How to Begin the FODMAP Elimination Phase?
Academic and independent research gives evidence that 68-76% of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have shown drastic symptom improvement using the low FODMAP diet.
The diet is used as the first line of defense against IBS with its inclusion in medical diet therapy. Many have used the low FODMAP diet to give their gut a blank slate—finding their trigger foods so they can live a normal, pain-free lifestyle by controlling their IBS, not the other way around!
Planning the First Phase of the low FODMAP Diet: Elimination
The low FODMAP diet is an exploratory therapy diet used as a tool for two reasons. The first reason begins during the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. During this phase, you will get your symptoms under control.
During the elimination phase, you will purposefully remove all foods that are high FODMAPs. This phase lasts 2-6 weeks. Once these FODMAPs are removed, your gut can re-stabilize.
Depending on the patient's circumstances, most IBS patients will begin to see huge improvements in their symptoms within 2-4 weeks. After this, you begin the re-introducing phase.
The next phase is the re-introduction or re-challenging phase. Once your symptoms are under control, you will begin re-introducing FODMAPs back into your diet.
The re-challenging phase is important for dietary expansion and diversity. Expanding your diet ensures you’re getting adequate nutrition. Also, important, are the flavors you'll probably be missing during the elimination phase.
Having good-tasting low FODMAP ingredients helps IBS patients stick with the program. The low FODMAP diet can be a little bland, but with some help, you can find great-tasting low FODMAP snacks.
When your symptoms go away it will be worth it!
Before you begin the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet you need to speak with your physician and dietician. Your doctor will need to preclude that you do not have another serious gastrointestinal disorder.
GI disorders like Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, or cancer are much harder to diagnose once you've entered the elimination phase. However, studies have shown that the low FODMAP diet can help improve symptoms of these GI disorders too! In every case, medical supervision and dietary expertise are more than recommended.
What is a FODMAP?
First, we need to understand what a FODMAP actually is and how they work in the body. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are known culprits of inducing IBS symptoms.
FODMAPs are not properly absorbed in the gut of a person with IBS. Instead, these FODMAPs ferment into a feast for problem bacteria in the gut—producing gases and drawing water into the lower intestines. This causes IBS symptoms like cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
FODMAPs occur naturally in fruit, vegetables, cereals, grains, dairy products, and legumes. The most problematic of these high FODMAPs are typically found in processed foods where they're used for flavoring and texture.
Popular foods like garlic, onion, wheat, honey, and dairy foods are all examples of FODMAPs. Rest assured, there are ways to cook delicious meals without using these ingredients.
The Gut Program works with physicians and dieticians to put together individualized programs for IBS sufferers to take on the elimination phase with an advantage over doing it solo!
Starting the FODMAP Elimination Phase
The elimination phase, or restrictive phase, takes 2 to 6 weeks to complete and will be a tough journey. You begin by strictly removing all FODMAPs. The first stage is the hardest because you'll have to revolutionize your pantry and cooking recipes. It's the hardest and most important!
You will need to follow this diet until:
- you have consistent improvements in your symptoms
- you can regulate your stress levels coinciding with your IBS
- you're comfortable with the low FODMAP diet
This means, you know the difference between low and high FODMAPs and have the knowledge to begin systematically re-introducing one level of FODMAPs at a time. This will isolate your trigger foods, so you know which ones to avoid for life.
During the elimination phase, it's wise to keep a food journal. You will want to keep careful notes of your gut health in concert with what you're eating. Generally, symptoms will begin to occur up to 48 hours after ingesting a problematic FODMAP.
The goal of the elimination diet is to have "smooth-sailing" GI health the whole way through. A food journal will help you identify patterns that cause IBS symptoms.
You can compare your notes from the elimination phase against the re-challenge phase. Keeping a food journal also helps you maintain control over your stress levels, which can directly impact your gut health.
Knowing the Right Time to Move to Re-challenge Phase
Figuring out your personal tolerance level to each tier of the FODMAPs is trial-and-error. You don't want to wait too long before going on to re-challenge. Some IBS sufferers get really ecstatic about their symptom control.
They begin to develop anxiety about diving back into high FODMAP foods. It's important to understand that the low FODMAP diet is not designed to be a lifestyle diet. You will need to move on for optimal health, making sure you’re eating healthy and balanced!
You will need to know what trigger foods you cannot eat and what foods are safe in small portions in your regular eating habits.
The more variety in your diet, the more opportunities to get nutrition. For example, you might find that your dairy products upset your stomach. You can still get calcium and enjoy cheeses that are moderate FODMAPs like naturally-aged cheese, which has less than a half gram of sugar.
You may find a slice of cheese of moderate FODMAP cheese is okay to eat twice a week or within a single meal a day as long as the serving is less than 5 grams.
How the Gut Program Helps
We founded The Gut Program because we were in the same boat as you! We suffered our entire lives with the painful embarrassment of IBS and were told by medical professionals that this thing called the low FODMAP diet could help.
We spent days pouring over food labels, figuring out how to eat out at restaurants, and finding recipes that wouldn't send us screaming to the bathroom! We wanted to help and give back! This is why we devised The Gut Program.
It starts with an interview to assess your symptoms, determine your taste buds, and address medical concerns. With this information, we send you a package that can propel you forward with everything you need to tackle the low FODMAP diet!
Our standard program includes over $100 in low FODMAP products, a 30-minute interview, program guide, 10 recipes, and access to a members-only low FODMAP store. Our other programs have even more advantageous items to help you get control of your IBS!
If you have any questions or need some guidance, please feel free to contact us here!
About The Author: Drew is the founder of The Gut Program and a gut health expert. His work has been featured on The Gut Program, CbdOilForIBS.com, Ask Men and The Gut BrainConnection Community. Learn more at his personal site.