How the FODMAP Diet Works – Step 3: Personalized Low FODMAP Diet
The ultimate goal of the Low FODMAP Diet process is to liberalize your diet so that you can enjoy the most varied and nutritious diet without experiencing painful gut symptoms.
Read this again! It is the most important message to remember for your gut and overall health!
And here is more good news: 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.
During the reintroduction phase, you learned which FODMAP categories are triggers for you and identified foods to enjoy liberally and to avoid. This learning process, however, is not over. You will continue to learn more about the foods, and combinations of foods, that may trigger your symptoms.
For example, when testing your tolerance with the FODMAP challenges, you were only introducing one FODMAP group each week. Now you can start combining different FODMAP groups on the same day, or in the same meal, and find your personal total FODMAP threshold.
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.
It is a good idea to continue to challenge foods that you didn’t tolerate at first every 3-6 months. Several factors – such as stress and changes in gut bacteria – may influence the response to food challenges. This is important to keep expanding the variety of your diet.
3 Reasons Why It Is Important to Expand Your Diet
At this point, you may be hesitant to reintroduce high-FODMAP foods. It’s understandable!
If you felt really good during the elimination phase, you may ask yourself: why should I risk experiencing symptoms by trying more high-FODMAP foods, bigger portions, or different combinations? There are at least 3 good reasons.
1. Improve nutritional adequacy
As happens with any restrictive diet, a low FODMAP diet may compromise the intake of key nutrients.
Research studies have shown that during the strict 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
Prebiotics are substances that the bacteria that live mostly in our large intestine use as food. These good gut bacteria contribute 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
Restrictive diets may adversely affect the quality of life and social eating. Expanding your diet to include a higher variety of foods will give you more flexibility and 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, and this fact alone may boost your mood.
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!