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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Low FODMAPs – the diet that changed my IBS-enslaved life


For the first 30 years of my life I ate whatever I wanted.  I drank soda every day, and ate chocolate and bacon and potato chips with reckless abandon.  That version of myself now makes me sick.  Literally.  Because in my early 30s, I suddenly got stomach aches from almost everything I ate. 

I tried eliminating dairy, and that helped a little, but I still had chronic low-level stomach pain every day.  I tried everything – cutting out gluten, cutting out chocolate, cutting out everything but simple carbs and lean meats.  Sometimes I’d feel better for a few days, but every time the stomach pain would come back, and I’d find myself wanting to just go on an IV drip just so I could not feel stomach pain for a day.

Then a friend of mine introduced me to the low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet, developed by some Australian geniuses (see this article in the Wall Street Journal - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204554204577023880581820726.html).  The theory is that certain TYPES of carbohydrates (but not ALL carbohydrates) are harder to digest than others.  And those difficult carbohydrates are found in only certain types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.  So the theory goes that if you cut out the carbs that are hard to digest, you’ll also cut out your stomach pain. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I IMMEDIATELY had a complete cessation in ALL stomach pain, as long as I stuck with this diet completely.  And I’ve heard the same from other friends who’ve tried it.  If you have stomach pain and you haven’t tried this diet, you are doing yourself a disservice – I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

So, here’s the deal – you can eat some fruits (like canteloupe and less ripe bananas) but not others (like watermelon and overripe bananas).  You can eat some vegetables (like green beans and butternut squash) but not others (like broccoli and onions).  I had no idea that onions are one of the most common triggers for IBS!  It’s certainly true for me.  Anyway, most nuts are ok, but stay away from pistachios.  Don’t do ANY gluten or dairy.  Here’s a comprehensive list of foods that are good/bad: http://laurabama.blogspot.com/2013/01/comprehensive-list-of-highlow-fodmap.html .  

After you feel clean and healthy again, you can start adding in foods from the high-FODMAPs list to see which ones you can tolerate.  I’ve been able to add back in some things like mushrooms and little bits of high-FODMAPS foods, as long as the bits are truly little.

Here are some articles that elucidated for me exactly what FODMAPs are, and how they affect the gut:
These guys were responsible for discovering and disseminating info about the effects of a low FODMAP diet: http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/
http://stanfordhospital.org/digestivehealth/nutrition/DH-Low-FODMAP-Diet-Handout.pdf
http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/low-fodmap-diet

I truly hope that this diet makes the rounds among people with IBS, because it’s brilliant and life-changing.  Let me know if it helps you too – I’m curious to see how universal its effects are.  Good luck!  

8 comments:

  1. Hi! I am just trying a low Fodmap diet and I see lots of conflicting lists on the web.

    Definitely feeling better overall and trying to track back trouble to what I've eaten.

    Along with tummy issues I'd also suffered with hives and joint pains which are all improved.

    Carry on! And hope you feel better!

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  2. Hey - good luck! I know, the lists are confusing because they don't always agree, especially with things like nuts. My list above is a combination of all the lists, and when the lists disagreed, I went with personal experience. I hope your new diet relieves ALL your ills! :) -Laura

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  3. Yes, it saved my life too! Really. I was so terribly sick. I had lost 45 pounds and was afraid to eat anything for all the suffering food brought me. I'd have to say that prior to this time, I didn't feel my best for at least a dozen years or so. I had really given up after too many doc visits and testing revealed nothing more than an IBS diagnosis with no proven solution for how to make myself feel better.

    Finally, two years ago when I was down and out I found a GI doc who ordered breath testing for me and it was discovered that the reason for my IBS-called symptoms was Fructose Malabsorption, and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, SIBO.

    Thank the Lord because finally I could do something about feeling better. FINALLY, after all those years of suffering! Now, I tell everybody who has GI challenges to read information about these FructMal and SIBO to determine if its what's causing them to be sick.

    The low-FODMAP diet is now a way of life for me. Has it been full proof? No, but I feel so much better on it. What I have discovered was a knowledgeable RD who is trained in FODMAPS and has the latest, greatest information coming out of the testing labs in AU. Armed with her info and guidance, and all the great blogs like this one, and the low-FODMAP related Pinterest posts,I can now live a healthier life by avoiding FODMAP's.

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    1. Fabulous, HopeFloats! Thanks for all your comments - it's great to hear about other success stories. I'll read about SIBO now! Let me know if you find good low-FODMAP recipes online!

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  4. Hello,
    I found your site when I googled "complete FODMAPS food list." I have been struggling with symptoms (severe bloating, gas, belching, etc.) after eating anything, for about 13 months now. It is extremely distressing. I've been to my medical doctor, and two naturopaths. I've had 2 colon hydrotherapy sessions and acupuncture to "clear" food sensitivities, and I take probiotics and enzymes to help me digest food. Lately I've just been listening to my body and carefully testing out foods that I can tolerate. Still, I wanted answers and couldn't figure out why I could eat almond butter but not cashews, chicken but not beef, and bananas but not apples. Seeing this FODMAPS list makes so much sense to me and I'm glad to have found it. It's nice to hear others have improved their symptoms. I wish more professionals knew about this diet. I'm still trying to figure out how to remain a social being while eating this way. It has been so hard to explain to friends and family that I can't go out to a restaurant, etc. I feel like I can't celebrate anything or have fun! Plus I'm single, which means my dating life will probably be put on hold for a while. Sigh.....I'm hopeful though! Thanks for posting all this great information.

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    1. Hi Katie! I agree - it's shocking that more professionals don't know about this diet, because it's really changing people's lives. I went to a nutritionist who couldn't solve my problems, and then this diet turned it all around for me and my nutritionist had never heard of it. Crazy! Anyway, I think you totally can keep going out to restaurants - you just need to order correctly. Like, I do really well with sushi. Or if I'm at a nice restaurant I order a light fish dish and I make sure I'm not getting something with a lot of butter (plus I take a Lactaid pill because most fish dishes have at least SOME butter). Definitely don't give up on going out - just know that there might only be ONE thing on any given menu that you can tolerate without getting a stomach ache! Thanks for sharing, and good luck!

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  5. Hi there,

    I am from South Africa and am having a difficult time as neither my dietician, my GI or any other doctors and dieticians that I have spoken to know anything about FODMAPS or how to help me.

    My whole IBS nightmare started in the beginning of 2012 and I found out about FODMAPS on my own through the internet. I have been trying to follow the diet myself and have been on the elimination diet for 11 weeks now trying to get to the "once you feel normal again" stage. I do not know why I am still bloating while eating low FODMAP foods. I avoid all high FODMAP foods stricktly and read labels thoroughly.
    I am lactose intolerant but bloat up after trying any of the alternative milks and haven't had any luck with gluten free grains yet. I have not had any fruit for almost 3 months now and eat limited veggies. I also do not eat any nuts, sugar, red meat and have recently cut out eggs to see if they are a problem, but I'm still bloating. I do not know what to do...

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    1. Maybe you're bothered by casein (a protein) that's in lactose-free milks?

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