Changing lives – one bar at a time
For the one in seven of us who suffer from gut issues, finding a handy snack that won’t lead to a potentially debilitating upset stomach is no easy feat. This is something that former corporate high-flyer Vanessa Hutchinson has learned the hard way. Hutchinson suffered from gut issues for many years, and despite her best efforts at the time, she struggled to find an answer as to what was causing her symptoms.
“I was always bloated and I always had stomach aches; I went to the doctor and got tested for gluten intolerance and that came back negative,” she says. “In the end I simply assumed that I just had a sensitive stomach and that would be it.
“Then someone told me about the low FODMAP diet, and I realised that there was a pattern – all the foods that made me sick had a common component.”
Hutchinson discovered she was intolerant to fructans, one of the FODMAPs – a group of sugars that aren’t completely digested in the small intestine and that can cause gut problems in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
Once she figured out what the problem was, Hutchinson says her life was “completely transformed” almost immediately.
“My life completely changed,” she says. “Since I cut out fructans, my digestion is perfect. I don’t have stomach aches, I don’t have bloating. I sleep better because I’m not in pain.”
But while her life improved immeasurably after she discovered what was behind all of her gut issues, she soon discovered another problem.
“With FODMAPs, it’s easy to control when you’re at home cooking for yourself because you know what’s going into your food,” she says. “But where I really struggled was when I’d leave the house. I used to travel a lot for work, and that’s when you don’t always have control over what you’re eating. And you can get caught out if you’re really hungry.
“It was a real challenge. You’re faced with the choice of, do I eat something I know will make me feel sick, or do I not eat anything at all?”
This challenge led Hutchinson to create Fodbods – a range of grab-and-go snacks that are the only certified FODMAP-friendly health bars in Australia. Since launching the range, Hutchinson has been “blown away” by the positive feedback the products have received.
“What I find incredibly rewarding is when I hear from customers and they tell me that Fodbods has actually changed their life,” she says. “I think what a lot of people don’t realise is how debilitating gut issues can be. But when you’re living with that type of problem, other people don’t really want to know about it. That just makes it harder, because it’s a problem you can’t talk to anyone about.
“There are the physical symptoms, yes, but there’s also a lot of anxiety that surrounds it. It’s really heartbreaking when you hear the challenges that people face. You can’t travel, you can’t go out with your kids. You live in constant fear of food upsetting your stomach.”
While Fodbods only includes bars at the moment, Hutchinson’s vision is to create a full range of healthy FODMAP-friendly foods for people that live busy lifestyles.
“The feedback that I get from people is that Fodbods is a real solution for them,” she says. “It’s just such a motivator for me to continue to make these products, because it gives people confidence to go out and live their lives.”