What is FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym for–“Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”
“And what that means is when you eat something that is a short-chain carbohydrate, which for you is highly indigestible, your gut bacteria will then use these carbs that didn’t digest as fuel to produce hydrogen gas which will cause you extreme pain and/or discomfort in your digestive system. You may also experience mild or severe diarrhea because this process also draws water into your intestinal tract.” This information was found here.
I’ve blamed my inability to be able to eat sauerkraut, kombucha, onions, even grapes on allergies, intolerances, even IBS for years. Turns out IBS may have been part of it all along. I’ve had IBS since I was an eleven or twelve-years-old (maybe I’ve had it all my life?), but didn’t get diagnosed until I was in my twenties. For me, that meant an upset stomach and bouts of both constipation and diarrhea in the same day. There has never been enough known about IBS to say that there are known foods to avoid. So, I’ve never avoided food because of IBS. That said in the last fifteen years I have experienced a lot of food intolerances starting with gluten. If I eat something that has wheat germ or wheat protein in it I get seriously sick. On the other hand, if I eat one piece of bread with wheat flour I may only get a small rash. I have been unable to eat onions, garlic, kombucha, relishes–basically, anything fermented or that ferments for about twenty years. As the years have gone on the list has gotten progressively longer and finally about a year ago I decided to continue my research and find out why. Finally, I found the problem-FODMAP, that’s my problem.
So what can I do? The first thing I can do is to follow a low FODMAP diet.
So what is a low FODMAP diet?
A low FODMAP diet is one that requires you to no longer eat those foods and drink that are high FODMAP.
So, here are some foods that are high in FODMOP (this list is not complete):
Apples, applesauce, peaches, berries, cherries, canned fruit, and watermelon. All sweeteners–high fructose, honey, sorbitol, and xylitol to name a few. All dairy products. All the gas-producing vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli +more), onions and garlic. Beans, lentils, baked beans, and soybeans. Bread, pasta, most cereal, tortillas, waffles, and pancakes. Also–crackers and chips. Barley and Rye and Wheat–so beer, fortified wines, soda with high fructose, soy milk, and fruit juice.
After reading that list you might ask yourself what’s left? Is cardboard at least safe? Because that’s what I thought I was reduced down to eating– my mind just reeled. On one hand, I had found the mysterious issue I have long dealt with and on the other, just about everything available for humans to eat (there’s a lot of healthy food on the do not eat list) was going to have to be eliminated from my diet.
So what did I have to personally eliminate from my own diet? Thankfully I’ve always been a picky eater so here’s the list–peaches, watermelon, soda, honey, onions, garlic, beets, peas, sour cream, cottage cheese, pasta, crackers, and chips. There is a lot of other stuff like–no longer do we eat in restaurants because I’m also sensitive to food additives and preservatives (xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan, msg, and sodium nitrite). None of those preservatives or additives are good for you anyway, so I’m kind of glad I can’t tolerate them. It’s hard to eat at other people’s homes or get-togethers because people become so offended if you don’t eat or end up bringing your own. Unfortunately nowadays several of our friends have some of the same issues I do so diets have really changed among our little group. The middle aisles of any grocery store have long been my enemy. We haven’t brought canned, frozen, or boxed food, packets, mixes, sauces, or spices into this house in almost fifteen years. So there’s that. It would have been really hard for me to take all of the restrictions at once. Fortunately or not several years ago I changed my diet drastically because I thought I was suffering from gluten intolerance.
So what can I/you eat — a low FODMAP diet includes:
Fish, red meat, eggs, fats, oils, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, all nuts except pistachios, maple syrup, lactose-free dairy products, tomatoes, turnips, yams, zucchini +more, corn, oats, rice +more, water, coffee, and tea.
*None of the above lists are definitive or exhaustive*
*Also everyone is different and what works or doesn’t work for some may work for others*
*Consult your physician before changing anything in your diet*
What does my new diet look like? Well, I still eat dairy. I’ve been eating yogurt, drinking probiotics and milk for years, and I do not have any plans to stop. I do not get gas, bloat, or discomfort from eating dairy. All of my dairy products are organic except my yogurt. I eat Activia yogurt every day. I don’t really eat any red meat or eggs, but I do eat a lot of fish and nuts, and peanut butter, and the occasional small helping of baked beans. I eat a lot of carrots, lettuce, yams, zucchini, and tomatoes. As far as fruits go I eat a banana every day (I like the partially green ones), I also eat strawberries and raspberries year round. I don’t snack so no worries that I can’t eat crackers, or cookies, or chips. I drink water, tea, and have the occasional cup of coffee now. I bought a Chemex coffee maker and have discovered the rich taste of coffee. Up to now coffee always tasted awful to me. Now I know why–the oils from the beans weren’t making it to my cups of coffee. With the Chemex pour-over style of coffee making the oils make it to each and every cup. What a game changer for me!
I’ve also got to watch that I don’t use condiments because of the likelihood there is garlic or onion in most. So–no BBQ sauces, or most salad dressings, pickles other than Vlasic found in the refrigerated section, no chili, or taco or fajitas seasonings. I stopped eating tacos and fajitas –actually, anything really spicy about 15 years ago when I quit smoking. I probably never liked spicy stuff, but smoking made eating them tolerable. I’m one of those rare creatures that actually like to taste what my food really tastes like. I don’t cover up, or enhance, or flavor anything except with salt and pepper. As far as my husband’s diet goes he still eats everything he has always eaten–with the exception of most of the stuff in the middle aisles of the grocery store. That said he has never been one for boxed or frozen food as he grew up with a mom who loved to cook/bake and she made everything fresh or from scratch –three meals a day/365 days a year.
One last thing that is worth mentioning is to be aware of your supplements and vitamins when you have an issue with short-chain carbs or sensitivity to food additives. I’ve taken supplements for almost 30 years–I use a Vit D. spray that is really working miracles on me, and I get a vitamin b12 shot regularly, plus magnesium, and iron every day. Recently I researched a better way to get magnesium and ordered some plant-based magnesium. I thought that I had researched everything, but what happened was I hadn’t. Turns out plant-based magnesium is red algae and extracted from red algae are polysaccharides which are better known as carrageenan, which I get very sick from. And sick I was, I was sick with a stomach ache/pain and diarrhea for 3 days. Once it was all out of my system I was fine. From this point on I’m going to stick with what I’m currently taking and not try anything new if I don’t have to.
To say I wasn’t sad years ago when my entire diet changed would be an understatement. I mourned and mourned for a long time. But the pain I experienced was so bad that I was willing to do anything to make it stop. I have been tweaking my diet for years and years and now may be the final tweak? Looking at all the forbidden foods makes me think I have always had this issue. I’ve had stomach aches, and distention, and pain in my digestive system for as long as I can remember. I think poor nutrition as a child played a major role. I also think my skipping meals, not eating enough good food, and at times eating too much nutrition lacking junk food finished me off. In my case, I compounded all of this with many years of drinking mountain dew and abusing alcohol for several years until I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking in 2003. I had stopped drinking mountain dew in 1997.
I’ve been changing my diet by trying something and either eliminating or sticking with it since 2000. First, it was dairy, which I fixed with buying organic dairy. And then it was gluten, which I fixed with the elimination diet, and then I discovered additives, preservatives, onions, and garlic bothered me. If you’ve ever looked at a food label you’ll know preservatives are in almost everything, and onions and garlic are in everything else.
Now, as I’ve said, I know what my issue really is and it is FODMAP. I don’t know what really causes this but I do know diet changes have helped me immensely. There are still plenty of things one can eat– you just need to try and then eliminate if need be and then try the next food item. And on and on until you create the right diet for yourself and move forward. You will adjust and no longer feel that there is virtually nothing left for you to eat. Good Luck and I hope my article helps you on your path to better eating!
Here are links to the information I found that has helped me:
What you can and can not eat on the low FODMAP diet
What are FODMAPS?