Your relationship with food is important to both your physical and mental health.
No one should feel forced to choose between minimizing their symptoms and being trapped in an overly restrictive diet, or fearing food altogether. If utilized properly, a Low FODMAP diet can bring both better health and a healthy range of foods in your pantry.
When I discuss starting a Low FODMAP diet with my patients, I make sure they know this is not a forever diet – it’s a learning diet, meant to identify which foods trigger their GI symptoms. The hardest part is the “elimination phase”, when high FODMAP foods should be strictly avoided. While this phase is the most challenging, it is also the shortest.
Unfortunately, many patients return after a few weeks afraid to add more foods back into their life. After finally feeling great, they just don’t want to take the risk.
I understand the concern, but it’s important to understand the purpose of the first phase to create a symptom-free baseline, not a “new normal” diet. Permanently avoiding broad categories of foods is not part of the program.
Slowly but surely, higher FODMAP foods should be gradually reintroduced to see which trigger symptoms. I encourage my patients to go slow with a new item, trying it for a few days in a row to see if it can be tolerated. Then another can be tried. The process takes time and will result in symptoms when certain foods are reintroduced, but the long-term benefits of eating a wider variety of food is well worth it.
Dietitians familiar with the FODMAP diet can be a key ally in navigating this process, helping decide when and how to reintroduce certain foods and work through the process more quickly. In a matter of weeks, most people can build a large list of foods they can eat and a much smaller list of foods to avoid.
With a better understanding of what their bodies can tolerate, food can and should bring enjoyment, not anxiety. With the appropriate implementation of a low FODMAP diet, a sustainable positive relationship with food is within your reach.