If you have IBS and you’ve been following along with the blog lately, you’re probably just about convinced that the low FODMAP diet is the way to go.
Eating “healthy” is great, but it isn’t necessarily going to help you with your IBS symptoms. Going gluten-free makes a tremendous difference for a variety of issues. And while it can help with IBS, it misses a lot of important pieces to the puzzle.
The big problem with IBS — let’s be honest, there are many — is that it’s difficult to manage. There is not one single cause. And there is not one single cure. If you have IBS, you and your practitioner need to work together to figure out what’s going on. Something is out of balance in your digestive system. It could be a bacterial overgrowth. It could be a reaction to different types of foods. It could even be related to stress.
But for the vast majority of IBS patients, the low FODMAP diet makes a huge difference when it comes to managing symptoms.
I say this all the time, but I’ll repeat myself because it’s so important: you need to work with a practitioner if you decide to try out the low FODMAP diet. Because you are eliminating or cutting down on so many foods, you can end up with nutritional deficiencies if you do it on your own. The low FODMAP diet happens in stages, and you need a knowledgeable practitioner to determine when each stage should begin and end.
That being said, I know there are people who attempt this diet on their own, or with a practitioner who doesn’t know what they’re doing. So today I want to touch on some of the most common mistakes people make while on the low FODMAP diet in hopes that if you decide to go it alone, you can minimize your risk and maximize its effectiveness.
The low FODMAP diet happens in stages. The first of which is the elimination phase. This is the most restrictive part of the diet. The elimination phase is where you, well… eliminate foods that cause you problems.
You won’t cut out all FODMAPs, but you will eliminate foods with the highest FODMAP concentration and limit FODMAPs overall. The good news: getting rid of these problematic foods will probably help you feel much better. The bad news: getting rid of these problematic foods will probably help you feel much better. Let me explain…
When you’re suffering with IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, painful bloating, and gas you’ll do just about anything to get relief. I have clients come to me barely eating at all because avoiding food cuts back on their symptoms.
When you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, your symptoms will likely get better — like, a lot better. And when that happens, it’s hard to convince yourself to start adding potentially problematic foods back in. Many people really want to stay in the elimination phase.
And if you were eliminating foods totally devoid of nutrients like fast food and donuts, it wouldn’t be a problem. But foods with FODMAPs tend to be very nutrient-rich. And no, you can’t just pop a multivitamin instead. It’s important to get these foods back into your diet as soon as you can tolerate them. This is another place where working with a good practitioner can help. It is possible to move on from the elimination phase and still feel good. You just need to know what you’re doing.
Lactose, the sugar found in many dairy products, is a FODMAP. So many people assume that you can’t have any dairy products on the low FODMAP diet. But that just isn’t true. There are plenty of dairy products that are permissible on the low FODMAP diet.
✔ Lactose-free milk or yogurt
✔ Greek yogurt
✔ Crème fraîche
✔ Sour cream
✔ Lactose-free yogurt
✔ Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, colby, parmesan, and mozzarella
Low FODMAP Diet Mistake #3: Being Too Restrictive
A low FODMAP diet is challenging. But it shouldn’t be miserable. If you spend your entire day obsessing about FODMAPS, reading labels, weighing and measuring everything you even think about eating, you won’t stick with it for long. And the low FODMAP diet doesn’t have to be that way.
First off, your FODMAP count is per meal, not per day. So if you eat your allotment of a certain food for one meal, as long as you wait a few hours, you can eat that same food again.
There are also tools that can help. In fact, I put together a whole resource guide for people with IBS. In this guide, you’ll find some of the tools that I recommend to my patients to keep the low FODMAP diet from being too restrictive or overwhelming.
After you’ve been on the low FODMAP diet for a few days, you’ll get more familiar with high FODMAP foods. You won’t have to look up every single food every single time. And that’s nice. The diet starts to feel much more manageable at that point.
So while you aren’t likely to eat something with a bunch of obvious garlic, it’s easy to miss the garlic powder (which can also appear as dehydrated vegetable or vegetable powder) in your food.
And watch out for “naturally sweetened” foods. They sound healthy enough. But many of them contain FODMAPs in the form of honey, agave syrup, or fruit juice.
When you’re on the low FODMAP diet, you don’t give up every food that contains FODMAPs. There are low FODMAP foods that are totally fine to include in your diet.
But it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. It’s important to watch your serving sizes. A low FODMAP food can quickly turn into a high FODMAP food if you eat too much of it at one time. If you’re working with a practitioner, they can help you figure out which low FODMAP foods work for you and how much of them you can have at a time.
The low FODMAP diet is a fantastic tool for people suffering with IBS. And you’ll likely see relief in your symptoms fairly quickly. But as great as it is, the low FODMAP diet does NOT address the root cause of what started your IBS in the first place.
The only long-term solution for IBS is to get to the root cause of the issue and deal with it directly. Symptoms are just that — symptoms. They are your body’s way of communicating with you. Anytime you have a symptom (digestive or otherwise), your body is sending you a message to let you know something is wrong.
So the best thing you can do is look at the reason you have symptoms in the first place. Deal with that, and then your symptoms will go away naturally.
Yes, I had to say it one more time.
Most diets and eating plans are fine to do on your own. It’s always a good idea to get your doctor’s okay before you start something new. But many of the common diets out there do not put your health at risk. And no, I’m not talking about extreme fad diets. Those are never a good idea.
But with the low FODMAP diet, it’s important to do it correctly, temporarily, and safely. And your best bet to accomplish that is to work directly with a practitioner who is skilled and experienced in guiding people through this powerful (but complicated) therapeutic diet.
If you’re ready to take that step, reach out. I’ve walked dozens of people through the low FODMAP diet and seen them come out feeling much better on the other side.