To be honest, when I first heard of a low-FODMAP diet, I thought “Eh, probably won’t do anything for me. There is no way that certain fruits and vegetables (the earth’s purest bearings!!) are making me feel this way.” Part of me was so set in stone that it was grain, dairy and other elements of my diet that I sometimes consumed that were just repeatedly setting me off weeks at a time. In reality, though, I was wrong; and high fodmap foods were actually some of my biggest culprits.
If you aren’t familiar with the acronym FODMAP, then let me explain. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are food molecules (mostly sugars, or short-chained carbohydrates) that are poorly absorbed by the gut. These carbohydrates can be found in fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols. Because they aren’t completely absorbed by the human body, they’re easily fermented by gut bacteria and can cause a lot of gastrointestinal problems for some people (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, etc.)
For me, I was so confused why I was bloated all the time even though I was eating super healthy and clean; and I didn’t understand why constipation was still an issue for me even though I was doing everything I could to ensure that my digestive system was happy. SO. FRUSTRATING. When one of my mom’s friends (who also struggled with digestive issues) suggested that I try a low-fodmap diet, I knew it was at least worth researching and trying; and right around the same time, I was waiting for my test results to come back from my Everlywell test, which happened to include quite a few FODMAP foods as my triggers.
When I received my Everlywell test results back from the lab and almost 50% of my triggers were FODMAPs (rye, wheat, bran, cow’s milk and cheese, asparagus, green peas, green beans), I knew that following a low-fodmap protocol was absolutely worth my time and energy. Plus, I had been noticing that apricots, pears and mangoes (all high FODMAP foods) had been recently making me really bloated too, so clearly there was a correlation here.
I started to do some research and came across two resources that have been really helpful in defining the diet for me.
I printed off the first two checklists and slipped them into my planner to carry around with my each day. When I make my meals, I double check the sheets. When I’m going out to eat, I look at the menu at the restaurant and see what matches best with a low-fodmap diet; and the sugars and sweeteners guide has helped me in my baking endeavors. Wherever I go, I really try my best to follow this protocol as closely as possible. I’m obviously not perfect, but I told myself that I’d do my best.
Right now, my kitchen staples look a bit like this: lettuces and fresh leafy greens, bell peppers (which I haven't been consuming because they are nightshades, but now I'm realizing that these are not a trigger for me and I have just been missing out!), organic green grapes, radishes, broccoli, wild-caught salmon and cod, homemade fodmap-friendly trailmix, dark chocolate without prohibited sweeteners, carrots, red cabbage and zucchini/squash. Of course there are other foods that I'm including here and there, but it's nice to just keep my fridge full of low-fodmap foods for easy salads, roasted veggies and snacking.
Although saying goodbye to cauliflower, 2 avocados a day, sauerkraut and kombucha, dates, dried apricots and asparagus was initially a bummer (some of my favorite staples), once I started implementing the low-fodmap protocol, I seriously started to feel different after just a few days. My bloating was down and my digestion was so much better; and I immediately noticed my symptoms coming back if I slipped a little bit (enjoying a cauliflower pizza with friends, having a hard cider after a workout event that I went to, etc.) I was so excited about the initial results and answers that I was seeing.
Today, I’m about 1 ½ weeks into being conscious about the FODMAPs that I consume, and although I’ve had some slip ups with ingredients or foods that I didn’t realize were on the “avoid” list, or not necessarily having the option to eat anything else when I’m on the go or traveling, I have done a pretty good job of sticking to the plan, and I have absolutely seen a difference in how I feel and look.
The low-FODMAP diet is suggested to be followed somewhat like an elimination diet. The idea is to eliminate the foods on the “avoid” lists as best as you can for at least 2-3 weeks (I am going to try and make it one month as best as I can); and then after the 2 weeks (or up to 6 – at least until your symptoms are under control) of elimination, you begin reintroducing FODMAPs that were once staples in your diet one by one and see if they cause any symptoms. If they cause symptoms after 2-3 days of consuming them, then you take them out of your diet again. If not, then YAY! Maybe they weren’t a trigger for you in the first place.
If you are someone who struggles with bloating or other IBS-like issues, I think it would be worth your time to explore a low-fodmap diet. I have absolutely already seen a huge difference in how I feel and look, and I’m excited to see what one month of being dedicated to this will do for me. As always, if you have questions about the protocol, elimination process or anything else – please do your research, leave a comment below or shoot me an email! I know that I’m not in this alone and that there are so many other people who are exploring the low-fodmap lifestyle too. Plus, I love hearing from you guys and always benefit from advice and tips that you provide!