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Has your doctor diagnosed you with IBS and handed you a list of foods to avoid? Or (worse!), told you to just Google the low FODMAP diet? If so, I’m truly sorry. You need and deserve more support than that to go through a complex elimination diet like this.
Well, now that you’re here, let me help explain what the process involves, how it works, and what you can expect…
What is the low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet is a three-phase process to help you identify any IBS trigger foods and get symptoms to a manageable level.
The diet isn’t a long-term solution or treatment for IBS, rather it’s a diagnostic tool – one of many we have in the toolkit to help you find relief. Research has shown that this process of elimination works for around 3 in 4 people with IBS which is a very high success rate.
So, what are FODMAPs?
‘FODMAP’ is an acronym and it stands for:
Oligo-saccharides (fructans and GOS)
Polyols (mannitol and sorbitol – sugar alcohols)
In a nutshell, they are fermentable carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that can trigger IBS symptoms in some people. They are poorly absorbed in everyone, but in IBS sufferers, their effects are more pronounced.
FODMAPs aren’t unhealthy and they don’t do any damage to your gut – actually quite the opposite – fibre containing carbohydrates are very beneficial to gut health. However, they can draw water into the small intestine (hello, diarrhoea) and get rapidly fermented by our gut bacteria in the large intestine which causes the intestines to stretch (hello constipation, pain, excess gas, and bloating!) and stimulates nerves in the gut, which can trigger some serious discomfort if you have a sensitive tummy.
FODMAPs are found in many foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, dairy products, processed foods and drinks.
Should all IBS sufferers avoid all FODMAPs in order to get symptom control? The good news is, no! You just need to find out what your personal FODMAP triggers are because everyone is different.
How does the low FODMAP diet work?
The first phase involves the reduction of foods that are high in FODMAPs, and takes between 2 and 8 weeks to complete, depending on how quickly you see results.
Phase two takes another 6 to 12 weeks, where high FODMAP food groups (there are eight in total) are reintroduced one by one, in a systematic fashion to see which foods give you tummy troubles, and what amounts can be tolerated.
⚠️ Restrictive diets aren’t good for your long-term gut health, so it’s vital not to skip this step! ⚠️
The final phase is personalising your diet to YOU. Each of us are different, and what triggers you may not trigger the next person. The results of your reintroduction challenges are used to build a personalised long-term eating pattern that keeps your symptoms under control, while ensuring your diet is minimally restrictive.
It’s not just about the food
IBS is multifactorial and, sadly, there is no cure. While what you eat plays a big role, you also need to look at when and how you’re eating, as well as certain lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep and exercise. Management of this frustrating condition requires a holistic approach, which is what I teach my clients as we go through their IBS journey together.
Low FODMAP for vegans (and other plant-based eaters)
The low FODMAP elimination diet can be adapted for vegans, vegetarians and other plant-based eaters, but it is fairly complex and should be overseen by a trained health professional to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.
Thankfully, this is my jam! If you’re a plant-based eater looking for support and guidance from a nutritionist trained in the implementation of the low FODMAP diet, you might like to check out my comprehensive program Plant Nourish, Gut Flourish.