Beginning my FODMAPs journey

Content warning: contains discussion of dietary restrictions

 

You know when you’ve been putting something off for so long that you just can’t ignore it any longer? That was me and FODMAPs. There were so many reasons I couldn’t do it: it’s complicated, it’s expensive, I don’t have the brainpower, I can’t cook (!). A few weeks ago, I finally reached the tipping point where my desire to not be in constant, crippling abdominal pain overwhelmed all these reasons, and I gave the low-FODMAP diet a go.

Fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols

You’ve probably heard of the low-FODMAP diet before. It’s an evidence-based intervention developed by researchers at Monash University, aimed at reducing symptoms associated with IBS. The reason it’s been so popular is because it works! Monash research suggests that up to 75% of IBS patients experience symptom reduction from a low-FODMAP diet program.

Patients initially follow a restrictive elimination diet low in all FODMAPs, followed by food challenges which are designed to reveal which (if any) specific FODMAPs produce symptoms. Patients are then free to follow their own, modified FODMAPs diet to best manage their symptoms. (Staying on the low-FODMAPs elimination diet long term is inadvisable due to health risks.)

 

Being skeptical that FODMAPs would do anything for me, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Almost immediately, my abdominal pain ceased, and my stomach deflated like a balloon. (This is not a weight loss thing, and I’m working extra hard to eat adequate portions so I don’t lose any weight, cos the low-FODMAPs portions are really fucking tiny.) Although these symptoms have come and gone since, at their peak they are still a fraction of the intensity experienced pre-FODMAPs.

I’ve even noticed some reactions when I’ve inadvertently eaten high-FODMAPs food, which tells me I’m on the right track (who knew there was onion and garlic powder in gluten-free frozen fish?).

 

Fruit salad.
The only place I’m seeing fruit salad now is in my dreams.

 

Of course, it’s not quite that simple (is anything?). This diet is not easy. Nor is it fun, or healthy. It’s confusing and restrictive and really fucking hard work. The Monash Low FODMAP Diet App has been an immense help in understanding what I can and can’t eat, but sometimes I’m there at breakfast weighing my bananas and strawberries so I can eat 1/2 portions of each and not overload on fructose and it all seems too much, you know?*

The good thing is that the strict elimination phase of the diet only lasts 2-6 weeks, then I can start the equally strict rechallenge phase which lasts 10 weeks. During the rechallenge phase, I test my tolerance to each FODMAP using precisely portioned challenge foods. The idea of conducting a carefully-framed scientific experiment on myself does have some appeal, I must admit! And it will be interesting to know exactly what my triggers are, and go back to some semblance of a normal diet afterwards.

 

I’ll keep you updated, but for once it is such a relief to try an intervention that actually works.

 

Winnie the Pooh eats honey from a jar.
I am really looking forward to eating honey again.

 

This is where I should add a disclaimer before I become one of those wanky bloggers who starts promoting potentially dangerous medical interventions under the guise of “health”. Low FODMAPs is not a healthy diet, nor one that should be followed long term. It is essential that other possible causes of GI distress be eliminated before starting a low FODMAPs diet, as the diet can mask the results of tests determining said causes. So, if you haven’t been tested for coeliac disease, get those bloods and endoscopy sorted before trying FODMAPs.

I didn’t consult anyone before beginning this diet due to health reasons. So do what I say, not what I do, and consult an accredited practicing dietician who is FODMAPs certified for guidance – especially if you have a history of disordered eating, as there is a possibility this restrictive diet could encourage the development of such behaviours.

If you wish to know more about FODMAPs, try the Monash website or blog, The Monash Low FODMAP Diet App, or A Little Bit Yummy.

 

*50g of unripe banana and 70g of strawberries, if you’re wondering.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

17 thoughts on “Beginning my FODMAPs journey”

  1. I haven’t gone “all the way”, the way that you have – good job, BTW – but I did do a low FODMAP test for a few weeks. The big thing that has remained from that is I don’t eat onions anymore, or onion powder. A LOT of things contain onion powder, I was surprised. I asked my doc about it, and she said it’s pretty amazing how many people can’t do onions. I would never have thought that’d be the thing causing so much bloating and awfulness.

    I hope you get some really useful answers from all this! Sounds like you’re really on your way! 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks Hollie! It was strange to me too, finding out that onions cause so much trouble for so many people. Apparently they and garlic aren’t digested particularly well by anyone, which doesn’t necessarily always cause GI issues, but a huge proportion of IBS patients find they cause symptoms.

      Like

  2. Good luck to you – it sounds really difficult but hopefully the end results will be worth it.

    I recently had to give up gluten as I figured out it was a migraine trigger (I was getting 5-7/week). It’s still amazing to me how many foods have gluten in them.

    Keep us updated on your progress…

    Like

    1. I don’t know a great deal about migraines but it surprises me that gluten can be a trigger! I guess I’m glad you’ve found something that causes them that you can just avoid, but you’re right – gluten is in so many foods.

      Like

  3. Hi! Just found your blog a few days ago (via some sewing rabbit hole I was chasing) and am enjoying catching up with past posts. Good luck with your low-Fodmap journey: I’m glad it’s working for you so far! I started the diet in 2012, and had an almost-instant reduction in symptoms too (I have Crohn’s disease). I had been following an even more restrictive diet (that clearly wasn’t working!), so I’ve always found the Fodmaps system relatively easy to accommodate in comparison (and I keep myself going with the mantra that anything’s ‘easier’ than pain and unpleasant symptoms!). Thanks for the link to ‘a little bit yummy’. I’ve just discovered this blogger’s book, too, and she has some tasty recipes as well that I though I’d share: http://www.shecanteatwhat.com/low-fodmap-recipes/

    Also, I feel you on the fish incident: WHY does onion powder even NEED to be in frozen fish?! Why is the fish not enough on its own?! These are questions that plague me at the supermarket too.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the link! I realise I’ve just borrowed her book from the library, so it should be an interesting read.

      I am so glad to hear FODMAPs helped with your Crohn’s symptoms. I assumed at first FODMAPs was only for IBS patients but it seems to help people with such a variety of GI issues – apparently Monash did a study of people with an ileostomy and FODMAPs reduced their liquid output into their bag. Mum has had a colostomy so she has started the elimination diet too and I’m hopeful it will help.

      Like

      1. I initially heard about the low-Fodmap diet in relation to endometriosis, so it does seem to be very versatile! That would be super cool if it helps your mum too.

        Enjoy the recipe book! I’ve most recently tried the chicken parcel recipe (with capsicums and a lime/coriander dressing), and it was a) extremely easy to assemble (i.e. good for post-work tired me), and b) very tasty. Sue Shepherd has also written a couple of books, so hopefully your library has those too. The “Two step” one has a really yummy chicken marsala recipe (curry without onions – win!). http://shepherdworks.com.au/product/two-step-lowfodmap-diet/

        Like

        1. I’ve read a few of her books! She’s definitely the authority on FODMAPs having led the team which developed the diet. My favourite was the most comprehensive: The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet, by Sue Shepherd & Peter Gibson. Hooray for local achievement!

          Like

  4. I had good luck with the FODMAP diet. I indirectly figured out I was allergic to wheat from it (though later had it and other allergies confirmed with tests). I also discovered (and later also confirmed I was fructmal. Guess who never got to really add back honey?

    Like

  5. After having all sorts of tests, I’ve been looking at the FODMAPS diet for constant abdominal pain, and other unpleasant symptoms that mean I don’t make or wear clothes with fitted waistbands, so I’m really interested to see how you fare with the diet. The thing that is causing me to hesitate at this point is that, as you say, it does look hard and complicated to stick to (especially for someone who likes to cook and eat), I’m the main cook for my family who won’t be interested in joining me in eliminating food from their diet, and I’m going away in November for 3 weeks. Then it’s Christmas. Maybe the New Year, then?

    Like

    1. Your description of your symptoms sounds much like mine, Paola. It got to the point where I couldn’t wear most of my wardrobe, the bloating and pain was so bad. The immediate results were good and I hope they last long-term.

      It would certainly be difficult to cook for a family with FODMAPs. I can’t speak to it and appreciate I’m very lucky to have parents who will help cook for me, and a diet that is not too difficult to convert (as in, we mostly have plain meat/fish with veggies for dinner due to dietary restrictions of other family members). And trying it over holidays and Xmas sounds like a recipe in torture! Perhaps an accredited practicing dietician would be able to help with following a low-FODMAPs diet while cooking for a family? When the festive period is done and dusted 🙂

      Like

  6. You’re not kidding about it being hard! As I said on insta, I gave it a go and at not quite a week in basically had a melt down. It wasn’t worth it for me – but that’s because I’d already identified that I was having a reaction to fructans. I had a breath test that came back positive for a fructose allergy but it’s only fructans that are the issue. I definitely had the stomach deflating like a balloon thing! Such a relief. Now I can eat some onion and garlic in things occasionally if I’m careful, but I can’t eat any watermelon and have to be careful about portions. We still use a lot of garlic scapes. And I can’t have gluten either, so wheat isn’t an issue 😛 It also didn’t help that the nutritionist I was seeing was clearly skeptical and didn’t believe me about my reported symptoms – she was mentored by one of the Monash team and she clearly wanted to believe that the gluten thing was only a fructose thing, but it’s a totally different reaction.

    ANYWAY I guess I love talking about my gut, huh? … My sexy sexy gut 😛 Big props to you for slogging through it, it’s hard hard work. I’m glad it’s showing results!

    Like

    1. We must be very uncouth, talking about BOWELS and IBS in a public forum like this 😉 Strange that your nutritionist was so skeptical of your own self-reported symptoms. There are definitely cases of people who assume they are coeliac or gluten-intolerant but actually react badly to some FODMAPs, and haven’t had proper investigation, but if your diet reduces symptoms, what’s the problem?

      Like I mentioned in the post, FODMAPs is such an intrusive intervention that it’s not suitable for everyone, and it can possibly trigger mental health problems. Sounds ridiculous, but there is actually evidence that hypnotherapy can reduce IBS symptoms, and that tends to be recommended over FODMAPs for those who are at high risk of developing MH issues from a restrictive diet (or if ther can’t do FODMAPs for whatever reason).

      Like

      1. I was really surprised! I probably shouldn’t have been, I get skepticism from lots of doctors but my GP is really good so I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security. I have the gene and antibody celiac test to be sure and I have the genes but not the antibody, and I can’t develop it if I’m not eating gluten, so it’s fine.

        I was also surprised by how tough the diet was. I thought I was prepared and I don’t have existing eating disorders but I started having really intrusive thoughts about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. I could have pushed through I think if it had been worth it but it wasn’t for my situation. It would be nice to be sure about the other categories but in the end, not worth it. I have seen that about hypnotherapy! Very odd and interesting. Who cares if it works, right?? How are you going with it, is it still ok for you?

        Like

  7. I was supposed to do a Low Fodmap Diet but never did. I’d already done an elimination diet for migraine and doing it all over again seemed a bit too hard. I did keep a food diary though and for me milk is the one Fodmap I could identify. Otherwise, a diet low in fat and high in fibre seems to work fairly well. Unfortunately, my biggest trigger is stress and there’s not much I can do about that!

    Like

    1. Two elimination diets in a row seems a bit rough! If a food diary worked for you then really you’ve skipped the hard part and got the results. It sounds a bit wacky, but there is good evidence that hypnotherapy can be just as effective as FODMAPs in reducing IBS symptoms – perhaps it might help if stress if a trigger.

      Like

Thanks for dropping by! I read and value each and every comment you leave. Constructive criticism is welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s