Falling in Love with the FODMAP Diet for IBS

When I first started the FODMAP elimination diet, I took one look at the high-FODMAP food list and got a lump in my throat.  My initial reaction was:

  • What do you mean no guacamole, garlic, onions, pizza, pasta, etc?
  • I am a vegetarian who eats fish on occasion, so how am I going to live without beans, lentils, Greek yogurt and other high protein foods?
  • What do you mean no booze? (Not high in FODMAPS but a gastric irritant).

My nutritionist, Ilene Cohen of PranaSpirit Nutrition, was patient and encouraging.  She explained that the FODMAP elimination period was just 3 weeks.  By eliminating foods high in potentially problematic carbohydrates and then testing them will allow us to determine just which carbohydrates have been causing trouble.  And by trouble I mean unpleasant digestive symptoms that had plagued me for a couple of years at this point. 

I carved out a period of time over the summer where I wasn’t traveling and had the time to cook most of my own meals.  That gave me the greatest control over my dietary intake.  Fortunately within 5 days, my symptoms greatly improved.   This was encouraging and motivated me to continue with the elimination phase.

During the FODMAP test phase, we determined that every carbohydrate group was problematic except for lactose.  The irony is I thought I was lactose intolerant for 10 years.  Turns out I was likely reacting to FODMAPS in my diet and not to lactose.  Although I was relieved to know which foods caused digestive symptoms, I can’t say I was happy or excited with the idea that I now had to limit all of my favorite foods.  I’d gladly give up the privilege of eating an ice cream cone for a bowl of hummus.  You see, I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to cook for family and friends, I love to travel and I love to dine out.  I wondered how a low-FODMAP diet would be compatible with such connecting experiences and would I feel left out?

I won’t lie.  I am not going to say following a low-FODMAP diet is easy.  And falling in love with FODMAPS is an exaggeration I used to lure you to read this post.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled I now know how to manage my symptoms but it does take effort. Here is how I make it work for me:

  • The good news is that you don’t say good-bye to your favorite foods that are high in FODMAPS.  Many high-FODMAP foods are very healthy and my nutritionist advised to include as much of them in my diet as I can tolerate. I just limit them and spread them out over the course of the day.  For instance, instead of a large portion of guacamole, I eat avocado in a sushi roll.  Instead of a bowl of mushroom soup, I eat a few mushrooms in stir-fry.  Instead of falafel with hummus, I add some garbanzo beans to a salad.
  • I love cooking but let’s face it.  It’s time consuming.  If you decide to make your health a priority then you should make cooking a priority.  Don’t think of it as a chore but a means of self-care and a way to share love with your family.  By cooking your own food you control your FODMAP intake.  I revamped many of my favorite recipes, which I am sharing with you, to be low in FODMAPS and super delicious in flavor.  As you may know, cooking at home can be healthier than eating out but here’s another benefit.  We entertain more at home now, which creates more connecting and special experiences.  Plus, my guests have no idea I am serving FODMAP-friendly foods – the recipes are that good!

These are just some of the ways I make the low-FODMAP diet work for me and my lifestyle.  My belly and I are happier now than we have been in a long time.  Be sure to sign up for my weekly email for low-FODMAP recipes & wellness tips.