Following on from my post 'An Introduction To FODMAPs: Part 1' where I explained FODMAPs and how the diet works, I have put together some important points to consider if you are thinking about giving the low FODMAP protocol a go.
The question I am asked all the time is 'should everyone with IBS try the low FODMAP diet?' The answer is while it is an incredibly therapeutic diet and can be very beneficial for some, as with everything in the world of wellness - it’s not necessarily for everyone.
1. Make sure the diet is right for you.
IBS is what I like to call an ‘umbrella diagnosis’. IBS is not a condition per say, but more a set of unexplainable symptoms.
Currently the best therapeutic and research based diet we have for IBS patients is the low FODMAP diet. So if you have symptoms of IBS and feel like you need to change things up to start feeling like you again, low FODMAPs is what people are now turning to or being prescribed. However, with IBS being a set of symptoms, not necessarily a diagnosis there can be a few problems with this.
The thing is that a number of different medical conditions can present with symptoms of IBS, such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease. While I’m not suggesting everyone has one of these more complex conditions, I do encourage you to really investigate to see if it is actually a presentation of another condition. This is especially important if you have followed the numerous dietary protocols to the letter and have seen no improvements.
Another thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different. You need to make sure you have enough resources, time and energy to undertake the low FODMAP diet. Cause let me tell you it is no walk in the park! If your burnt out or not in a great headspace at the moment, the FODMAP protocol might not be the best thing for you right now.
2. Have You Tried Avoiding Other Common IBS Trigger Foods And Healthy Living Strategies?
What do processed foods, caffeine, carbonated and alcoholic beverages, dairy and gluten all have in common? They can all be possible triggers of IBS-like symptoms. If you diet is fairly high or full of one of more of these triggers, it’s probably worth trying to pull back a little and see if it effects your symptoms. It might be as simple as cutting back on the coffee, switching your milk or working on your stress levels.
Some other healthy strategies to try and put into action first are:
Eating small, regular meals
Chewing your food properly
Taking time to sit down and eat - NOT eating on the go! Your desk is not a dining table.
Avoid chewing gum
Managing and reducing stress (walking, meditation, yoga etc)
3. You Must Reintroduce FODMAPs
This one I cannot stress enough! The low FODMAP diet is not a way of life or by any means designed for the ongoing management of IBS.
FODMAPs contain prebiotic fibres that are very very important for long term gut health. The low FODMAP diet consists of three phases: Elimination, Reintroduction and Adaptation. The strict low FODMAP elimination phase should only last for 2 to 6 weeks. Then you need to re-challenge and reintroduce high FODMAP foods that don’t trigger symptoms, to protect your long-term gut and overall health.
If after four weeks on the low FODMAP diet you are still struggling with symptom control, you need to check in with your health care practitioner to try and work out why this might be happening.
4. Avoid Over Restricting Your Diet
The low FODMAP diet by itself is restrictive enough, so don’t put added pressure on yourself by removing more foods, unless it has been specifically recommended by your practitioner. It isn’t recommended that you combine the low FODMAP diet with other restrictive diets such as the paleo or ketogenic diet as you are at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
This is especially important if you are a vegan or vegetarian. If you are doing the FODMAP diet purely plant based, please make sure you seek help to ensure you get enough low FODMAP sources of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins in your diet.
5. Don’t Let FODMAPs Take Over Your Life!
Does it feel like FODMAP’s might be taking over your life? Then it might be time to reconsider.
If you feel yourself starting to obsess over food or find the whole process itself is making you feel worse because you are becoming so stressed, then it’s probably time to stop. Seek out a practitioner who can help you with other treatment options. While the low FODMAP diet be very beneficial at reducing symptoms of IBS, stress will do the total opposite and exacerbate them. For optimal results you need to try and be as stress free as possible.