I'm getting close to my one year anniversary with the Low FODMAP diet, so I thought I'd share an update! This will be massively uninteresting unless your stomach hurts all the time, so apologies in advance. :D
Of course I'm not a doctor or expert, so here's the usual disclaimer: never trust anything I say without doing your own research. (Monash University invented the diet, so start there. Then download the $8 Monash app for your phone, because it's worth it.) Most of what I've learned is pretty standard stuff, though, so I'm not going to throw anything crazy at you.
I'm feeling even better since my first (and only?) mention of Low FODMAP here last July. I can still say Low FODMAP has saved me from a life of constant stomach pain, plus a whole battery of invasive GI tests. It's also fairly easy to try and a low financial commitment, so I *highly* recommend it if you're hurting. I still have setbacks when I slip up and eat something I shouldn't - and I'll be honest, those setbacks hurt more than they did before I started LF - but overall I feel pretty great, and I can eat a lot more now than you'd think. I can even eat at a lot of restaurants!
In case you're not familiar with it, Low FODMAP is an elimination diet meant to treat all forms of IBS and GI discomfort, like reflux. It is NOT a weight loss diet. It helps you ID what types of foods cause you pain, and then avoid them. Boom bada boom.
On paper you're only supposed to be strictly LF for about 6 weeks, then you start re-introducing problem foods one at a time. I stayed in the elimination phase for 6 months, which is NOT recommended, but I was both lazy & hit a lot of setbacks. In fact I'm *still* in the re-introduction phase, so I haven't tested some foods like honey or garlic yet. I'll get to them eventually, but for now I've cleared my highest priority foods, wheat and avocado, so I'm pretty content.
(John says this post needs more pictures. How'd I do?)
One important thing you should know is that FODMAPs are not allergens. I'm not allergic to my trigger foods, I'm simply intolerant of them. There's a big difference. It means a tiny bit of your trigger food usually won't cause a bad reaction. (Contrast that with a gluten allergy, where even cross-contamination is a danger.) FODMAPs are more about the level of exposure and how much you eat. That's not true for everyone, of course, but overall it helps to remember this when you're feeling overwhelmed: This is not an allergy. It's OK if you miss a little something sometimes. Just do your best and odds are you'll still find relief.
I mention this because I've seen too many people get overwhelmed by all the restrictions and quit before they even start. Research and preparation is great, but you can get stuck there, and the more you read about all the stuff you CAN'T eat, the more intimidated you'll get. So my advice? Just start. You don't need a month of meal plans; you only need today's.
I have one friend in particular who keeps telling me she wants to try Low FODMAP, so I thought I'd take you through what I typically eat each day. These are my "safety meals," and the menu I go back to anytime I've had a bad reaction to something. I'm eating these right now because two days ago I rather cavalierly threw a bunch of mushrooms on my salad at a restaurant buffet, along with a bunch of other stuff I didn't look too closely at, and I've been in pain ever since. Oops.
I don't think I ever really believed a little food could cripple a person, but I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the fetal position. Trust me, once you understand which foods do that to you, there is ZERO temptation to cheat.
Everything I'm about to show you is Low FODMAP, and - to my knowledge - safe to eat during the elimination phase. I'll also include my favorite take-out options and some of our easy at-home dinners. Hopefully these will make getting started seem a little less scary. :)
Is it soul-crushing to eat the same breakfast every day? Yes. Is it worth it? SO MUCH YES. Before I found these bowls I had to make my own breakfast every day, which often just didn't happen. When I had the energy I'd make this, though:
A little more tasty, but 1000% more effort.
In addition to eggs, cheese, potatoes, and (onion-free) sausage or bacon, you can also eat wheat-free toast with certain types of jelly or peanutbutter, and even some kinds of oatmeal. (Always consult the Monash app; a lot of oatmeal is not Low FODMAP.) So there are plenty of breakfast options.
Baby carrots, potato chips or popcorn, and a sandwich made with Aldi's gluten-free bread, toasted. Most lunch meats are safe, so we mix those up, then John adds lettuce, tomato, mayo, & a little mustard. All low FODMAP, all verrry tasty. (John makes the best sandwiches.)
Odds are the sandwiches you eat now are already Low FODMAP if you switch to GF bread, so this is the easiest place to start. Especially since it's hard to get tired of sandwiches!
(Quick note: Gluten is not a FODMAP, but wheat is. So since most GF products are also wheat-free, you'll see those used a lot on this diet.)
Baked chicken with basil, Jasmine rice, and steamed green beans.
Learning to cook without onion or garlic is tough, but you'd be surprised how tasty just salt, pepper, and basil can be. Plus you can use all the other spices. My local Indian restaurant even makes an onion & garlic-free Butter Chicken! (I ordered it custom enough times that they added it to the menu! Yasss.)
Other simple dinners John makes: chicken soup, turkey Kielbasa with pasta & veggies (make sure its GF pasta during elimination), and turkey meatball subs using the "sensitive recipe" Prego sauce. Or sometimes he'll make his own brown pepper gravy for the meatballs, which looks like this:
These are frozen meatballs; just heat & serve.
We eat a lot of green beans because I like them, but you can also have broccoli.
We eat a lot of green beans because I like them, but you can also have broccoli.
It's more prep work, but I love a good chicken salad with hard-boiled eggs, carrots, & grapes. I eat it with GF crackers.
Snacks & Desserts:
Aldi's GF brownie bites & chocolate baking mix are both so good I still eat them even after going back on gluten. They're life-savers if you have a sweet tooth like I do.
You can eat popcorn, oranges, grapes, cheese cubes, and olives, which make great afternoon snacks.
Gluten free chips, crackers, and pretzels (all of which we get at Aldi, too) are also tasty - especially if the pretzels are dipped in peanut butter. Nomz.
Chocolate has a little milk in it, but you can safely have an ounce of dark chocolate per day. I like the little Dove squares, and even though milk is one of my #1 triggers, I've never had an issue mowing through a handful at a time. :D
For your ice cream cravings, buy anything by the brand So Delicious. It's so good. Dang. I'd eat this even if milk DIDN'T turn my gut into a thousand stabby needles.
One time I made a brownie sundae with the cashew stuff (with my GF brownies), and I may remember that day 'til I die. Ermergersh.
Last treat thing (see where my priorities are?): my local Boba place doesn't use dairy! So I can still have milk tea, which is amazing. Check with yours first, but I think it may be common for bubble tea places to use non-dairy creamers instead of milk.
If you actually like cooking then there are tons of Low FODMAP recipes out there (I like the IG account FunWithoutFodmaps), plus there are special Low FODMAP sauces and seasonings made by FODY. (If you can't find them locally, there are a bunch on Amazon.)
A sampling of the pretties from Fun Without Fodmaps
John and I've never bothered much with those; we've found enough options without. We eat a lot of take-out, too, so here are some of my favorite restaurant options that are Low FODMAP:
- Pollo Tropical chicken rice bowl
- Boston Market chicken, potatoes, & veggies
- Chipotle burrito bowl with pork, shredded cheese, plain tomatoes, & a little sour cream. (I can add avocado now, too, but wait to re-test that since not everyone can.) You can also eat the corn chips that come with it, yum.
I don't remember where this is from, but this rice bowl with fried eggs, chicken, and veggies was delish:
If I'm dining out somewhere nice, I can eat most basic chicken & rice combos, a burger on a GF bun, steak & potatoes, or a lot of types of sushi. (Watch out for avocado and cream cheese in the rolls.)
Once I discovered I can tolerate wheat/gluten I had a whole world of options open up, since that puts pasta and bread/breading back on the table. So don't assume you'll never get to have gluten again, peeps; you might be surprised. Heck, I still can't believe I can safely eat hard cheeses and cream; it's only milk and lactose I have to avoid!
This has been such a long and rambly post, but I hope it's helpful to some of my fellow grumbly guts out there. Personally I felt better within 24 hours, but on average it takes more like 3-7 days. And trust me, once you experience a pain-free digestive system for a few days, that's all the incentive you need to keep going.
Feel free to share your favorite Low FODMAP tips or links in the comments; anything you think a newbie should know. And thank you for all the helpful suggestions and support you've sent my way this past year! You guys are the best cheer-leaders, love you all.
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