As part of my low FODMAP training at Kings College London, we followed the low FODMAP diet for 1 week. The idea of this exercise was that we would have more empathy and practical understanding of the diet when advising our clients.
This week was indeed great, I was able to experience eating out and also develop some new recipes.
But, 1 week is not the same as the 4-6 weeks that we usually advise clients to do. So, after a recent period of stress and digestive problems, it was time I tried the full process.
In this blog post, I am going to discuss what my experience of the restriction phase of this process was really like.
Within 3 days of being on the low FODMAP diet, I was 100% symptom free. Now, this is really quite a quick result and everyone differs.
What we need to consider here as well is that I was also addressing stress, fluid, exercise, sleep and fibre. So, I may have got this success very quickly from my more intense approach to gut health changes.
Eating out on the low FODMAP diet is really difficult. I think I actually had an advantage on this in that I am already coeliac, so eating out without planning is not something we do.
But, planning for eating out on the low FODMAP diet is on a new level. You aren’t just avoiding 1 food element.
Some of the things I have come to realise are;
- Asian and Turkish foods are no go – they are usually based heavily around high FODMAP foods and adjusting the meal is just not realistic to the needed extent.
- Simple meat and 2 veg dishes are the way forward – I think each time we ate out I had fish, potatoes and vegetables or steak, chips and salad (minus dressing and avoiding onion).
- Gluten free does not = low FODMAP – many of the foods offered as gluten free e.g. gluten breads / pastas and pizza bases often contained high FODMAP ingredients such as apple.
Eating At Someone Else’s House
Eating at other people’s houses was by far the hardest experience of the low FODMAP diet. Often people would make food which was gluten free (great!) but contained many FODMAPs.
Without being too rude, I found that I had to balance out my need to be strict on the diet with also being practical. And so, I chose to eat some FODMAPs when I had to but reduced them as much as possible.
The other thing I found really useful was to suggest cooking myself. That way I was in control of what was going on and there was no embarrassment of having to refuse food that someone had slaved over for you.
On the diet, I didn’t make any mistakes (other than the one mentioned in the next section!).
But, I have a degree in this stuff and FODMAPs is something that I research and talk about every single day! A huge advantage there.
What I find with clients though is that they often make little mistakes here and there through the diet.
Does it matter? Generally no, the point is to have a reduced FODMAP diet – it doesn’t have to be 100% free from which is what we do with allergies.
When you first start the diet, it is natural to make mistakes and I think this is an important thing to realise – you are human!
I think it was 1, maybe 2 weeks in when I had just had enough of this bloody diet. I came in from work tired, demotivated, hungry (hangry) and with no motivation to cook at all.
What do we want when we feel like this? Comfort food right? So I ended up ordering a big pizza. Luckily I had no symptoms (other than guilt!)
But, what I did do was to reflect on this issue. What I realised by reflecting was that this situation was caused by 1 thing – lack of organisation.
If I had done some bulk cooking, then I would have been far less inclined to reach for the takeaway.
Looking After Other Gut Health Areas
One issue I see with clients on the low FODMAP diet is that they often neglect other areas of good gut health as they are so focused on the low FODMAP diet.
What happens in these instances is that often a client will become quite constipated. As I already knew this may be an issue, I took great care to avoid it.
I addressed stress (through time management and meditation), fibre (by ensuring I had 30g / day in my diary and fluid intake (by using a water bottle even when in the house).
So Would I Recommend This Diet?
Yes, the science backs it up. But now from a more personal point of view, I think that for just a 4 week period, the potential level of symptom control you will get, far outweighs the difficulties of the diet.
Now I am on to the reintroduction stage of the low FODMAP diet. This is a slightly longer process, but I will keep you updated.