The low FODMAP diet: What is it and how can it help your stomach?

About a year ago I had never heard of the FODMAP diet. It’s strange how dietary problems can come on so quickly, after a disastrous year abroad in France, (the land of cheese and bread is not the place for someone with a lactose and gluten intolerance), I had obviously triggered an existing problem by changing my diet (the likely reason was I ate too many baguettes in my first month). For a while I played myself, constantly eating things I knew were going to make me ill, then complaining that I was ill. Upon returning from France and being ill all the time, no matter what it was that I ate, I decided, after consulting a doctor, to give the FODMAP diet a try. Obviously, these are only my experiences and I can only share what I have learned about following this regime myself, but I can wholeheartedly say that if you are experiencing problems within your stomach not playing ball, I think that this may be something to seriously consider with your doctor. 

FODMAP is an acronym for a number of carbohydrates (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) these are all small carbohydrates that are often difficult to digest in the small intestine (fun!).  The Monash FODMAP diet, from the Monash University in the Australia is a type of diet that caters for those who have problems with their gut, intestines, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and various allergies to certain food groups. FODMAP divides foods into two broad groups. Foods that are high FODMAP, and ones which are low FODMAP. When following the diet, it is best to avoid those high FODMAP foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, wheat, gluten, onions and chickpeas, to name a few examples. Generally, all of the problem foods are eliminated from your diet for a period of between 6-8 weeks, and are substituted with other alternatives, for example regular milk with an oat alternative. This diet is not proposed to be followed forever. Usually, within the short period you have the opportunity to avoid the list of foods, and then gradually introduce things back into your diet, testing to see whether you have a reaction to individual foods within this list. Everyone reacts differently, even among the foods that are on this list, so it’s very much a process of trial and error. 

The verdict:The low FODMAP diet does not promise to magically cure you; rather, it help you manage your symptoms.I have been following this diet relatively strictly, but of course sometimes, I do slip up. It’s tough to follow it so religiously at times, especially when those around you are eating what they want and you have to decline pizza (again), but you have to think about how it is working with your body to ensure that it is being looked after the best that it can. It definitely makes travelling harder, as it is much harder to follow when abroad (especially when you want to try everything!), we are so lucky in the UK that the selection of Free From products is not too bad, although ridiculously expensive, there is this choice available. More restaurants are also beginning to recognise different dietary requirements which is a great step in the right direction. It has, however, massively helped me, especially with feeling so bloated. The diet has also helped me immensely in managing my mental health, just knowing it’s one less thing to be anxious about when you eat makes a huge difference, and feeling so much more healthy and less ill makes your general level of wellbeing so much better. My skin has also drastically improved since following this regime and I have gone from having horrible acne to a couple of spots per month. Again, everything needs to be eaten in moderation and it has made me consider the things I buy so much more than I used to, as it’s really expensive to have to keep up with the requirements of things such as gluten-free bread. This is not something permanent, but has been something that has worked for me. 

A full list of the foods can be found here: https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/