Recently, I have gotten a few questions from friends about the low-FODMAP diet and how it helps in controlling IBD or IBS symptoms, such as diarrhea, bloating, constipation and stomach pain. When I was first diagnosed with IBD, I was given a list of foods that I should be eating and a list of foods to avoid. It was called the low-FODMAP diet. At the time, I had no idea what this was. I took one look at the list and thought “Oh, this should be easy, I already eat most of this stuff!” It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought.
Healthline has a great beginner’s guide if you are just learning about the low-FODMAP diet and its benefits. FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. These are scientific terms to classify carbs that trigger digestive symptoms, which is why the low-FODMAP diet steers away from these foods so as not to aggravate the digestive system. I understand that the low-FODMAP diet does not work for everyone with IBD or IBS, but it could be a good place to start if you are unsure about your gut symptoms and what is triggering them.
The first step in following the low-FODMAP diet is cutting out all high-FODMAP foods including things like wheat, garlic, some fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and sweeteners. Read this article if you want to learn more about foods with a high-FODMAP content. You should start by eliminating these foods for a couple of weeks and see if your symptoms improve. The second stage is reintroduction. In this stage you can start reintroducing high-FODMAP foods to see which ones you can tolerate, like a process of elimination. The last step is personalizing your plan. In this stage, you still restrict those foods that you know you cannot tolerate, but now you have your own personal food plan and know the amount and type of food you can tolerate.
This approach does require a time investment. If you are like me, you like to see instant gratification. You want to give up after a week because the diet is too hard and your symptoms are still hanging around. You have to be patient. You will only start to see improvement if you commit to following the plan for at least 6-8 weeks. I know it can be discouraging when you do not see the results you want, but consistency is key here.
I remember being very overwhelmed when I was given the list of foods I had to eat after my diagnosis. While I was sad to let go of certain foods in my diet (especially sweets and dairy!), I knew that I had to commit to this in order to get healthy. It was no longer a matter of what I want to eat to feel satisfied, but what I had to eat to get on the right track and live a full life again. There was no question that this would make an improvement in managing my flare. I can now successfully say that I am in the personalization stage because I know my triggers, but I have also reintroduced (in moderation) a lot of the foods I used to eat before I was diagnosed.
For those of you with IBS or IBD, I would suggest trying this diet plan if you are currently experiencing a flare in your symptoms. The nutrition you need during a flare and in remission is completely different. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has some great visuals and suggestions of foods to eat during a flare and during remission. No one wants to be restricted in what they eat, but once you try a process of elimination and get where you want to be, you will not have to say goodbye to your favorite foods forever! Patience and consistency is key.
Another tip that I suggest is printing out a list of foods that you can eat and put it on your fridge. That way, others in your home know what to cook or buy at the grocery store. It serves as a gentle reminder every time you go in the kitchen or open the fridge what kind of snack you should go for. You can read more about my journey with nutrition and IBD at my previous blog post. If you want to know more about my experience with the low-FODMAP diet or with certain foods, feel free to reach out to me personally! I am always up to chat.
Have you tried the low-FODMAP diet before? Let me know in the comments!