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An introduction to the Low FODMAP diet

The low FODMAP diet is a plan devised by scientists at Monash University to help people control and manage symptoms of gastrointestinal distress such as bloating, nausea, cramps, constipation, and diarrhoea.

Its principle is very simple: cut out all the possible causes of your symptoms (within the FODMAP group); rest and recover; then work out how much of each FODMAP you can actually tolerate, so that you can get as close back to normal as possible while keeping your symptoms under control.

 

So how is it done?

The diet has three phases. Some people do the process once and then find their new normal, while others feel they benefit from repeating the process every now and again; everybody is different, and our microbiome is always changing. It is always recommended that you talk to your doctor or a FODMAP trained dietitian before starting a new diet.

 

Phase

Duration

Action

Elimination

4-6 weeks

Cut out all FODMAPs. This allows your gut to calm down and your symptoms to subside. Top tip: get in the habit of reading and checking absolutely all the ingredients on everything.

Testing

As required

Reintroduce FODMAPs one at a time, starting with small portions and gradually increasing over a few days. A FODMAP qualified dietitian will have a protocol for you to reintroduce foods in appropriate incremental amounts, and apps like Monash University's can help you identify the FODMAP content of foods that you want to reintroduce.

The aim here is to test your body's response, to learn which FODMAPs trigger your symptoms, and what levels of each FODMAP you can tolerate. This is different for everyone and may also change over time.

It is recommended you keep a journal of this phase to help you identify patterns since symptoms from consuming a portion of a FODMAP can take up to several hours to manifest and may last for up to 72 hours.

Maintenance

Ongoing

By now you will have a good idea which foods you can eat freely, which foods are ok in moderation, and which foods are best avoided.

Try to eat as wide a variety of foods as you can, including whatever amounts of FODMAP-containing foods that are safe for you. This is because while foods that are high in FODMAPs can cause problems if you eat them too much or too often, they also tend to have lots of other great nutrients.

Just remember to keep reading all those labels, and be careful of stacking!

 

Should I avoid FODMAPs forever?

Ideally no. You should avoid FODMAPs during the elimination phase of the diet. Reducing the FODMAP load will allow your symptoms to subside. After that the goal is to find out exactly which ones affect you and how much you can tolerate of them. This will allow you to eat as wide a variety of food and nutrients as possible while still keeping your symptoms under control. With a qualified dietitian's help you can often resolve symptoms completely by finding and treating the root cause of dysbiosis.

 

Beware of stacking!

Stacking is when you consume multiple servings of FODMAPs and the effects in your gut accumulate (or stack up) over anywhere between 24 and 72 hours. This is because it takes time for FODMAPs to pass through your system. Stacking can apply to multiple FODMAP serves in a single meal, as well as to servings spread across the day.

It may help to think of it like a daily budget: the more sensitive you are to any given category of FODMAPs, the less credit you have to spend in that category each day. If you max out your budget in one day you might try to stay below the limits the next day. If you are sensitive to multiple categories of FODMAPs it may help to avoid pushing your limits in multiple categories in the same meal. Remember that the effects are cumulative, that's why it's called stacking.

 

The road ahead

Hopefully this article has helped you understand the general outline of the Low FODMAP diet, how it is carried out, and some of the basic principles underlying it. Remember that while it may seem daunting at first, you are certainly not alone, and the benefits .

Feel free to browse our other articles for more information, and if you have any questions just ask!