The Low FODMAP Diet

My first photo-worthy low FODMAP meal! Sauteed shrimp and grape tomatoes and homemade pesto, all over a bed of zoodles (zucchini noodles)!

Wow. What a difference five days can make. I am currently five days into a low FODMAP diet and I already notice a big difference. My abdominal pain is pretty much gone! I’m getting over a cold but I actually feel great and have a lot of energy. While it’s hard to follow a low FODMAP paleo diet, so far it seems totally worth it.

Here’s how it started. Last Wednesday I went to a new doctor – I wanted to find someone who was a regular doctor but who also practiced functional medicine. I ended up finding one within the same group of offices I’ve used for years! In functional medicine, doctors focus on the patient as a whole and don’t just focus on the most obvious symptoms. In case you don’t know what functional medicine is here is a brief description from the Institute for Functional Medicine, “Functional Medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.” I was really impressed with my doctor, he was probably the first doctor I’ve ever had who actually looked through all of my old medical records and who asked me questions about my lifestyle and not just about my symptoms.

If you’ve read my bio and/or my first blog post you know that I’ve been dealing with abdominal pain, digestive issues, and new food sensitivities for a few months now. So far nothing that previous doctors have recommended or prescribed has worked, which is why I wanted to see a doctor who might have a different, more holistic perspective. He suggested I follow a low FODMAP diet in order to give my gut some time to heal and then to pinpoint any actual food sensitives. So for next three weeks, (I started that day) I am following a low FODMAP diet.

I had heard of the FODMAP diet but didn’t actually know anything about it. The doctor gave me a list of good foods and foods to avoid and a brief explanation (he had another patient waiting) but when I went home I was pretty much afraid to eat anything. That first day I ate eggs and meat and zucchini. I had to educate myself. Five days in I’ve got a much better understanding of the “why” behind the low FODMAP diet but am still getting used to “yes” and “no” foods. The other day I took a big bite of watermelon and then realized that I should have checked my list before! And sure enough- it’s on the definitely avoid list!

So what is the low FODMAP diet?

FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols”. These are carbohydrate classes which include fructose, fructans, galactans, lactose, and sugar alcohols (polyols), and are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. While most people have no problem with these carbohydrates, people with an underlying problem, like IBS (irritable bowl syndrome), can react poorly to them. These carbohydrates tend to be harder to digest and absorb. It’s kinda sciency but basically it has to do with the way that these foods ferment inside the gut.

The purpose of adopting a low FODMAP diet is to reduce or eliminate the consumption of the carb classes that could be triggering issues. Eventually, after doing this elimination diet, the eliminated foods get introduced back in, one by one, in order to see what that person can tolerate and what they need to continue avoiding. Sometimes people are sensitive to all of the carb classes but sometimes it’s as simple as avoiding lactose – most people are actually lactose intolerant or at least lactose sensitive.

Some of the foods that fall under these carb classes include dairy products (lactose), wheat and rye (fructans), garlic and onions (fructans), legumes (galactans), apple, watermelon, and high fructose corn syrup (fructose). There is a much longer list – the list I found and follow is actually a low FODMAP paleo list. So I cut out extra things that are technically allowed foods – such as oats, quinoa, and artificial sweeteners. There are plenty of foods I can still eat, including any and all meats. Yum. The hardest part is avoiding things like garlic and onion (even in powder form) and sugar – it pretty much ends up meaning I have to make everything from scratch. I can’t just open a tub of pesto or have some ketchup. So while that sucks a bit it provides me with the opportunity to work on my cooking and meal prepping skills and forces me to be creative in the kitchen. I look forward to seeing what I can come up with!

Thanks for reading!! Feel free to ask me any questions.

Link to the low FODMAP paleo list: