A good friend has just asked me how I’m going with the low FODMAP diet as she’s just had her doctor suggest that she try it. I couldn’t recommend it more highly for anyone who has a medically diagnosed need for it, there’s no point doing it otherwise. Keep in mind that it’s recommended that you take the FODMAP journey under a dietician’s direction and that what follows reflects my own experience and is not professional advice: talk to your doctor.
It only took about three days of eating only low FODMAP foods for me to feel a lot better with symptoms like gut pain, bloating, heartburn that felt like someone was sitting on my chest at night, and other less savoury impacts, all gone.
I’m still eating low FODMAP now but not to the full extent; I’ve been able to reintroduce many foods and I know which foods are triggers for me so I stay right away from them and I feel so good for it that I wouldn’t go back if you paid me!
So, once you’ve consulted a professional, the first step is: go to your local library’s website and search for low FODMAP recipe books that will help with what to cook. Many will also give background info for you, and others in your household who are asking, is this really worth it and what do I have to do? You can also find recipes and products at the FODMAP Friendly website. Here’s the key recipe resources I’ve used:
- The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen, by Emma Hatcher, 2017, Yellow Kite, Great Britain (grew out of https://shecanteatwhat.com/ and is endorsed by FODMAP Friendly
- Calm Belly Cookbook, by Cecilie Hauge Agnotnes, 2018, Modern Books, Great Britain
- The Low FODMAP Recipe Book, by Lucy Whigham, 2017, Octopus Publishing Group, Great Britain
- Low FODMAP Recipes, by Sue Shepherd, 2013, Penguin Books, Australia – Sue Shepherd developed the low FODMAP diet with Monash University and she has several editions available.
Second step: there are several reputable sources of information that are worth checking out, including the Monash University FODMAP app:
- https://gutfoundation.com.au/ – instructive!
- https://www.monashFODMAP.com/ – specifics of the diet and the research method
- https://www.monashFODMAP.com/ibs-central/i-have-ibs/get-the-app/ – costs about AUD$10.00 and is well worth it, especially when you’re grocery shopping or eating out.
Third step: what to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with? It will make a huge difference to your capacity to make great food if you’ve got some key ingredients in the house. Because so many pre-made foods contain an ingredient that is high FODMAP, you’ll need to consider making your own snacks, treats, and main meals, at least during the elimination phase. Here’s my top suggestions of what get supplies of for making all sorts of delicious food, including my preferred brands here in South Australia (which I’m not being paid to endorse, but maybe I should be!?):
- Gluten free flour blend – Well and Good
- Buckwheat flour
- Brown rice flour – adds yum factor and a little crunchy texture
- Gluten free corn flour
- Xanthan gum
- Almond meal
- Gluten free bread crumbs
- Quinoa, quinoa flakes (called porridge in the image below), and instant quinoa porridge (Orgran brand cooks in the microwave in 1½ minutes and are a great oat replacement – I can’t tolerate cooked oats but you might be ok)
- Rice, all kinds
- Garlic infused olive oil
- Spring onions – I now grow my own when I discovered you can just cut off the green parts and the plant will keep growing – no throwing away wilted bunches
- Leek – as above, but costs more and grows more slowly, so spring onion is my go-to onion replacement
- Chives – easy to grow and they cut-and-come-again like spring onions
- Gluten free bread – like Abbott’s Mixed Grain – there are many out there
- Sourdough bread – not rye
- Dark chocolate
- Dark cooking chocolate
- Blueberries, fresh or frozen
- Bananas, not too ripe (high FODMAP when very ripe)
- Vegies, fresh – lots are fine: tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, beans, squash, chillies
- Herbs – the only one I’ve had a reaction to is Vietnamese mint, which I limit now
- Cream Sheese – vegan cream cheese alternative
- Lactose free milk – dairy (Fleurieu Milk), coconut, or almond – check the app re soy milk
- Lactose free cream – Paul’s Zymil
- Lactose free yogurt – dairy (Bd Paris Creek), coconut (Coco Quench), or almond – I like Nudie’s coconut one and their roasted almond one best
- A low FODMAP breakfast cereal, like Cacao Kapow available in South Australia – if you’re sensitive to coffee watch out for that in some cereals
- Muesli bars – Food for Health brand are my favourite
- Nuts – low FODMAP nuts I always keep for because they can be eaten as a healthy snack or used in sweet or savoury foods: peanuts, pinenuts, almonds, macadamias – the last two are medium FODMAP, so go easy at first until you know your tolerance
- Maple syrup
- Cheese – except spreadable cheeses
- Tofu, firm (silken is high FODMAP)
- Meat – all meat, including seafood, is low FODMAP
- Gluten free crackers – rice crackers are easy to get and people don’t even think about them as anything unusual!
- Gluten free pasta – San Remo brown rice pastas are our favourite
- Sugo tomato puree – the plain one only, not one with garlic or onion
- Tomato paste
- Tomatoes, tinned
- Coconut cream, tinned
Fourth, what about drinks? Sadly, reducing alcohol intake is a good idea and can make a big difference to your comfort, as can intake of tea and coffee for some people, including yours truly. Coffee isn’t listed as high FODMAP but it’s definitely a trigger for me and is a good example of what some sources have noted: if you’re doing the elimination phase and you’re still not feeling good, it could be that you’re intolerant of something else in your diet. For me, coffee and tea were definitely culprits. Here’s some drink options:
- Peppermint tea is a fav of mine – I grow it fresh and want to grow more so I have enough to dry some for use over winter when the plant dies off a bit.
- Lemon and ginger tea
- Keep some teabags in your bag for when you’re out to a friend’s place or a training venue or similar where they might not have any options you can tolerate.
- Turmeric latte (with lactose free milk)
- Chocolate, with high quality dark cocoa and lactose free milk – coconut milk hot chocolate is delicious
- For alcohol limits check the app
Finally, when you’re eating out, watch out for foods that might have something in them that will trigger you, for example:
- Sauces and dressings – often contain dairy/onion/onion powder/garlic and sometimes gluten
- Dips – I’m yet to find any pre-made dip that doesn’t contain high FODMAPs
- Pesto – contains garlic – make your own with garlic infused olive oil
- Curries – as above
- Pasta sauces, even if gluten free – as above
- Bliss balls and raw sweets – often contain cashews/dates/dried fruit/avocado/sugar alternatives
- Crumbed and battered foods, like schnitzel, fish, etc – often contains gluten
- Crisps and corn chips – many contain dairy/gluten, even if they’re ‘potato’ or ‘corn’ chips and their seasoning doesn’t include cheese, and even if one flavour in a brand’s range is low FODMAP, another one might not be! Read the ingredients list carefully!
As you can see from the above, there are lots of traps that are easy to fall into when you’re eating out, so it pays to be prepared: eat something before you go or, if it’s feasible, take something with you to contribute to the catering or just to carry you over.
But, there are lots of standard foods that you CAN eat and there are more premade products coming onto the market all the time, so keep an eye out in your supermarket, food co-op, or health food store, and subscribe to the FODMAP Friendly website to receive occasional updates.
Good luck and I hope these tips help you to navigate your FODMAP journey. It’s really worth the effort when you start to realise that you feel good and realise that you have some control over continuing to feel good. Enjoy.
© Palitja Moore, text and images, 2020