As part of my One Meal for All feature, I’m going to talk about how to implement a low FODMAP diet. Changing my diet has made a huge difference to my symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and massively reduced my need to take medication.
The best way to implement a low FODMAP diet is to completely eliminate all FODMAPs from your diet then gradually introduce them one at a time. This page lists high and low FODMAP foods (unfriendly and friendly). It can seem a bit overwhelming at first so here my 6 steps to eliminating FODMAPs from your diet:
- Onion. One of the worst IBS triggers, it is best to completely avoid onion. This is fairly easy if you are making your own food as you can use a small amount (1/4 tsp) of the Indian spice asafoetida to give onion flavouring to your cooking. Unfortunately, onion is very commonly used in lots of foods such as stocks, sauces and crisps, so you need to check the ingredients.
- Garlic. Again, it’s best to avoid garlic entirely if you can. It is also commonly found as an ingredient. You can use garlic-infused oil in recipes that call for garlic.
- Wheat. This is a common IBS trigger. Fortunately there is a large variety of tasty gluten-free foods available nowadays, so you can easily replace bread, pasta and cakes with wheat-free alternatives.
- Lactose. There are two ways of dealing with this. You can buy lactose-free milk and other dairy products or the other option (which I found much easier) was to buy lactase supplements from somewhere like Holland and Barrett. If you are intolerant to lactose it is because you only have a low level of the enzyme (lactase) that breaks down lactose. So taking a lactase supplement when you eat food high in lactose (such as milk and yoghurt) will reduce your symptoms.
- Fruit and vegetables. Being aware of which fruits and vegetables you should and shouldn’t eat means you can usually find a suitable alternative.
- Vegetarian Protein. The biggest difficulty with a vegetarian low FODMAP diet is that many vegetarian sources of protein are high in FODMAPS (chickpeas, beans, lentils and textured vegetable protein). To make sure that you are getting enough protein include plenty of eggs, dairy products (see point 4) and tofu. You can also use quinoa as a rice or couscous substitute (couscous is high FODMAP, but rice is ok). You may find you can tolerate small portions (60g of well-rinsed tinned chickpeas and lentils)- assess your individual tolerance.
You should find that your IBS symptoms massively improve after a couple of weeks of following a low-FODMAP diet. Once your symptoms have improved you can start to gradually introduce the different groups of high-FODMAP foods to discover which ones you are able to tolerate and which will cause symptoms.
I found that the main trigger for my IBS is wheat, and that lactose doesn’t affect me. So I try to completely avoid wheat and have small amounts of the other high FODMAP foods. It’s made a huge difference to my symptoms- I pretty much only have to take medication when I’ve broken the rules!