The low FODMAP diet is a health journey not a life time diet. It was created as a tool to help Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers identify and manage dietary triggers, and research suggests that the diet can help significantly reduce symptoms in 70% to 75% of patients (1, 2). However, that doesn’t mean the diet is right for everyone. Before you start, make sure the diet is right for you, then follow our tips on how to stay safe on the low FODMAP diet.
Make sure the diet is right for you
1. Have you been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome by your doctor or gastroenterologist?
It’s important to check that other medical conditions like coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer are ruled out as these conditions can have similar symptoms. It’s also important that you were consuming gluten (minimum 4 slices of regular bread per day) during your coeliac testing, otherwise results won’t be accurate (3).
2. Are you under weight? Struggle with emotional eating or eating disorders?
If you’re struggling with any of these issues then the low FODMAP diet might not be the right treatment path for you. You might be better suited to non-food treatment plans. If the low FODMAP diet is still recommended then it should be undertaken under the close supervision of a dietitian.
3. Have you tried avoiding other common IBS trigger foods and healthy living strategies?
It’s well known that caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can all trigger IBS symptoms (4). Before starting a low FODMAP diet it’s important to check that changing a few of these foods and adjusting your fibre intake doesn’t reduce your symptoms to a satisfactory level.
These healthy living strategies can help too:
- eat small regular meals,
- take time to sit down and eat (eating on the go encourages you to swallow air)
- avoid chewing gum and other products containing sorbitol
- exercise regularly
- reduce stress (yoga, meditation and mindfulness can help)
4. Check the low FODMAP diet is right for your age, lifestyle and other medical conditions.
The low FODMAP diet may not be appropriate for young children, pregnant women or elderly people, so it is important you check with a dietitian before changing diets. If you have other medical conditions, then your team of medical professionals need to assess if the low FODMAP diet is the right treatment pathway for you, and the best way for you to implement it.
Also keep in mind that everyone is different. You need to make sure you have enough resources, time and energy to undertake the low FODMAP diet. If you aren’t in control of the household cooking, are time poor, or can’t afford to buy a few specialised food items then the diet might not be right for you.
Before starting the low FODMAP diet consult a dietitian
The low FODMAP diet is an specialised medical nutritional therapy, which should be undertaken with the guidance of a dietitian. Your dietitian will help tailor the low FODMAP approach to you, ensure your diet remains nutritionally adequate, and help you reintroduce high FODMAP foods back into your diet after 2 to 6 weeks. The resources provided by A Little Bit Yummy are here to support you on your journey, but do not replace advice from your medical team.
For more information on how a dietitian can help and where to find one, read this.
You must reintroduce FODMAPs
FODMAPs contain prebiotic fibers that are important for long term gut health (5). The strict low FODMAP diet 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 health.
If after four weeks on the low FODMAP diet you are still struggling with symptom control, you need to check in with a FODMAP trained dietitian so they can help you trouble shoot.
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 recommended by a dietitian. It isn’t recommended that you combine the low FODMAP diet with other restrictive diets like the paleo diet, ketogenic diet, or atkins diet as it can put your nutrition intake at risk. If you choose to combine diets make sure you seek support from a dietitian.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian make sure you seek help to ensure you get enough low FODMAP sources of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins in your diet.
If you have identified a list of foods you think might be additional triggers for you, talk to your dietitian about how to accurately test these potential trigger foods. This will reduce the risk of you over-restricting your diet in the long run.
Don’t let FODMAPs take over your life
The low FODMAP diet isn’t for everyone and if you find that FODMAPs are taking over your world then it might be time to reconsider. If you don’t have the capacity to change your diet, find it too stressful, or start obsessing over food, then it’s time to look at other treatment options and start relaxing your diet.
Gut focused hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy both have similar success rates for reducing symptoms as the low FODMAP diet (6, 7, 8). These can be used by themselves or combined with the low FODMAP diet. If you are interested in these strategies ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist. Not all psychologists are specialised in this area, so make sure you enquire about their experience before booking a session.
Take Away Points
The low FODMAP diet isn’t for everyone, which means it is important to check that it is the right treatment plan for you before you start. Once you are on the low FODMAP diet remember that the strict low FODMAP phase only lasts 2 to 6 weeks, and then you can start re-challenging and reintroducing FODMAPs. To make your journey easier and help you stay safe seek, the support of a FODMAP trained dietitian.