I’m on a diet, and it’s not for weight loss. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably already know that I’m on a low FODMAPs diet, and I’ll most likely be on this diet for the rest of my life. Since starting the diet five years ago, it’s become more popular then ever. I’ve blogged about the details of the low FODMAPs diet a couple times now, and will provide those links in a moment. For now I want you to know the purpose of this post is to answer a few FAQs from readers and clients. I also want to provide you with some amazing resources to use if you think you might benefit from a low FODMAPs diet.
1. Why did you start a low FODMAPs diet, and what made you take the low FODMAPs route vs. any other route for IBS?
I started the low FODMAPs diet after a reader of my blog mentioned it to me in my comment section. I had written a post about my IBS and chronic gas and bloat, and a reader suggested I look into the diet. To be honest I had never heard of any diet specifically for IBS, other than the Simple Carbohydrate Diet. which didn’t really appeal to me because I hadn’t read much current research on the diet and it was also very, very restrictive.
I felt like the lady in this photo more often than I should have, before starting the low FODMAPs diet. I still do, some days, but those days are quite rare. After the reader mentioned low FODMAPs I looked it up on Google and e-mailed the head of the department in charge of the research. She was so helpful and offered to send me a free booklet. I started my own “elimination diet” of sorts right away, and the rest is history!
2. Which foods can’t you eat?
I like to focus more on what I can eat instead of what I can’t. If I think about all the foods I can’t eat it’s pretty sad, but then I remember all the foods I can eat and it’s pretty amazing. Plus, my “off limits” foods aren’t really completely off limits. I can eat foods with FODMAPs, I just have to be careful about how much I eat in one sitting, and in one day. There is sort of a threshold that I have, as well as anyone who follows the diet. You will learn your threshold as you experience the diet. Read below, from IBSFree.net;
In other words, it’s ok to eat some FODMAPs (it’s almost impossible not to), you just have to be careful about how many you eat, and everyone’s “threshold” is different (and you will also learn that your threshold for different sources of FODMAPs is also different, for example my threshold for polyols is VERY low, but my threshold for glucans is high).
So, looking on the bright side, while I can’t really eat many of my favorite fruits; apples, pears and mangoes, for example, I can eat strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, clementines and oranges. Yum! While I can’t eat large servings of my favorite vegetables like mushrooms, cauliflower and onion, I can eat tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. As far as grains, I can eat wheat, I just have to watch my portions. For the most part I don’t eat it, it’s just easier that way. My favorite grains are quinoa, rice, and oats (and many more, which you will find out when reading my blog). You can learn more about what to eat, and what not to eat (often) via some the links below, as well as throughout my blog posts.
3. Why can’t you eat things like garlic, apples, mangoes, and whole wheat breads? They are so healthy!
I get this question a lot. I get blank stares when I tell people “I love apples, but I don’t eat them”. People think I am saying I don’t eat them because they are bad for me. Well, it’s true, apples are bad for me, but not because they aren’t healthy! It’s similar to how peanuts are bad for people who have peanut allergies (although I know that’s much different!). I mean, peanuts are healthy, but for those with peanut allergies peanuts are still health but not good for them. Period.
It’s definitely a shame that many foods that contain FODMAPs are also very healthy foods. I’ve talked about it in the past, but one of the reasons I don’t follow a vegetarian diet (and rarely ever eat vegetarian meals), is because foods like beans, tofu and tempeh are pretty much rejected by my body (in a very foul way!). I could take Beano, and I do, but still….foul.
It’s sort of ironic, actually. In the scenario above I would be better off eating the cake! If I ate the apple I’d be gassy and bloated for hours (although as far as my weight and actual long-term health are concerned, obviously the apple would be the better choice).
4. What’s been the hardest part about following a low FODMAPs diet?
My first year on the diet was very hard, but at the same time it was very easy because I felt so much better. Yeah, it was sad not being able to eat pizza, and some of my favorite fruits and vegetables, but it was worth it because I felt so much better! If I had to name the most difficult food to avoid, it would have to be garlic and onion. Have you noticed they are in EVERYTHING?! I never noticed until I tried to avoid them. And it’s impossible to avoid garlic and onion when you’re Italian, and married to an Italian as well. Holidays are difficult, to say the least. Stay tuned for a future post where I will talk about my current most-missed food. You might be surprised (and I’ll include some delicious recipes for you all to enjoy, while I just sit, stare and feel jealous, ha!).
5. How do you do a low FODMAPs elimination diet?
I never did a technical elimination diet, personally, so I’m not really the right person to ask. Check out the book in the link below, as the author (Patsy Catsos) has an elimination plan included in the book. Keep in mind an elimination diet might not be necessary. At least, not to the extent that Patsy has detailed in her book. The phone app, listed below, also provides details on how to do an elimination diet. I have instructed people in the past to try to get as FODMAPs-free as possible (as in, basically 100% FODMAPS free), then stick with that for 2 weeks. Then add one favorite higher FODMAPs food, per category of FODMAPS (one serving), per day and wait two days for symptoms (ie: add a polyol food one day, and wait 48 hours to see if you have symptoms, then after that add a monosaccharide food, such as fructose, and see if you have symptoms) . If no symptoms occur after two days, test another, and another, and so on and so forth. This is tedious, but worth the effort. The ultimate goal is to find the foods (or types of FODMAPs) that cause you the most problems, and eliminate those, and to find your threshold of FODMAPs foods and amounts, so you feel the most comfortable and are not in pain (when I say “threshold” I am referring to how you may be able to eat some FODMAPs, but there may be a certain amount that tips you over and to which you should limit your daily intake. You will learn this as the days go by.)
6. What are the best probiotics or other supplements to take while following this diet?
I get my probiotics from yogurt, purely. I also eat kefir sometimes, which contains a good amounts of helpful probiotics (good bacteria). But of course that’s not going to cut it for everyone, and many people following a low FODMAPs diet can’t eat yogurt or kefir. So, I recommend two probiotics based on what I’ve heard from local gastroenterologists; Align and Florastor. These two products seem to have the most research backing up their claims. Please ask your doctor or registered dietitian for more information before starting either of these.
Last, but certainly not least, I recommend keeping Beano with you at all times. Literally, I bring it everywhere. It’s just a simple enzyme called galactocidase. It will help you break down one of the “O”s in FODMAPs (called galactans). I take it when I eat most vegetables, and even bread. If you download the low FODMAPs Phone App you can find out which of your foods contain galactans (abbreviated GOS). You will soon find out that most foods do, so this enzyme supplement is a lifesaver.
- Do you have IBS? FODMAPs may be the culprit
- Three years after starting a low FODMAPs diet
- What to eat when you’re SICK and following a low FODMAPs diet
- Low FODMAPs spaghetti Sauce
- Department of Gastroenterology from Monash University (where the research originated!) Note the latest creation; the low FODMAPs Phone App! (it’s a life-saver) I use this on a daily basis.
- Shepherd Words; Sue Shepherd is one of the low-FODMAPs gurus from Australia. Her website is fantastic and if you ned extra help you can order her low FODMAPs booklets/shopping guide, cookbooks and other great materials to help you get started with your FODMAPs-free life (Learn more form Sue Shepherd about the basics of a low FODMAPs diet here).
- IBS-Free at Last (note: there is a book, a Twitter and Facebook page!)
- This MedScape video and helpful article explaining FODMAPs quite well