You may have heard the term 'low FODMAP diet' being thrown around a bit lately, and wondered what these guys are going on about. We don't blame you. With all the recent chat about paleo, veganism, gluten free, sugar free, etc... come on, who needs another diet? But what's different about this one, however, is that it actually brings a lot of relief to people who have been diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption or IBS.
FODMAPs are (mostly) sugars found in many commonly enjoyed foods including; honey, wheat, fruits and vegetables. In an ultimate world FODMAPs are happily digested and absorbed through the bowel; though for those suffering fructose malabsorbtion, this is not the case. The body's ability to absorb fructose is impaired, resulting in the oh-so-unpleasant symptoms of gas, wind and bloating (to name a few). We'll spare you the complicated medical chat, but for those of you who want to research this a little more, there's loads of great resources (including a FODMAP food list) on the Monash University website, whose researchers developed the low FODMAP diet.
Living with fructose malabsorbtion can be incredibly difficult to manage, particularly when you have no idea that fructose is the culprit. You begin to start questioning, ‘why am I bloated, again? It doesn’t matter what I eat, I still bloat.’, ‘I feel sick for no particular reason, what’s going on?’. On a bad day those suffering from fructose malabsorbtion may feel swollen all over, suffering from muscular aches and pains, continuous bloating, and having the constant need to go to the bathroom. You can just imagine how this might affect daily life.
Following a low FODMAP diet helps most, but the reality is that every single person suffering from fructose malabsorbtion will handle fructose-containing foods differently. Therefore you may follow a low FODMAP diet but still present with common symptoms. "I've been working on learning the low FODMAP diet for two years and still don't have it all figured out," says Rita, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease, "I'm still trying to figure out what my body can handle and the number of products with onion and garlic in them."
Saying goodbye to some favourite foods is a big downside. "I struggle the most with not having fruit. I used to LOVE fruit," says Christal, who has otherwise seen great benefits from following the diet.
Living with a multitude of painful digestive issues and debilitating migraines was a never ending downwards spiral, and juggling this with a young family and working meant a constant battle (and one exhausted Mumma!). To add to this, about a year ago, I got really sick. Some type of virus took hold and wiped me out for months. A new GP wanted me to try the FODMAP diet for my digestive issues, migraines and constant fatigue.
It started with a strict 3 month elimination phase and many favourite foods were off limits; seemingly random ones like broccoli, beloved avocado, fruits and the hardest I found to accommodate, garlic and onion. Even cashews were on the list! Slowly but surely, it got easier. My tummy improved significantly and the migraines where less frequent.
The reintroduction phase was pretty scary, and also exciting! It’s a really long process and you are knowingly going to make yourself feel unwell, but you also find out that you may be able to tolerate some foods that you miss so much, yay! I can now have a tiny amount of wheat and fructose, some avocado and legumes or pulses prepared a certain way. You also have to be careful to ensure you have good gut health, and I am lucky enough to tolerate fermented vegetables which are a great probiotic.
I am well into the maintainable phase, and still have bad days. Recently, I accidentally ate garlic and was wiped out for half the week. Sometimes, I don't even know what I ate and what caused the flare up but I do know it will get better and the support network I tapped into through social media has been invaluable and inspiring.
- Mel, who has been following low FODMAP for about a year. Follow Mel on Instagram @lissyjuniper
Yes, it’s a lot to get your head around! But once you start feeling great, life can return to normal again and it just takes some refining of your diet, and really tuning into your body to understand what it loves and what it hates.
Eliminating FODMAP foods is not forever (for most) as FODMAP’s are generally not the root cause of your symptoms, therefore eliminating them will not cure the condition. Removing major food groups from your diet will not only cause increased stress, but an overall reduction in dietary fiber, which is an essential component of a flourishing digestive system. With guidance of a great practitioner and good compliance, the discovery of the underlying cause of your symptoms should be achieved. Just remember, if you are going to the stress of reducing these foods in your diet for 6-8 weeks, it is imperative that you nourish, heal and repair your gut throughout this time; sometimes this alone is enough to see significant changes in your bodies capability to digest these foods.
NOGO sauces created by Meg Farrell are an excellent FODMAP friendly addition to your cooking staples. As a passionate cook, Meg struggled to find delicious, convenient condiments to cook with following her diagnosis of fructose malabsorbtion. So she created her own range, allowing all the other FODMAPers to enjoy! The eggplant pickle wins my vote, a delicious condiment to enjoy with curry, on a burger, or even thrown atop a cracker.