Get ready, this is going to be a very long and heavy post. For most of my life I’ve suffered from horrible bloating and stomach pain. Those were my primary symptoms and none of my doctors could figure out what was wrong or how to treat it. When I started really focusing on fitness and nutrition, it was so frustrating to have a bloated belly that hid all of the progress I had made! So I went for a lot of testing before my gastroenterologist suggested I try the Low-FODMAP Diet. Now, it definitely hasn’t “cured” me and I still have pretty bad bloating from time to time. But it’s a LOT better than it was before so if you have any type of digestive issues, talk to your doctor about giving it a go.
The Low-FODMAP Diet is One of the first scientifically based diets for IBS and other digestive issues. It can even potentially help those with stomach problems resulting from stress! It was developed by researchers at Monash University and they regularly perform new scientific studies and update their findings on what foods are and aren’t acceptable on the Low-FODMAP diet. Furthermore, a new study found that it can have long-lasting positive effects.
So what are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs: Fermentable, Oliogosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monsaccharides, Polyols
That’s just for those who are curious. I’m not going to get into the details of what that means from a scientific standpoint or how they can affect you, but you can read more about it here and here.
Most Common Triggers
See the full LONG list here, but these are some of the foods that many people have problems with:
- Certain vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, artichokes, corn)
- Certain fruits (apples, pears, peaches, watermelon)
- Gluten (most non-Celiac’s who have problems with gluten actually just have problems with FODMAPs)
- Sorbitol and artificial sugars (these are pretty deadly and should be avoided even if you don’t have digestive issues. Just eat real sugar!)
How does the Low-FODMAP Diet work?
Ideally, you spend 6-8 weeks on the elimination part of the diet, where you don’t eat any foods on the FODMAP list. This is followed by a reintroduction phase, where you reincorporate foods into your diet for 1-2 weeks at a time, one by one to see which foods may be safe for you personally. This is important because you may otherwise end up with nutrient deficiencies (which is also why it’s ideal to only go on this diet with the help from your doctor or a certified dietician.)
Is it hard?
At first, it was pretty difficult for me. I used to eat much more processed food than I do now. I also used to go out to eat more frequently, which is problematic since FODMAPs (especially onions and garlic) are hidden in almost every dish.
But as I’ve become more used to it, it’s become near second nature for me. Of course, there are still times I have to look up whether something is low-FODMAP or not, but for the most part I have it covered. I cook almost all of my food. When I do go out to eat, I usually have sushi. My favorite. If someone else picks the restaurant I usually stick with salad (with olive oil as dressing), or grilled chicken/fish with no sauce. Breakfast is pretty easy because I can just order an omelette, but I always have to double check that they don’t add onions or garlic (I’ve been burned before!)
It also gets a lot easier once you start reintroducing foods. Personally, I’ve found that I can tolerate small amounts of gluten and lactose quite well. So if I want to have a piece of milk chocolate, for instance, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve also found that I could add back avocadoes without a problem (thank God!) and small amounts of honey work well for me too.
What can I eat?
Here is the full list of Low-FODMAP foods (under the FODMAP list).
I was happily surprised to find that I can still have most cheeses since hard cheeses are so low in lactose. All meats are allowed so you only have to worry about what seasonings you use. And if you miss the taste of garlic in your home-cooked dishes, garlic-infused oil is actually okay because the fructans are water soluble.
This post is meant to be an informative introduction to FODMAPs. It is by no means exhaustive nor a scientific explanation. For more information, see a doctor or dietician. I also highly recommend reading as much as you possibly can on the subject.