By Ryan Velez
Irritable bowel syndrome can be both a painful and embarrassing condition to live with, with common symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal cramps and it was something that Dr. Onikepe “Onyx” Adegbola is tackling firsthand with her new food company, Casa de Santé. She sells low FODMAP products and ingredients to people with IBS and digestive sensitivities. Black Enterprise shares more about her business and how she created it.
FODMAP is an acronym for certain types of foods, standing for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Di-Sacccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.” These fermentable carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and milk products. Some people’s digestive systems have problems processing these carbohydrates for reasons yet to be understood, resulting in irritable bowel symptoms.
While IBS affects women more often, the 45-year-old Adegbola says it was her male sibling’s struggle with the condition that first turned her onto IBS. “I had been working in the pharmaceutical industry for years and I was looking for something else to do,” the 45-year-old physician-scientist said. “My sibling, who is also a physician, has these digestive issues and I thought about all the troubles he has to go through.” Part of what surprised her was the restraint it put on his diet.
She mentioned how he “often has to prep his meals from scratch to ensure they do not contain any onions or garlic. He can’t eat fatty meats or fried foods. Pizza, sausages, french fries, fried chicken or fish, steaks, and burgers are all out of the question. He also often has to take charcoal tablets, which helps address the toxins in his stomach that cause offensive odors when he passes gas.” “That’s how we got started,” Dr. Adegbola said.
The products, which she said are industrially tested in Australia and certified FODMAP-friendly, are sold on her website and Walmart’s. They include stock, spice sauces and salsa, salad dressing, granola snacks among a bevy of other snacks and drinks. She employs 45 workers, but most of them are outsourced. “We have a co-packer, an accountant, and other employees but the business is completely bootstrapped,” she said. “It’s at a point where we can raise capital but no, I’m currently not looking for outside investors.” At this point, she has quit her job and stopped practicing medicine to focus on the business full-time.