I don’t follow a strict low-FODMAP diet.
In fact, most dietitians, nutritionists, and healthy living bloggers who write about IBS and share low-FODMAP recipes don’t follow the strict low-FODMAP diet either.
Why? Because you’re not supposed to! At least, not for more than about 8 weeks max.
The low-FODMAP diet has three distinct phases:
- The elimination phase, in which you follow the strict low-FODMAP diet. It’s confusing and annoying and overwhelming, and you should work with a dietitian or nutritionist with expertise on IBS if you can find someone accessible. Fortunately, the elimination phase only lasts a couple weeks to a couple months. If you’ve been following it for two months and haven’t seen any improvement, forget it. Try something else.
- The testing phase, in which you add certain FODMAPs back into your diet in a controlled, systematic way to identify your personal triggers. I found this phase somewhat easier than the elimination phase in that by this point, I had pretty much memorized what is and isn’t low-FODMAP and knew pretty well which products I could buy at the grocery store. But this phase is in and of itself really confusing. Keep working with your dietitian or nutritionist. Also, there are a couple of great resources on the web about the re-introduction phase, like this post from A Little Bit Yummy and this e-book by Lee Martin.
- The reintroduction phase. Once you’ve identified which FODMAPs you can and cannot tolerate, you figure out what your diet will look like in the long-term.
This diet that you’ll be following long-term is called the “modified low-FODMAP diet.” You’ll likely be eating fewer FODMAPs than you did before the elimination phase but more than you did during the elimination phase. And your modified low-FODMAP will look different from anyone else’s modified low-FODMAP.
You may find that you can eat as much dark chocolate as you care to in a sitting with no uncomfortable consequences.
You may notice that the small amount of onion and garlic in jarred sauces at the store don’t bother you, but you don’t do so well with French onion soup. You may discover the French onion soup is no problem. You may find that you react strongly to even a hint of onion and garlic but have no reaction to apples, peaches or pears.
You may tolerate fructose wonderfully and munch happily on cherries in your pie, asparagus in your quiche, and mango in your smoothies.
You may continue to eat mostly gluten-free but enjoy regular (non-gf) chocolate chip cookies once in a while, or you may do great with a big plate of spaghetti every day.
You may avoid drinking straight milk but do fine with yogurt and cream cheese.
Here’s what a day of eating modified low-FODMAP looks like for me in today’s WIAW.Breakfast: Banana pecan French toast plus a vegan soy sausage. I still do often eat low-FODMAP recipes–partly because I write this blog and partly because I do imagine that eating some low-FODMAP meals does help prevent symptoms. That last part is just a brain fact, though–I don’t know if it’s actually true.
What is true is that there’s no need to avoid high-FODMAP foods after you’ve identified they’re not a trigger for you. Julie just shared a great post about it on Calm Belly Kitchen!
Snack: Strawberry Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder and half a banana. I do just find with lactose as long as it’s not a huge amount at once and I take my handy dandy lactase enzyme pill
Psyllium husk because my dietitian wants me to see if increasing fiber might help my GI issues. Most books and blogs I’ve read about IBS say to be wary of adding really high-fiber foods like bran and psyllium–but I’ll give it a try.
Post-workout lunch: Carrot chickpea soup from The 21-Day Tummy cookbook (I make this recipe so often!) plus a Hilary’s Eat Well hemp & greens burger and some cheese. I really like the Hilary’s Eat Well–and the onion and garlic in them are a-okay for me. 🙂 Forgot to get a picture, so this is actually a re-used picture of the soup.
Supper: Kat’s thai vegetable noodle soup. I’ve been making my way through the leftovers and I like it more every time I eat it. I made the recipe as is, including a big ole pile of garlic, and didn’t worry about finding a low-FODMAP chicken broth or Thai curry paste. I did, however, sub out the snap peas for bok choy, as snap peas are high in fructose, and fructose actually really bothers me. Roasted tofu and broccoli to go with it.
I had gotten out the grapes, but broccoli sounded so much better, so I boiled a little bit of that up quick. Testimony to intuitive eating: if you allow yourself to freely eat the things you like, you will crave things like broccoli.
Dessert: Half a bar of peppermint dark chocolate. Hooray that I can tolerate more than 30 grams of dark chocolate in a sitting–the maximum amount allowed in the elimination phase. Now, I can eat as much dark chocolate as satisfies me without worry. (Okay, I probably wouldn’t feel so good if I ate half a pound, but it would be highly unusual for me to need half a pound of chocolate to satisfy me.)
I hope this is a testament to how relieving it is to figure out a modified low-FODMAP diet that works for you. Today, I avoided foods that would likely have aggravated my tummy, like wheat bread and snap peas, but freely enjoyed numerous foods that I would not be able to eat if I had never gone through the re-introduction phase, like my favorite brand of veggie burger, my favorite brand of nutrition bar, and a scrumptious homemade soup from a fellow blogger.
Looking for more thoughts about re-introducing FODMAPs? Check out these posts!
Have you ever tried taking psyllium husk or bran as a fiber supplement?
Favorite veggie burgers? Nutrition bars?