One common misconception about the low fodmap diet is that it's the solution for gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. And because of this, people tend to practice this diet for a long period of time. However, it is important to note that this is not a lifetime diet. It’s rigid and should be practiced with caution. Click here to get a guide for a 90-day Low FODMAP Diet.
Low fodmap diet is only good for 2 to 6 weeks. It is the time where you need to be strict with your intake. Once you notice improvements within that period of time, you can stop the diet and slowly introduce yourself with a healthy range of foods. This is to make sure you are getting the necessary nutrients your body needs and this includes food from the fodmap categories.
It may sound counter-productive but many people are unaware that some of the foods that fall under this category are prebiotics. Examples are wheat, legumes, yogurt, cheese, and fruits which are needed for a healthy gut system.
Prebiotics are essential for the stomach because they stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prolonging the low fodmap diet means depriving these good bacteria of thriving which will eventually cause other health problems in the long run.
So, Why Do You Need A Low Fodmap Diet?
The goal of this diet is to identify what specific food is causing trouble to your digestive system. Low fodmap diet is limited in nutrients, therefore, making it unsuitable to be used long term. The FODMAP Navigator can serve as your guide in choosing food and drinks to include in your diet.
To really understand what the diet entails, let’s go back to the basics.
What is Fodmap?
Fodmap stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are chains of carbohydrates that can stimulate gastrointestinal problems for certain individuals.
The Side Effects of Fodmap
When these carbohydrates are not absorbed fully in the stomach, it triggers fermentation in the large intestines. When this happens, gases like methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen lead to bloating and stomach pain. These symptoms are common among people who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
Fodmaps can be found both in natural food such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products as well as additives like artificial sweetener. Because many foods contain additional sweeteners such as medication or supplements, it can be tricky to eliminate fodmaps sources in your daily intake.
How Long Do the Symptoms Last?
The symptoms varied from one individual to another. However, it is important to note that when a person experience bloating or stomach pain few minutes after eating fodmap foods for example, during breakfast, it might be because of the food he ate last night.
As your stomach accommodates new food, it pushes the previous intake down. Fermentation occurs in the last part of our digestive system thus the bloating and pain are caused by the previous intake. For food to complete its course, it takes around 2-5 days until it becomes feces. Therefore, some individuals will feel discomfort for days for one fodmap meal.
Why You Should Consider Low Fodmap Diet
Understanding the low fodmap diet is key to a successful intervention of gastrointestinal problems. Unfortunately, misconceptions and not being able to understand thoroughly regarding the diet has led many to practice it poorly, while others believe it is not helping them solve their digestion problems not knowing the real process will not be solved in just weeks.
If you suffer from IBS or experience similar symptoms, trying out a low fodmap diet might work well for you. A study showed that with this diet, there was a significant improvement in people who are experiencing stomach pain and bloating which are common symptoms among IBS.
Moreover, digestive problems such as diarrhea or constipation associated with other gastrointestinal disorders can be reduced with the help of a low fodmap diet.
Aside from providing relief to these common symptoms, the diet has been reported to improve the quality of life and mental well being of these people. Being able to manage these symptoms means less pain and less disturbance in people's daily activities.
Fodmap Diet Doesn’t Work?
There are people who found this diet not working for them. It should be noted that this elimination diet is not for everyone. Consultation should be made from physicians, dietitians, and nutritionists particularly if you are suffering from other underlying diseases. The diet requires a lot of elimination in the first phase and this might exacerbate the existing medical conditions.
People who are practicing this diet without proper consultation can cause more harm than good.
Start A Fodmap Diary
You can start with this diet by establishing a fodmap diary. By doing this, it can help you identify triggers to your digestive symptoms. This will also allow you to see your eating habits and find any hidden fodmap foods.
The first thing you need to do is to get a notebook dedicated to your food journal. You can also find plenty of apps on your phone that will help as a food journal. Aside from listing down the food, you are throughout the day, make sure to include the time of the meal, symptoms, and other special information like pain level or stress.
Once you have filled up a week of the food list, review the diary and find any similar patterns and from there try to look for potential triggers. The food diary is also important during the reintroduction phase of this diet.
The 3 Phases of Fodmap Diet
If you want to significantly reduce your gastrointestinal symptoms, you need to take a look at the fodmap diet as a whole and not just the restrictive part.
According to Erin Dwyer, a research dietitian from Monash University, there are 3 steps in the fodmap diet. The first step is an elimination phase wherein limited foods are taken and constantly substituted with other low fodmap foods. At this point, you will see improvement in your symptoms. This elimination diet is only good for a few weeks. This phase is popularly known as the low fodmap diet but you shouldn’t stop here.
Starting a FODMAP diet is difficult. Thankfully, there's an easy-to-follow guide made by gut health specialists.
The second phase is the reintroduction. In this phase, you need to introduce high fodmap foods slowly into your daily intake. It may sound scary and you may be tempted to stay in the first phase up to this point but it will be detrimental in the long run because limited food choices mean your body is deprived of essential nutrients and minerals from food.
The purpose of this phase is to identify specific foods that are causing the symptoms you are experiencing like IBS symptoms. It will also test your tolerance for each food presented. It will usually last around 8 weeks and getting the help of a dietitian and other health professionals are important to help analyze how your body reacts.
Lastly, diet personalization. Once you have identified food sources that are causing gastrointestinal problems, you can now tailor your fodmap diet properly and optimize every food group. As you find out what foods are safe and tolerable for you, it will eventually become your long term diet. It will also allow you to properly plan your meal so you can get a healthy, wholesome meal.
Do You Need Supplement For This Diet?
It is advisable to start supplementing yourself with vitamins and minerals once you are done with the elimination phase. However, those who are experiencing vitamin deficit might be prescribed by their physician with certain supplement and this should be taken as instructed. Avoid changing your supplement without proper consultation for professionals. There are supplements that are not low which can also hinder progress. L-glutamine supplements also show potential in supporting gut health.
As of today, there is no specific standardized test for fodmap sensitivity and intolerance. However, one popular test being used is the breath test. The test examines the amount of hydrogen and methane in your breath after consuming fodmap sugars. A significant amount of gases may indicate malabsorption.
Unfortunately, this test may not be accurate to determine sensitivity. Individuals who are suspected to have IBS will usually request to take several tests to make sure the person is cleared from any life-threatening illness.
What Do You Need To Do?
If you are interested in proceeding with the low-fodmap diet, the first thing you need to do is consult your doctor. Once your doctor has done a thorough health assessment, they will recommend working with a dietitian to help you come up with safe food options. Lack of nutrients and minerals from your daily foods can cause serious health problems thus getting the green light from your health professional is important.
Prepare yourself mentally. It can be challenging especially when you are eating out and there are a lot of food restrictions. Identify your support system and set realistic goals and expectations to help you go through it. There might be lapses but don’t give up easily.
This low-fodmap will not cure IBS or other similar digestive symptoms. It can, however, help control and manage symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea so you can go on with daily life without disruption or stress.
For people with diabetes, don't worry because there are delicious, budget-friendly. low fodmap recipes for you. You'll find them here!