Gut symptoms suck and can interfere with every aspect of your life. Your healthcare professional might have recommended the low FODMAP diet to help you manage symptoms. However, this complex medical diet takes time and effort to implement. So, you might be wondering how long does it take for the FODMAP diet to work?
In this article, we are going to help answer that question and cover:
- What is the low FODMAP diet
- How do FODMAPs trigger symptoms
- How long does it take for the FODMAP diet to work
- What to do if you are still experiencing symptoms
- How we can help
What is the low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet is a medical diet specifically designed to help reduce excess gas/wind, bloating, distension, abdominal pain, and altered bowel movements in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The diet does this by removing foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates called FODMAPs and instead gets you to focus on eating low FODMAP foods for 2-6 weeks. After this time, you move on to the FODMAP reintroduction phase, where you test each of the FODMAP groups to see which ones are triggering symptoms.
Check out our Getting Started Guide if you are starting the low FODMAP diet.
How do FODMAPs trigger symptoms?
When you eat FODMAPs, they travel through your stomach and into your small intestine. Here, they are poorly absorbed and draw water into your bowel. Next, the FODMAPs travel to your large intestine, where your gut bacteria ferment them as they break down the food. This fermentation can create gas that can trigger gut-based symptoms like excess wind, bloating, distension, diarrhoea or constipation.
We need to reduce the amount of FODMAPs you eat for the low FODMAP diet to work and for your symptoms to settle. High FODMAP foods should pass through your system during a 2 to 3 day period, and symptoms relating to those foods should ease once the bacteria stop fermenting the FODMAPs.
How long does it take for the FODMAP diet to work?
Everyone is a bit different. After starting the FODMAP diet, some people will experience relief after 2-3 days and others may find it takes a couple of weeks before they see an improvement. The differences in these response times might depend on:
- How many high FODMAP foods the person was eating before starting the FODMAP diet
- How good the person is at identifying high FODMAP products and making low FODMAP swaps
- If the person is using up-to-date low FODMAP food lists and recipes
- If the person is using low FODMAP portion sizes as some low FODMAP foods become high FODMAP in larger serves
It’s also important to note that the low FODMAP diet won’t work for everyone. For example, research shows that 1 in 4 people with IBS won’t respond to the low FODMAP diet.
What should you do if you are still experiencing symptoms?
If you’ve been on the low FODMAP diet for a couple of weeks and haven’t experienced a significant improvement in symptoms (according to accredited practising dietitian, Joanna Baker, the goal is about 70% improvement in symptoms as nobody has a perfect gut all the time), then it’s time to troubleshoot.
Here are some points to think about:
- Are you using low FODMAP portion sizes in your meals?
- Are you having too much low FODMAP fruit in your day?
- Have you checked that your drinks are also low FODMAP (this includes any coffees and drinks from cafes)?
- Are your FODMAP food lists up to date?
- Have you been using low FODMAP recipes? Many of the low FODMAP recipes online are outdated–we regularly update ours as the science changes.
- Do factors like lack of sleep, stress or anxiety, or exercise impact your symptoms?
- Are you constipated? If you are, you will likely need a range of strategies beyond FODMAPs to help manage symptoms. These include assessing fluid and fibre intake, adjusting toileting posture, checking for and correcting muscle dysfunction and adjusting other lifestyle factors. We can teach you about these areas in our dietitian-led constipation management class in our FODMAP Made Easy programme.
How we can help
You don’t need to go through your FODMAP journey alone. If you haven’t been able to work with a FODMAP-trained dietitian one-on-one, then our team can help. We’ve created the FODMAP Made Easy programme to guide you through each phase of the low FODMAP diet. We can help you troubleshoot your symptoms, make the low FODMAP diet easy through delicious recipes and meal plans, provide you with downloadable guides and food lists, and give you expert support via email. You can also learn at your own pace through our online courses and dietitian-led classes. Check out our FODMAP Made Easy programme now.
In this article, we’ve discussed how long it takes for the FODMAP diet to work. But, as you know, everyone is individual. Some people might find relief in a few days; others can take a couple of weeks. So, if your symptoms persist, it’s time to start troubleshooting so you can decide if you want to continue with the FODMAP diet or move on to a different strategy.