And what on earth is a FODMAP?
FODMAPs or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols are a type of carbohydrate found in a number of food that we commonly eat. Science has shown that by experimenting with the FODMAP content of their diets people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can get relief from the gas, bloating and discomfort that they experience. Researchers are also looking into whether the approach might help people with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis but much more work needs to be done before we can say one way or another and it’s not a recommended approach for this group of the population at the moment.
So firstly it’s important to understand that it’s an approach that is used to help a specific group of people and not a recommendation for general healthy eating. If you think you have IBS it’s important to speak to your GP who will arrange for you to have the necessary tests to check whether you do in fact have IBS os something else with similar symptoms. Secondly before embarking on a low FODMAP diet it is important to try some of the more straightforward dietary changes that have been shown to help a lot of people. Please see my post about Irritable Bowel Syndrome here.
Finally you should be aware that it’s more of an individualised diagnostic tool than a diet; the idea is that you use the approach to find out the type and amount of different FODMAP foods that you personally tolerate. The final diet is different for everyone and you should make sure that you have support and advice from a Dietitian to guide you through the process and to make sure your longterm diet is healthy and balanced. To work out which foods you tolerate you need to follow a low FODMAP diet for 6-8 weeks and then re-introduce higher FODMAP foods one by one, noting any changes in your symptoms. This is really important as the initial diet is quite restrictive and not suitable for long-term use.
Before you start remember my “get real” tips. The real circumstances of our lives are unique to each of us and they have a huge impact on our ability to make and sustain dietary changes. The tips apply to everything from trying to eat more healthily to following a specific diet to treat a specific set of symptoms as is the case with IBS. So here’s a reminder:
- Get well informed – talk to your Dietitian about suitable alternatives for any high FODMAP foods that you normally eat. Remember that there are some foods you should avoid completely and others that you can have but only in restricted amounts.
- Get more self-aware – find a way to monitor your symptoms that works for you. The practice of Mindfulness may help you develop the skills to pay attention to the way your body responds to food and drink.
- Get organised – plan carefully because you will need to eat different foods to those you have normally. This will affect the way you shop and the way you cook. Gather meal ideas and recipes in advance and think about how other members of the family might be affected. You might find the tips on being “sociably savvy” in one of my previous posts helpful.
- Get supported – it’s not easy making radical changes to your diet so make sure your friends and family understand what you are trying to achieve. Explain that you are using the diet to find out what suits your body and that over time you will be able to broaden the variety of foods that you eat again.
So if you’ve got a confirmed diagnosis of IBS and you’ve tried the straightforward changes but not experienced much improvement find a Dietitian who can help you navigate your way through the low FODMAP diet journey. You may discover some new foods to enjoy and get relief from some pretty grotty symptoms.