Since being diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption, I have been educating people on what it means to eat a low FODMAP diet—answering the question of what is a low FODMAP diet. It is a solution to manage GI symptoms with what food you eat and how much of it. I usually say if Gluten Free, and Paleo, had a baby, it would be a Low FODMAP diet.
How Did I Get Diagnosed?
It was a simple breath test looking for hydrogen/methane after drinking a fructose drink. I had done the same thing the previous day, except checking for lactose intolerance. Oddly enough, lactose test was fine, however, the fructose test was not. So I was diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) and Fructose Malabsorption. My doctor at Mayo Clinic wanted me to immediately meet with a dietician to change my diet to a low FODMAP diet, thinking that eliminating the foods that were causing the issues would manage both, and he was correct.
Basically, it all comes down to if you suffer from GI stuff, whether it is IBS, Fructose Malabsorption, or Lactose Intolerance - which isn’t very pleasant to talk about but ALSO so essential to talk about with your doctor. There is no need to suffer in silence. Life is short to feel crappy all the time, especially if you can manage your symptoms with what you eat.
I am not a dietician or a doctor. I am a person who has benefited greatly from using the low FODMAP diet as a way to manage my symptoms and eliminate feeling crappy after eating certain foods and not knowing why. Please go and see a professional if this is something you think you could benefit from too.
What Exactly is a FODMAP?
What is a FODMAP, and why do we want it to be low? FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. Aren’t you glad it is an acronym? Me too!
According to Monash University FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t properly absorbed in the gut, which causes symptoms that are not very pleasant. FODMAPs are everywhere in our food, occurring in natural foods like apples and food additives like high fructose corn syrup. Until I started reading the ingredients, I had no idea what was in the food I ate.
How Does a Low FODMAP Diet Work?
The tricky thing about a low FODMAP diet is that nobody is the same. I wish there were a black-and-white list of “Eat This, Not That" type of guidebook, but no such luck. Some people can tolerate fructans and happily eat bread, onions, and garlic with zero issues, but eat a bowl of ice cream and have all sorts of problems. This is why going through all three steps of the low FODMAP diet plan is so important. It will give a great understanding of YOUR body and YOUR tolerances.
Download the Monash FODMAP App right away! They use an excellent traffic light system that can be customized to your special diet, which is essential once you reach the final phase of the low FODMAP diet. I still visit the app at least weekly when faced with a new type of food or ingredient or have symptoms and start working backward to see what I ate that maybe wasn’t a green light.
Low FODMAP Diet Step One:
Have you met with a doctor and a dietician? Didn’t do that yet? Go back to start and try again. The dietician will review a rather extensive list of foods and break down what each of the F-O-D-M-A-Ps means. They will also guide you on how to do an elimination diet safely. This will allow you to figure out what your gut is sensitive to and avoid it in the future. Honestly, elimination is the hardest part. You do not want to do this by yourself. It is overwhelming. It feels like everything makes you sick. A grocery store shopping trip takes forever now because you are reading every.single.label. BUT it will be worth it.
First, swap out those high FODMAP foods for low FODMAP foods. This step can take up to six weeks. I also suggest keeping a food journal. I did this in my notes app on my phone or using a notebook. Then, if I reacted to something, I could retrace what I ate and break down the ingredients to see what the trigger was.
Low FODMAP Diet Step Two:
Now you have been swapping out foods and feeling pretty fine, and now they want you to test foods. TORTURE, but also worth it. Because what if you could eat bananas and you spent your entire life not eating bananas because you thought you couldn’t?
I also thought of this process as feeding a baby with baby food. Introduce one type of food at a time and monitor your child to see if they are ok. Monash University recommends one FODMAP at a time, one food at a time, over three days. The curveball in this is that you might be able to eat half of a banana but not a whole banana, so you also need to test your serving size.
Again keep a food journal, along with the serving size. Having these notes will help determine where you land for the final phase and narrow down triggers.
Low FODMAP Diet Step Three:
This phase is the long-term sweet spot, where you have a pretty good idea of what you can eat and cannot. Sometimes I will forget the serving size and then have to pay for it - garlic and I have a complicated relationship.
We are always learning and adapting and discovering that stressors can play a role in this low FODMAP diet. If you want to retest an ingredient, feel free to do this when you feel good. Just like in step two, one FODMAP at a time, one food at a time, over three days.
Determine Your Why
Overwhelmed with all of this, I know. I have been there, and I am an example of how important it is to understand what you are eating, how much of it you eat, and why your body is responding the way it does. I remember saying about six months in, wow, I never truly knew how crappy I felt until I no longer felt that way.