Nutrition

My Journey To Healing: Discovering FODMAPs

blueberries

My stomach hurts.  Often.  It’s like this raw, sore feeling that gets either better or worse according to the food I eat.  Previously, I thought it was all because of dairy, so I took that out.  Then recently I thought maybe it was gluten, so I took that out too.  But still, the symptoms would come.  Sometimes I would look pregnant, the bloating was so bad.

I found a good amount of relief on the paleo diet but paleo was in itself more restrictive than I decided I wanted to be long-term.  Then, while listening to this podcast of the Chalene Show, just in passing, the doctor being interviewed was suggesting paleo for one set of problems and something called the “low FODMAP diet” for other sets of symptoms. He suggested giving it two weeks and seeing if after those two weeks the symptoms had cleared.

So, after that, I dove into research about what exactly was a FODMAP and why did it injure the gut and how was I supposed to go about this whole thing.  I still haven’t come up for air but I thought it was important enough that I wanted to share my current findings and results now in case they can help anyone else.

The Low FODMAP Diet was discovered in Australia at Monash University not too long ago and has been the leading dietary solution for IBS since then.  The FODMAP diet specifically deals with carbohydrates that for various reasons have trouble breaking down in our small intestines and can lead to uncomfortable sensations.

F- fermentable (this describes all the other following carbohydrates)

O- oligosaccarides (short chain of carbohydrates)

D- disaccarides (di = two)

M- monosaccaride (mono = one)

A-and

P- polyols 

Under each of the four categories are foods that are considered “high FODMAP”, meaning they do not break down easily, that the enzymes in our body have a hard time getting them down to where they need to be to be absorbed, and they in fact can feed the bad bacteria (if present) in our gut.

When you first see the chart, it can be surprising.  Immediately I noticed a handful of foods that I ate daily: apples, avocados, garlic, and onions.

FODMAP chart
This chart was found at IBS Freedom.

Everyone Has a Bucket

One guest on this ISB podcast described it very well: she said that we all have a bucket.  Some of our buckets are bigger than others or fuller than others.  When the bucket overflows, that is when symptoms occur.

The idea is that we all want our bucket to stay half full or less so that one food alone won’t set us off.  Some people’s buckets never overflow.  These are those with an “iron stomach” but even they will have symptoms from eating a huge amount of beans (since beans are part of [insert], one of the two categories that no one can break down all the way.

The low FODMAP diet is NOT supposed to be a long-term solution.  Rather, you are supposed to apply it for 2-6 weeks to reduce what’s “in your bucket” and calm down your system.  Then you strategically re-introduce one category at a time, in order to determine what specific foods are irritating you.  Sometimes it can be just one group.  Sometimes it can be all.  But until you systematically check, it’s impossible to know.

Personally, I already know lactose and I aren’t friends.  That’s in the “D” category.  So I won’t be testing that – that would just be painful.  But things like avocados and garlic, those are foods I’m hoping I can reintroduce!  However, if those foods are bothering me, it’s worth being pain-free to find alternatives.

For a great overview of the diet and some various recipes, you can check out Healthy Guy, Flat Stomach by Danielle Capalino.

I went way off the diet for a couple days and I’m paying the consequences now.  My bucket got full and now a single slip-up is causing the soreness again.  I guess I’m starting over . . . Once I get to the re-introduction phase I’ll post again with the results.

I hope if anyone out there is suffering (apparently 1 in 6 adults have IBS) you’ll take the time to check out this diet.  It’s completely doable and worth it, in my opinion.  I’ve never been diagnosed with IBS and I still need to visit the doctor to rule out other causes, but when I am strict with this plan, I notice by symptoms clear up, as long as I’m very strict.

Resources

The Chalene Show: Eating Trends and Common Myths with Dr. Michael Ruscio

Fun Without FODMAPs blog: recipes

Book recommendation: Heathy Gut, Flat Stomach 

Larah Brook: Low FODMAP and IBS podcast

I’m curious: do you suffer from stomach pain that seems to come and go depending on what you eat?  Do you see one or two foods from the high FODMAP list that stand out to you as one or more of your dietary staples? 

Until next time,
~Laura

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