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Is the low-FODMAP diet right for me?

The low-FODMAP diet is starting to get trendy and I’ve even overheard people talking about ‘going low FODMAP’ with their friends in the supermarket.

Let’s stop right there. This diet isn’t going to help you find your bikini body and you definitely don’t ‘go low FODMAP’ to lose weight. The FODMAP diet is a diagnostic tool that is used to help people with gastrointestinal disorders, (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome), identify food triggers and manage their symptoms. It’s restrictive and hard work, so if you are blessed with a normal digestive system, then this diet isn’t for you.

For the rest of us, this diet can help us find our digestive calm and essentially poop like a normal person! The good news is the low-FODMAP diet isn’t a lifetime diet. It’s about quickly identifying problem foods, and then modifying your diet so you can enjoy a wide variety of foods, while experiencing relief from your pesky IBS symptoms. The end goal is only to avoid the foods that cause significant symptoms.

Because the low-FODMAP diet is a specialised medical nutritional therapy, it is important that you check that the diet is right for you by having a chat to your doctor and a dietitian before you get started.

So, how does it work?

The diet is broken down into three phases:

1. The elimination phase. This phase can also be called the restriction phase and lasts between 2 to 6 weeks. It’s all about removing high-FODMAP foods and lowering your overall intake of FODMAPs to help control symptoms. In simple terms, FODMAPs are sugars (carbohydrates) that are fermented in our intestines and trigger symptoms.

In this phase you need to eat low-FODMAP foods (the Monash Low FODMAP app can help), watch your portion sizes, and keep an eye out for sneaky FODMAPs in your processed foods. By removing high-FODMAP foods, you should start seeing improvement within two weeks, and by six weeks have good symptom control.

2. The reintroduction, or re-challenge, phase. Once you have good symptom control, it’s time to start testing the FODMAP groups. It’s unlikely that you will react to every FODMAP group, so the goal here is to identify which of the FODMAP groups are causing your symptoms.

This phase lasts 8 to 10 weeks as you move through and challenge each of the FODMAP groups using specific test foods. In this phase, it’s a good idea to seek tailored advice from a dietitian, as it’s important to only choose challenge foods that contain one FODMAP group to help you get accurate results.

3. The modification phase. This is the most exciting phase as you get some of your food freedom back. This phase is the lifetime phase, where you start eating any FODMAP groups that don’t trigger symptoms. The FODMAPs that cause you uncomfortable symptoms can stay out of your diet.

The goal of this phase is to help you create a balanced diet of both high and low FODMAP foods that can support your gut health, while keeping your IBS symptoms at bay.

Please also see our Fodmaps toolkit which is your complete guide to going low-fodmap.

Article sources and references


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