I hope 2017 is treating you well so far. As promised in my first low FODMAP blog post, I am going to go through my first six weeks on the diet and let you know how I got on.
In this blog post I will share lots of the meals I ate over the course of the six weeks. This will hopefully provide inspiration for those of you who are about to undertake a low FODMAP diet or are already following one. Please remember that one should not commence a low FODMAP diet without prior consultation with a registered dietician. There are many causes of digestive distress that must be ruled out before a low FODMAP diet is advised, hence why I first had to undergo testing for coeliac disease.
I started the diet two weeks prior to seeing a dietician. I couldn’t get an appointment any sooner and wasn’t keen on delaying commencement. I decided to use the Monash and Kings College London apps to guide me until I could see my dietician. I was eager to find out if this diet would help my symptoms and was keen to get started.
I did make a few mistakes initially, mainly due to conflicting information on the two apps. I was eating cottage cheese and canned lentils, I also had too much of some of the FODMAP safe fruits. Portion control is so important on the low FODMAP diet, its not quite as simple as completely cutting out certain foods, rather many foods can be eaten, but only in a specific portion size. Once I saw the dietician and showed her my food diary she was able to advise me on where I was going wrong.
My dietician also advised me to include more chia and linseed in my diet. This was great because I always loved chia and linseed for digestion but I was afraid they weren’t allowed on the diet (particularly linseed). However she assured me that during her King’s College London training it was made clear that up to four dessert spoons of linseed were FODMAP safe.
I have to say that I didn’t really find the diet too difficult to follow. It just meant cooking everything from scratch, which is I what I usually do anyway. However, the hardest part was eating out or visiting people. I tended to just eat before I visited friends and family so that I could be sure I was sticking to the diet. I rarely ate out during the six weeks because I didn’t want to risk breaking the diet. Baring in mind that the low FODMAP diet is a short term diet which should last not much more than 2-6 weeks, it is important to keep to it strictly during that time.
My birthday did fall during my six weeks on the low FODMAP diet and for it I took a trip to Pizza Express as they do a low FODMAP pizza that I could enjoy! Along with a glass of red ? (I love pizza!) I have to say that it tasted just as good as normal pizza and I definitely didn’t feel deprived!
Low FODMAP: Six Weeks In
Over the six weeks, and in particular after seeing the dietician and taking her advice on board, my bloating improved drastically, completely disappearing for most of the time. However, through my food diary I had noted two things that seemed to keep causing symptoms to reappear; eggs and Genius gluten free bread. I had been relying more on eggs as so many other foods were reduced in my diet. Eggs are FODMAP safe, as is the Genius bread. I usually ate the eggs and the bread together so I couldn’t say for sure which was the culprit. I wondered whether low FODMAP held the complete answer for me. Indeed, until I took the dietician’s advice regarding the incorporation of more linseed and chia seed into my diet I hadn’t seen a very drastic change in my digestion.
After six weeks on the diet I did feel like I was getting somewhere. I thought I could perhaps keep the diet up but try to avoid Genius bread and eggs. I felt like I was probably 85% of the way towards being symptom free. The dietician had also advised me that it may take as much as 8 weeks to really see the results. However, by this stage Christmas was fast approaching and my commitment was fading.
In order to complete the low FODMAP process one has to individually test or “challenge” one’s tolerance to each individual FODMAP. Whilst doing so, the diet must remain completely and strictly low FODMAP. Essentially this would mean remaining on the low FODMAP diet for another couple of months while I tested each food and noted whether symptoms returned. At any other time of year I probably would have done so, but I didn’t feel it was worth giving up my Christmas and I wanted to enjoy my time spent both visiting and entertaining family and friends. I wanted to make my traditional Christmas pudding and mince pies and be able enjoy them. I am lucky enough not to have IBS and so I knew that any symptoms that might return wouldn’t be that bad. In contrast, I know plenty of people on the low FODMAP diet for IBS who endeavoured to keep strictly to their diet over Christmas, because a return of their symptoms would have been debilitating.
I decided that I would ease off the low FODMAP diet as Christmas approached. That said, I often made choices that would suit the diet. Overall I was surprised that my symptoms didn’t really deteriorate very much. I kept up my probiotics over Christmas and I assume they helped my body to cope with the richer foods I was eating. I was taking Symprove in the morning (I think I must be on my fifth course of it now!) and I was taking Alflorex too, which the dietician had also recommended. She explained that she would initially recommend Alflorex because it is an Irish brand and is less expensive than Symprove. If Alflorex doesn’t work for her clients then Symprove would be her next port of call. She was happy for me to continue on Symprove as I was already taking it. In December I saw Alflorex on special in Boots and decided to pick it up and try it out too.
My plan had been to restart the low FODMAP diet in the new year and get stuck into the challenges. I’ll keep you updated on whether I go ahead with that or not. Please remember that the low FODMAP diet is a diet which restricts a lot of healthy and nourishing foods and therefore should not be undertake unless advised by a medical professional. It is also essential that one does not remain on a low FODMAP diet long term (i.e. beyond the recommended 6-8 weeks of strict low FODMAP) before commencing reintroductions. FODMAPs feed your microbiome and may play an important role in gut health too. Many people who follow a low FODMAP diet will find that they can vary their diet greatly after they go through the reintroduction phase as they may not react badly to all FODMAPs.
When I look back on the elimination diet I followed in 2015 after food intolerance testing, I wonder if the elimination of certain FODMAPs along with the introduction of a good quality probiotic was the reason for my improvement in symptoms at that time. I don’t recommend food intolerance testing – unlike the low FODMAP diet it is not research or evidence based. However, at that time I had eliminated eggs, dairy, yeast and gluten. this meant cutting out a lot of foods that I now know to be high in FODMAPS. These included yoghurt, milk, whey, wheat, mushroom and dried fruit. I am therefore inclined to believe that some of the foods I restricted at time are the ones that I don’t tolerate well in larger portions.
When I did the Vegan Challenge my digestion was better than ever despite the fact that I included a lot of foods that I now know to be high in FODMAPs. These included cauliflower, garlic, onion, sweet potato, avocado and beans/legumes. I assume that if I did go through the reintroductions properly, these foods would likely not be problematic for me.
It may also be the case that an overall high FODMAP load may be harder to handle than an overall reduced FODMAP load, rather than specific individual foods being a problem.
At the moment I am still contemplating whether or not to go ahead with the reintroduction phase. I don’t particularly want to go back on the diet strictly! Especially when it means cutting out some foods that I don’t seem to react to. That said, I also don’t want to cut out more foods than I need to in the long run, so it may be worth testing foods out in the coming months. I will let you know what I decide to do going forward! Right now I am focusing on nourishing my body with lots of whole, fresh, plant-based foods as much as possible.
The Clean Coconut x