You may have heard that the low FODMAP diet is not a forever diet.
In fact, it’s actually just a 2-6 week test diet to find out whether FODMAPs are playing a role in triggering your IBS symptoms.
If you’ve responded to the low FODMAP diet, you might be feeling the best that you have in months or years. So, you may be wondering what the big deal is when it comes to re-introducing FODMAPs.
Why would you want to put yourself through the process of re-challenging when you know sooner or later something will trigger your symptoms and you’re going to feel crappy again (pun intended)?
Keep reading to find out…
4 reasons why you need to reintroduce FODMAPs
1. To determine your triggers (these are different for everyone!)
Reducing high FODMAP foods in your diet reduces your overall intake of FODMAPs. If this settles your symptoms, then we know that you are reacting to one or more FODMAP groups. But which ones?
A structured challenge schedule that tests up to 10 individual FODMAP groups will shed light on this question.
The Re-Challenge phase of the low FODMAP diet is arguably the most important part of this process because it will help you understand what your own FODMAP triggers are, and in what amounts.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, you will get your symptoms back when you re-challenge a FODMAP group you react to (just remember they will only last for a couple of days). Keep in mind that you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that it is only a couple of the FODMAP groups that you react to.
Finally, remind yourself that symptoms do pass and you are not causing yourself any physical damage through this process. You are getting to know your body better, and how many FODMAPs you can have before you reach your own personal tipping point (known as your threshold).
2. To increase the variety of foods in your diet
Once you’re aware of which FODMAP groups are responsible for triggering your symptoms, you can use this information to expand your diet.
Generally speaking, the more variety you have in your diet, the more nutrients you are able to obtain.
The strict low FODMAP diet is very restrictive, and so if you remain on low FODMAP for a long time, this can put you at a higher risk of nutrient inadequacies.
3. To get your freedom back
Another reason why knowing your own triggers is so useful is because it gives you the power to take back control of your food intolerance.
Struggling with IBS symptoms can be absolutely debilitating. In fact, I have seen some sufferers whose symptoms are so severe that it can make it very challenging to get a job, hang out with friends and family, and sadly, so difficult to even leave the house.
By knowing what it is that triggers your symptoms means that you can get back to doing what you love and live normally again. Knowing what foods you can enjoy and what to avoid can also make eating out much easier.
4. To feed your gut bugs, which support so many aspects of your health
Together, fructo-oligosaccharides (fructans) and galacto-oligosaccharides (galactans) make up the ‘O’ in FODMAPs, called oligosaccharides.
These oligosaccharides have a very important role to play in the body.
They resist absorption in everyone, even in people without IBS, because their purpose is to feed the good bacteria that live in our large intestines (also known as the bowel).
These healthy bacteria that live in our bowel help to keep us healthy, by maintaining our immunity and protecting us from chronic disease.
The problem with the low FODMAP diet is that by restricting FODMAPs in our diet, we are also restricting the food for our gut bacteria. Studies have shown that even in as little as 3-4 weeks on the low FODMAP diet, can reduce our gut bacteria.
This means, if we aren’t feeding our healthy gut bacteria, they die off. And if there are less of them available to help keep us healthy, then this might have implications for our health in the long term. Given what we know about the role they play in general health, reintroducing FODMAPs is definitely something that should be high on the priority list.
Take Home Message
Re-introducing FODMAPs can be an exciting, somewhat nervy and time-consuming process. Although it’s tempting to stay low FODMAP forever, reintroducing FODMAPs can help you understand your food intolerance better, expand your diet, nourish your gut and help you regain your freedom. Check out this guide to rechallenging and reintroducing FODMAPs and chat to a FODMAP trained dietitian to get started.