The low FODMAP diet is a complex diet that restricts various short-chain carbohydrates to improve your digestive symptoms by 50 to 75%! Impressive right? Sure is. But is it the right diet for you? Read on to learn the 5 must-haves for a successful low FODMAP diet.
Before starting the low FODMAP diet be sure:
#1 - You are diagnosed with IBS (preferably by a gastroenterologist)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional syndrome that impairs an organ’s normal functioning but that doesn’t cause structural abnormalities, making a diagnosis tricky. It can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and cramps, but it causes no visible inflammation, narrowing of the intestines, or ulcers. In other words, if you look through a camera lens your gut could appear healthy and normal.
If you are suffering and think you have IBS see a medical professional, preferably a gastroenterologist, who is a doctor specializing in the digestive tract. A gastroenterologist will use tools like the Rome Criteria and will rule out other medical conditions such as Celiac disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (a distinctly different and more serious condition) before giving you a diagnosis of IBS.
#2 - You are 100% ready to commit to a low-fodmap diet
You are told to follow a low FODMAP diet, but is it something you are ready to do? Your best friend’s wedding is next month in Mexico? You just found out you need surgery? Or you are simply overwhelmed and not ready for a big diet change? (You are allowed to be human.) Good timing and a committed mindset are crucial to success with a low FODMAP diet. While the diet is temporary it requires you to make strict food choices for 2 to 6 weeks. The low FODMAP diet also restricts portion sizes.
Your biggest marker of success is how much better you will feel, and that will come from removing all the known gastric irritants at the same time - no matter how gradually you do it.
#3 - You choose from reputable sources for low-FODMAP foods and recipes
Unknowingly eating a high FODMAP food will impede your success: a gluten-free granola bar isn’t automatically low FODMAP because it may contain inulin or honey which are high FODMAP foods.
A useful tool is the Monash University FODMAP app that will let you know if a particular food is high or low FODMAP by using a simple red light or green light indicator. It also tells you how much you can eat for it to remain low FODMAP.
You can make this even easier by using recipes from a nutritional cookbook such as The Complete IBS Health & Diet Guide. It features over 100 recipes that have been created specifically for the low FODMAP diet.
Make sure you plan your meals and recipes ahead of time so you’ll have all of the low FODMAP ingredients on hand when you start to cook. This will help you stay on track and avoid substituting high FODMAP ingredients when you find yourself suddenly short.
Online grocery shopping will give you time to scan and to confirm your food’s ingredients in a low-stress environment.
Finally, keep in mind that the low FODMAP diet is an evolving process: not all foods have been studied and categorized yet. Monash University is continually researching the FODMAP content in food and adding to their lists.
#4 - You are able to prepare your own meals
Eating at a restaurant is great to socialize with family or friends, and ordering take out is convenient after a long day, but neither one allows you to control all of the ingredients in your food. Having food from a restaurant can increase the chances of inadvertently eating high FODMAP foods and setting your results back.
Preparing your own meals gives you control over every single ingredient. You control what and how much you eat.
Meal planning will help you stick to the low FODMAP diet. Which literally means you’ll feel better.
#5 - You are aware that the FODMAP diet might not help you
It is possible to follow the low FODMAP diet for 6 weeks without seeing much improvement. 30% of people with IBS don’t feel better after trying a low FODMAP diet. It’s possible that IBS sufferers also have other medical conditions that are not affected by high or low FODMAP foods. Examples include small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or bile acid diarrhea.
If you experience limited success on the FODMAP diet, see your gastroenterologist about getting some further testing.