The low-FODMAP diet has become incredibly popular these days, as more people become aware that they don’t have to continue to suffer with their digestive health issues. Many turn to FODMAPs as the possible culprit of their digestive woes, and use the diet protocol as a way to try and improve their gut health.
First and foremost, I want to remind you that the low FODMAP diet is intended to be a temporary dietary change, not a permanent one. It’s a learning diet, not a lifelong diet. Its purpose is to suss out if there are particular foods that are causing digestive distress so that they can be eliminated from the diet. Second, I always recommend talking to your doctor before beginning any serious dietary protocol, including low FODMAP. This is to ensure you’re still getting the proper nutrition for your body while on the diet.
Tips for Getting Started
- Do Your Homework
Don’t just jump into a low-FODMAP diet without taking the time to read about it and gather useful resources like recipes and FODMAP-friendly food products. Monash University makes a great mobile app you can use to check whether a particular food is low in FODMAPs. It also includes the university’s low FODMAP diet guide and more than 80 low FODMAP recipes, so it’s an excellent overall resource for anyone planning a low FODMAP diet protocol.
- Plan Ahead
The low FODMAP diet is rigorous and complicated. Choose the date for your protocol carefully – avoid things like big holidays (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas), as well as personal important dates like vacations, weddings, etc. These are all times when you don’t want to be working your way through a strict diet protocol.
Find a few go-to recipes that are a) simple and easy to make (even better if they can be made ahead of time and reheated/eaten later), and b) foods that you know you enjoy. These recipes will be lifesavers for you once you begin the diet.
Tips for the Elimination Phase
The elimination phase is the first phase. The goal is to eliminate all FODMAPS from the diet. In general, it’s recommended to stay in this phase only until your digestive symptoms improve; the typical time is two to six weeks. If after six weeks you’ve seen no improvement, then it’s vital that you stop the protocol and see your doctor about your symptoms.
- Watch your processed/packaged foods
This is where FODMAPs like to hide. You’ll need to read all ingredient and nutrition labels carefully – and if you’re in doubt, avoid the product entirely. A Little Bit Yummy has a nice guide to reading food labels that can help you understand food product labels. You’re better off doing your own cooking during the elimination period as much as possible so that you know exactly what you’re eating.
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine
While neither of these are high in FODMAPS, they are known gut irritants. Thus, they should be eliminated and tested during the challenge/reintroduction phase just as though they were FODMAPS.
Tips for the Challenge / Reintroduction Phase
The second phase is the testing phase. The goal is to test each FODMAP type separately, gradually increasing the serving size, to see whether symptoms return. It’s important to stay on the low-FODMAP diet throughout this phase.
- Test one FODMAP type at a time.
It’s important to only test one FODMAP at a time as you go through this testing phase. Otherwise, you won’t be 100% certain which FODMAP is causing the symptoms if they return. Start with a very small serving size, and then work your way up from there to what would be a normal serving size for you of that particular FODMAP.
- Track your symptoms.
For each FODMAP you test, make sure you are tracking the following: the date you began testing it, the time you ate, how much you ate, and whether or not there were symptoms. If you did have symptoms, be sure and note what they were, and when they appeared.
- Wait at least 24 hours before increasing the serving size or 48 hours before testing a new FODMAP type.
It’s important to not test again too quickly. Give your body 24 hours before you increase the serving size of a FODMAP you’re testing – and wait a full 48 hours to test a new FODMAP type. During that 48 hours, you should stop testing the prior FODMAP type. This gives your body time to get that FODMAP out of your system before you begin testing a new one. Again, you want to make sure that there is only one FODMAP type in your body at one time so that you’ll know exactly which FODMAP/s are causing your symptoms.
I hope these tips help those who are about to begin a low-FODMAP protocol. Remember, once you’ve done the test, you should return to a normal diet, eliminating only those FODMAPs that you determined during testing were the cause of your symptoms. For those who find they need to eliminate many FODMAPs from their diet permanently, I suggest trying our special fiber blend, Low FODMAP Fiber (UK customers can order direct from FODMarket). Our certified FODMAP-friendly blend will ensure you get the fiber you need without causing digestive distress.