What is low-FODMAP

I’ve struggled with digestive issues my entire life. My mom sympathetically refers to it as “Schuck-tummy” because my dad’s side of the family has always been a bit temperamental in the tummy area. I have tried GF, DF, vegetarian, vegan, but none of those diet shifts seemed to help. I’ve always eaten relatively healthy, too, which was the most frustrating part.

So why does low-FODMAP differ from all those other acronym-ed diets? Well, let’s start with the acronym itself. FODMAP stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols”. Big science words. To break it down as much as possbile: FODMAPs are a type of sugar that some small intestines struggle to absorb. When the sugar ins’t absorbed, it causes all types of problems. Monash University (the leading university in FODMAP research) puts it better than I do, here.

I read about the low-FODMAP diet in my early years of college, but it was way too restrictive for my lifestyle because I was eating out frequently and I didn’t have control over every ingredient in a dish. I also revered the holy trinity of cooking – garlic, onions, and mushrooms – and the thought of cutting those out of my diet was intimidating. Now, though, I cook everything at home, myself. So I decided to take the leap and look into it in May.

I saw an instant change in how I felt. I still had days where I’d have issues, but they were drastically less frequent than before. As I learned more and more about the low-FODMAP lifestyle, I learned that some healthy foods that I thought were good for me can actually cause a whole world of hurt.

Let’s take celery, for example. Celery juice first thing in the morning is a huge craze that so many people swear by. Late last year, after having a bad month digestion-wise, I decided to give it a go. The first few days were not pleasant, but I had read that your body undergoes a cleanse when you first start, so I powered through. Nearly two weeks in, I got so unbelievably sick that I couldn’t leave a bathroom for more than 10 minutes. I convinced myself that my celery juice must’ve gone bad or something and gave up on that venture.

Fasft forward 6 months, and it turns out celery has super high levels of Mannitol, a polyol (the P in FODMAP) that is difficult for some people to absorb, and that in turn causes IBS symptoms. You can read about it further, here. But common knowledge is that celery is healthy! And that is why, even though I ate a very healthy diet, I still wasn’t feeling my best.

I’ve been eating mainly low-FODMAP for 2 months and I am finally feeling like I am getting to know my body. There have definitely been days where I say f*ck it and eat something non-low-FOD, like a doughnut (literally this week), but I am in a place where I am learning how my body reacts to certain foods and how to adjust to respect that.

All that is to say, when I mention FODMAP modifications on the recipes I post, this is the why behind it.

As a disclaimer, this diet is recommended for people diagnosed with IBS. I have not been diagnosed with IBS. I am following this diet, by choice, in an attempt to limit flare-ups, pain, and discomfort. I am only a couple months into eating low-FODMAP and I am continuously learning as I go – I am not an expert and I may give up low-FODMAP in the future. This diet, so far, seems to allow more control over how I react to food.

Thanks for taking the time to read through and learn about FODMAPs!

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