Starting out on a Low FODMAP diet can be an overwhelming experience. There are lists of enjoyable and seemingly harmless foods that may be the root cause of all the evil stuff that has been going on in your gut.
The good news is that a Low FODMAP diet is not a lifelong diet, and you won't end up restricting everything forever. It is conducted in two phases. Phase one is the elimination phase that lasts between 2 and 6 weeks. Phase two is the reintroduction phase, where under the guidance of a dietitian, you begin to reintroduce possible problematic foods to determine your individual tolerance.
The aim of the elimination phase is to significantly reduce or eliminate your IBS symptoms through lowering the total intake of FODMAP containing foods in your diet. During phase two a trained Dietitian will help you methodically test the FODMAP groups to identify which ones you can tolerate.
1. See your GP
The first and most important step is to see your GP. If you are suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms it is important to rule out coeliac disease, irritable bowel disease (Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis), certain cancers and other disorders that may affect proper gut functioning before changing your diet.
2. Get Reliable Information
An Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) is invaluable to help you navigate the complexity of a low FODMAP diet. An APD can identify the foods to avoid or limit as well as direct you towards the foods that you can eat. He or she will also be able to help you find alternatives for your favourite pantry items. Most Importantly an APD can ensure you maintain a healthy balanced diet that provides all the nutrients your body needs during the restrictive phase.
A gluten free diet and a low FODMAP diet are similar in that they both limit wheat, barley and rye. However, the goal of a low FODMAP diet is to avoid the oligosaccharides (the carbohydrate constituent) not the gluten (the protein constituent). Some foods containing gluten are permissible on a low FODMAP diet. It is important to know that not all gluten free products are also low FODMAP.
Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have developed Smartphone apps, these provide accurate information and are extremely useful in identifying and selecting suitable food. Label reading is also valuable a skill, it will allow you to identify the hidden FODMAPs in many pre-packaged foods, bakery items, sauces and seasonings.
3. Download my ebook
If you don't have access to a FODMAP trained Dietitian, or just want some extra support to ensure you are doing it right, you can download my Elimination Handbook. This handbook is 65 pages of information, including the essentials you need to know before getting started, shopping tips, label reading tips, meal and snack ideas as well as exclusive recipes from FODMAP experts around the world. You can download it here
4. Food Triggers
Identify and remove all the high FODMAP foods from your kitchen and replace them with suitable low FODMAP options. Identify some quick and easy recipe and snack options for breakfast, lunch and dinner and make sure you have the ingredients. Your Dietitian will be able to work with you to adapt what you usually like eat.
Caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks and spicy foods do not contain FODMAPs. However, they are known gut irritants that can stimulate the colon, making your symptoms worse. It is recommended to reduce these during both the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase.
Fibre can be difficult to get on a low FODMAP diet and you may become constipated. If this happens to you increase your high fibre, low FODMAP foods such as psyllium husk, oats, oat bran, 100% spelt sourdough bread, buckwheat, quinoa, carrots, kiwifruit, raspberries and other low FODMAP fruits and vegetables. It is important whenever you increase your fibre intake to also increase you fluid intake.
5. Behavioural Triggers
Stress, the speed of eating, talking while eating and meal size can all impact IBS. Small regular meals are usually better tolerated, as is eating slowly in a relaxed environment. Exercise, relaxation or meditation techniques have been shown to make a noticeable a difference for most people who suffer from IBS.
6. Food Diary
A food and symptom diary is worthwhile. IBS varies from person to person and it can vary over time as well. A food and symptom diary will help you and your dietitian identify your individual triggers. You can download a free food and symptom diary here
It's not a game of perfect, its about working out if removing the FODMAPs from your diet works to reduce your abdominal symptoms. If you stuff up, just regroup and pick up where you left off. For extra support make sure to join Low FODMAP Australia and Low FODMAP Recipes & Support on Facebook
At Everyday Nutrition, Joanna combines the very latest in nutrition science with extensive medical experience, enabling her clients to develop practical everyday strategies that will optimise health and well-being.
Joanna aims to empower people to make the most of life and learn what new foods they can enjoy, rather then feeling like they are missing out.
Food for thought