“You have IBS-C.” The words my doctor told me a few months back. And do you want to know what she said to me after I asked her how I could manage it? She told me I would just have to take Miralax EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of my life. My doctor. This was her answer. Can you imagine how discouraged I was? She did not tell me it could be managed by diet, what FODMAPs were, or even how helpful lifestyle changes could be – she simply told me Miralax was my answer and sent me on my way.
However, me being me, I could not accept that. I wanted answers to the root problem not a Band-Aid for the symptoms. I went to work immediately reading as much as I could about IBS and came across the low FODMAP diet and, to be honest, it helped relieve my symptoms almost immediately. However, it’s important to note that I also made many other lifestyle changes and added in other products that have helped manage my symptoms and if you are curious about those, I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
But without further ado let’s get into the juicy deets about FODMAPs --
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (big and long, I know) --- the good news is that you don’t have to memorize that. What you need to know is that this refers to specific carbohydrate molecules within foods that are not well digested and absorbed. The word fermentable refers to the fact that these molecules are digested by bacteria that live in our digestive tract and those bacteria readily break down and consume FODMAPs.
Who is the low FODMAP diet for?
The low FODMAP diet is particularly helpful for people who struggle with IBS and SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). Of the possible diets for IBS, the low FODMAP diet has the most scientific evidence supporting it. For many people it nearly completely eliminates their IBS and that’s just with diet alone. However, it’s also important to remember that some people are non-responders, and some people may not feel better with just changing to a low FODMAP diet alone. In this case, a different diet and/or further investigation & treatment may be warranted.
Why eliminate FODMAPs?
1. When bacteria digest them, gas is produced as the waste product. This gas production within the digestive tract can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of the two). Of course, it also causes flatulence and can ever cause reflux or GERD
2. FODMAPs are poorly digested by us and they remain in the digestive tract as the food passes through. This increases the osmolality of the solution inside the gut, which causes water to get pulled in. A water gets pulled into the gut it further exacerbates symptoms like bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
**quick note** : yes, this diet may be helpful or a good starting point for feeling better, HOWEVER, it does not address the underlying cause of IBS. If you really want to stop your symptoms the best-case scenario would be to further investigate/treat the cause.
How does the low FODMAP diet work?
It requires three-steps:
1. You stop eating high FODMAP foods
2. Next, you slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are troublesome
3. Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.
What is important to note is that the elimination portion of the diet should only last 2-6 weeks and then introduce the foods in a systematic way. Most people are not sensitive to all FODMAPs, so some types can be brought back into the diet without ill effect.
**quick note** : the full elimination diet is not intended to be a long-term diet because it has been shown to adversely affect the microbiome if one remains on it for too long. Also, I would recommend working with a trained RD to get started.
What can I eat?
Any type of elimination diet can seem so intimidating at first. Trust me, I was so nervous and overwhelmed because I hate the idea of restriction, but I highly encourage you to focus on all the wonderful foods you CAN have vs what you cannot. I am a firm believer that the abundance mindset is key to life. Also, to make it easier I have provided a list of low FODMAP foods/beverages. However, it is important to note this list is not exhaustive and I highly recommend getting the Monash University FODMAP Diet App on your phone because you can search just about any type of food/beverage and it will tell the exact quantity that's allowed too. Because what is also important to note is that some foods may be considered low FODMAP to a certain extent. For example: green beans are considered low FODMAP when you keep it to one serving (about 15 beans) and considered high around 35 beans (this is also why I really recommend the app).