February 16, 2018
This Physician Scientist’s Food Startup Targets People With Digestive Issues
A lot of Americans have complained about digestive troubles at one time or another. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS as its commonly known, is different though. For people suffering from IBS, sometimes it is almost impossible to eat a meal.
Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal cramps.
That’s why Dr. Onikepe “Onyx” Adegbola created her food company, Casa de Santé. She sells low FODMAP products and ingredients to people with IBS and digestive sensitivities.
FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Di-Sacccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.” FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates naturally present in a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and milk products, which means people with IBS have to be highly selective about what foods they eat.
Although IBS mostly affects women, Dr. Adegbola didn’t started the company until a male sibling was diagnosed.
“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.”
She was surprised at how difficult it was to follow an IBS diet.
Dr. Adegbola said her brother 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.
Casa de Santé means “home of health” in English, casa being a Spanish word for home and santé means health in French.
Her products, which she said are laboratory tested in Australia and certified FODMAP-friendly, are sold on her website, Amazon and Walmart.com. They include stock, spice sauces and salsa, salad dressing, granola snacks among a bevy of other snacks and drinks. They are gluten- and dairy-free with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, she said.
Dr. Adegbola said she employs about four to five people but most of the workers are outsourced. She said her revenues last year were in the six figures and although Black Enterprise can not independently verify her revenues, one thing is clear, Dr. Adegbola isn’t looking for investments.
“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.”
Dr. Adegbola received her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed her medical training at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. She is a mother of triplets and has four siblings.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on February 20, 2018.