Blog: What the heck is FODMAP diet and why do I need it?

Okay, let’s get a bit real here. My blog is my safe space filled with books, theatre reviews, and cute stationery related things, but my health, in particular, my digestive system, has been a bit rocky recently, so, I thought it would be only fair to share it here.  

This is going to be a bit TMI. Beware. And a little disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietician, so if I get something wrong - please, do not blame me.

I have been experiencing chronic digestive issues since I was very little. At the age of four, I contracted dysentery at the kindergarten. In case if you don’t know what dysentery, it is a contagious, inflammatory disease that affects the intestine, especially in the colon. I was very little to remember much of it, but I do remember lots of tummy ache, being taken to the hospital in an ambulance and demanding that my grandma brought me all of my favourite books along. (My favourite books came with me everywhere. I used to take up to 10 books with me on vacations.)


I, obviously, recovered, but as a result of being treated with antibiotics and the virus itself (not sure if it was viral or bacterial infection, to be honest, but let’s just roll with it) I developed a condition called dysbiosis (or dysbacteriosis), which is a microbial imbalance in gut flora. It is not a disease and basically means that I lack certain healthy bacteria that help with digestion.


I used to take a lot of probiotics when I was a child. On a daily basis. Since my grandparents were doctors (as well as my mother), I am pretty sure that I have been given everything that was available back then (we are talking about more than 20 years ago). But the probiotics didn’t fix things for me. Mostly, I was taking Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria probiotics as those two bacteria types were the ones I was missing the most. Can’t say I did not benefit from probiotics at all but I continued to experience issues with my digestion. At times it was better, at times, it was worse. Tummy ache used to be my most common excuse for missing classes at school.


Fun fact, during one of my flares, I got tested on those two bacteria types again, and I had zero bifidobacterium. ZERO. The doctor who run the tests - our family’s close friend - said that she had never seen anything like this in her life. I felt almost proud of myself.


I used to have way more digestive issues that I do now. As a kid, it was way more difficult to restrain myself from eating certain foods. I vividly remember devouring handfuls of dry apricots in secret and then having horrible cramps in my abdomen. Or drinking a milkshake and then getting a bout of diarrhea. Sometimes those things would happen regardless of what I ate. I took probiotics from time to time during my teen and 20s. But mostly I was - and still am - taking digestive enzymes. Those are my lifesavers. I take so many of them that I should be investing in the stocks of the companies that produce them.


I am not going to bore you with more details, but let’s just say that till this day my digestive system is so touchy that I experience one type of discomfort or another on a daily basis. It is something that I am used to by now, as I don’t remember not having any digestive issues. I mainly manage it by eating only certain types of food. Although, sometimes I give in even in spite of a potential discomfort. (I use the word “discomfort” very loosely here as it can be anything from gas and bloating to severe abdominal pain and diarrhea and nausea for a couple of days.)


I spoke about it with my family doctor here, when I moved, and I was told that my symptoms right now are very similar to Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is no real cure for IBS, but it is possible to manage symptoms with diet and exercise.


I was referred to a dietician upon my request to help me manage my symptoms better. (Because I can eat a perfectly healthy meal and be in terrible pain for two days after that. And it is very annoying.)


I did a lot of googling ever since the term of IBS was brought up and came across FODMAP elimination diet even before it was mentioned to me by the dietician. The term FODMAP is an acronym, derived from "Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols". A low-FODMAP diet avoids foods containing certain sugars and certain fibers capable of causing diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain in people with IBS.


Examples of FODMAPs include:


  • Lactose (also known as milk sugar; found in milk, yogurt and ice cream)
  • Fructose (also known as fruit sugar; found in fruit, high-fructose corn syrup, honey and agave syrup)
  • Sorbitol, mannitol, and other “-ol” sweeteners (also known as sugar alcohols; found in certain fruits and vegetables as well as some types of sugar-free gums and candies)
  • Fructans (a type of fiber found in wheat, onions, garlic and chicory root)
  • GOS (a type of fiber found in beans, hummus and soy milk)


I went through certain phases in my diet, when I would switch to gluten-free bread and lactose-free milk, but I have never eliminated fructose or sugar or all of those together.


Perhaps, starting a diet so close to my birthday and holiday season is a bit crazy, but I was not ready to wait any longer and agreed to try the elimination diet for the next 6-7 weeks.


There is no guarantee that it would remove all of my symptoms. There is not a forever diet as later I will start adding those FODMAPs back into my diet to see what is causing bad reactions.


I was given the list of good and bad foods and was relieved to see that many of my personal staples are there. E.g., eggs, butter, hard cheeses (thank goodness), bananas, blueberries, and tomatoes. If I can eat those together with gluten-free bread, other proteins, and lactose-free dairy products, it won’t be as bad.


Here is the full list if you are curious - (there are plenty of lists online).


For whatever reason, I am excited. This is the first time in years that I am actively doing something to deal with this issue. I am ready for some change!


I love cooking, and I am looking forward to exploring new recipes. I have already stocked up with some staples, and I am ready to roll! (As I am writing this, I am on the second day of the diet, and all I am craving is chocolate, but I can’t have it!)


Since my blog is not related to food and cooking at all, I decided to create a new Instagram to post what I eat within those weeks. Perhaps, somebody else would find my recipes helpful.


Follow me at @foxcooks.


Let me know what you think!


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Book/play review: "Outside" by Paul Dunn