have ever taken has come back negative, it doesn’t mean that something real is not going on. The low-FODMAP diet is worth a try even though it may seem intimidating at first, you won’t feel that way if it helps you.
What is a myth you would like to clear up about FODMAPs?
I mentioned this briefly before, but I want to be clear that the diet is really a tool to help you identify the foods that are your triggers. That means that you do not need to, and actually should not follow the elimination diet indefinitely. After you have gone through the process of identifying your triggers you may find there are only one or two foods that you really need to avoid to feel your best.
What do you want people to take away from your new book Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach? How do you hope it will make them feel?
I hope people feel encouraged by my book. I want it to feel like you just had a conversation with a (well-credentialed!) girlfriend who explained the diet to you in a way you understand.
What’s your favourite FODMAP friendly dish to cook?
That is a tough question… this may not be the most exciting answer but honestly I love oatmeal topped with olive oil and a flaky sea salt, in fact I think I will go make some right now!