After finding symptom relief during the FODMAP elimination phase, and figuring out your triggers with the reintroduction phase, you are now ready for the most exciting step: personalizing your diet. This is when you can liberalize your diet and enjoy a wide variety of foods without experiencing painful gut symptoms. After all, this is the ultimate goal of this 3-step process! Indeed, research studies that have followed people for several months after they completed the elimination phase found that the majority of participants re-introduced a variety of high FODMAP foods and were able to maintain good symptom control. Let’s discuss how this final step works and why it is so important.
Step 3: Your Personalized FODMAP Diet
During the reintroduction phase, you learned which FODMAP categories are triggers for you and identified foods to enjoy liberally and to avoid. In this final step, you get to bring back into your diet the foods – or portions of certain foods – that didn’t trigger your symptoms. Your learning process, however, is not over. You will continue to learn more about the foods, and combinations of foods, that work best for you.
For instance, when testing your tolerance with the FODMAP challenges, you were only introducing one FODMAP group at a time. Now you can start combining different FODMAP groups on the same day, or in the same meal. And you will find your personal total FODMAP threshold. You could, for instance, try a pizza or a burrito, which combines foods from different FODMAP groups. Working with a dietitian who is an expert in the low FODMAP diet protocol will help you understand which foods you can reintroduce and how to combine them in a way that will allow you to keep feeling good while you expand your diet.
3 Reasons Why It Is Important to Expand Your Diet
However, you may be hesitant to reintroduce high-FODMAP foods. It’s understandable! If you felt really good during the elimination phase, you may be a bit anxious. Why should you risk experiencing symptoms by trying more high-FODMAP foods, bigger portions, or different combinations? There are at least three good reasons.
1. Improve nutritional adequacy
First of all, as happens with any restrictive diet, a low FODMAP diet may compromise the intake of key nutrients. Research studies have shown that, during the elimination phase, intake of dietary fiber, calcium, and iron can be too low. However, when participants started re-introducing high FODMAP foods, these nutrients were restored.
2. Ensure adequate prebiotic intake
Secondly, expanding your diet will make sure you get enough prebiotic-rich foods in your diet. Prebiotics are substances that the bacteria that live mostly in our large intestine use as food. These good gut bacteria are key to the health of your gut and have several other health benefits. Therefore, we don’t want to starve them! According to research, a low FODMAP diet can reduce the intake of prebiotic fibers. After all, most prebiotic-rich foods are high in FODMAPs. As a result, the variety and number of good bacteria can decrease after only 3-4 weeks. For this reason, it is important to re-introduce as many sources of prebiotic-rich foods as you can tolerate.
3. Maintain or improve quality of life
Finally, restrictive diets may adversely affect your quality of life and social eating. Expanding your diet to include a higher variety of foods will give you more flexibility when eating. This will may make it easier and more enjoyable to eat at social occasions, in restaurants, and when traveling. It may also make you feel less of an outcast at parties or family gatherings.
In conclusion, the third step of the FODMAP protocol allows you to personalize and expand the variety of your diet. This will make your diet not just more enjoyable but more nutritious and healthy. If you are stuck in the elimination phase – many people are! – and are not sure how to properly test high-FODMAP foods and expand your diet long-term, I can help!