FODMAP Elimination Diet – A Foodie’s Nightmare
About 4 years ago a doctor diagnosed me with gluten intolerance. I seemed to be having isolated reactions to gluten, and when I eliminated it, most of my symptoms improved. Over time though, I noticed I was having the same kind of reaction after eating gluten free foods (or rather, a meal that was gluten free, such as bolognese with GF pasta).
I recently went to a new dietician and she suspected that it might be FODMAPS. She suggested I go on the elimination diet to see if it helped. I told her that due to my hectic work schedule, I would try my best, but I probably wouldn’t be able to do it perfectly. If you have ever been on an eliminated diet, especially one that is as restrictive as FODMAPs, you’ll know it’s a full time job. In the first week, I spent AT LEAST 30 hours researching, meal planning, checking the nutrition and then had to do all the shopping and cooking on top of that.
I had previously not been eating breakfast and often not lunch, so I had a lot more cooking to do. Since I was also now eating 3 meals a day, I had to make sure I wasn’t going over my 1600 calorie/day diet. In order to help my gut heal, I also increased my fibre intake and reduced my refined sugar intake as it’s food for bad bacteria (I had already done this for my teeth anyway and experienced outstanding results).
I won’t explain everything about FODMAPs because the scientists at Monash University in Melbourne do that better than anyone, but if you’re a foodie, here’s all you need to know:
You can’t have:
- Onion/Shallots/Spring Onions
- Cream / ice cream
- A whole host of common vegetables like asparagus, beetroot, cauliflower
- Fruits such as apples, pears and stonefruit
Sooooo…. literally it was pretty much my entire diet on the list of no no’s… all my favourite vegetables, fruits, treats. I had always drunk sugar free soft drink because my brother is a diabetic so I got used to that being in the house, and now I find out I can’t have any sweeteners ending in -ol. So no diet soft drink. NO GARLIC AND ONION. I felt incredibly stressed because almost everything I loved to cook and eat was on the high FODMAP list and therefore to be avoided.
Now, I should say that there is some light at the end of the tunnel with FODMAPs. Each individual varies, and you’re not necessarily highly sensitive to ALL groups of FODMAPs (there are 5). After the elimination phase, you can begin to reintroduce the foods in groups, and test your tolerance level of them. I am praying I am not highly sensitive to all of them, but I can already tell from some mishaps that I’ve had in my first 3 weeks of the elimination that there are definitely a lot of them that give me trouble.
Thankfully there are still some of my favourites that I can eat, like:
- Spelt (though I’m not sure yet if this agrees with me or not)
- Olive oil
FODMAPs are not fat soluble either, so you can use garlic infused and onion infused olive oils, which while they’re definitely not the same experience as actual garlic and onions, at least it’s something.
I do have to admit that already I feel so much better. I’m a very heavy, but I wake up feeling ‘skinny’ and with a ‘flat’ stomach compared to before, where I would easily add 5 inches to my waist after eating. I have also noticed an incredible change in my mood/emotional state. I have a stressful, hectic job where I work long hours in a tough environment (it sounds like I’m in the military or something, but no, I just work in an office!). There have been three occasions where I have accidentally or intentionally-but-not-for-no-good-reason eaten food containing FODMAPs and within 12 hours, I have fallen into a deeply depressive state, with no other obvious triggers. I can speak to this with some authority as I have had clinical depression before and understand well the difference in ‘sadness’ and ‘depression’ for me. The only way to describe how I feel after eating foods I shouldn’t is “crap”. It’s like how you feel after you’ve recovered from a terrible cold or virus – you’re still headachy, bone-achy, muscle-achy, cloudy head, fatigued… so that really is enough to tell me that this is my problem and avoiding high FODMAP foods is a great thing.
I am now 3 weeks into my elimination and since it’s been so difficult to gather and create recipes, create meal plans and still have a healthy, nutritious diet, I thought I would share with you what I am doing in the hope that it may help others like me who could do without the extra work and inconvenience that restrictive diets create!