If you suffer the occasionally agonising, often uncomfortable, and always inconvenient issues associated with IBS then you’ll be willing to try anything to feel better. If you’ve found this post then you’re presumably already aware of a low FODMAP meal plan, but perhaps you’re looking for more information, or a FODMAP diet pdf to help you make the lifestyle change.
You’ll find both in this post.
What Causes IBS?
Many people appear to be under the impression that the phenomenon of IBS has its roots in the typical (horrendous) diet of modern man; a reasonable enough assumption since it seems to be becoming more prevalent, and there may be something to it. The truth is that IBS is simply the term ascribed to any stomach complaints that cannot otherwise be diagnosed, ie. a bit of a GP cop-out.
Mine started when I was in my mid-teens and stuck around for more than a decade. If you experience IBS symptoms yourself then you won’t need me to give you the gory details.
Suffice to say, when I was in my late teens/early twenties, I became addicted to laxatives.
I’m pretty embarrassed about it, but there it is. I went cold turkey when I was unable to get to a shop to collect more in time for my next ‘dose’. In fairness, they weren’t exactly improving my situation anyway, it was more of a psychological crutch – because I was truly in a bad way a lot of the time. As in, I often looked six months pregnant, and felt enormous and uncomfortable.
Having been with child twice, I can confirm from a position of authority that when my waist expanded beyond its natural circumference, I legitimately looked like I was heading into the last trimester of pregnancy. Clothes were a nightmare, and safety pins became my handbag essential. I wish I was kidding.
Myths about IBS
In my early twenties, I was of the mistaken belief that eliminating a particular food group could alleviate my symptoms (trusty Google was not so trusty about this particular subject back then – there’s a lot of new information now)…
I went strictly wheat free. It didn’t help me; so I went gluten free. This was not easy – at that time almost all processed foods seemed to contain gluten, and certainly anything tasty! To make matters more awkward, nobody even knew what gluten was, and the options available today – pfft. If only.
When I went to the supermarket and asked where their rye bread was located, they’d look at me like I was asking for elven bread… Unless I got lucky and happened to ask the one assistant who worked in the relevant aisle – alas my chances of that were about the same as marrying Brad Pitt (things didn’t work out between us, I’m sad to tell you).
…I went dairy and meat free. Nada.
I went to see my GP (obviously). About four separate times. Alas, they too were clueless to my plight.
I was advised to ‘keep a food diary’ on each occasion (a legitimate excuse to buy some pretty stationery, but otherwise didn’t prove very helpful).
Once I was even prescribed some (pointless) drugs. I also self-medicated (laxatives, ahem) with charcoal tablets and acidophilus and every other product promoted for my woes.
I gave up trying and simply managed my issues the best I could. For example, I was always painfully aware that apples and raw onion were not friends of my gut. Rarely, I was totally fine; sometimes stress could be a trigger; occasionally, if I got super hungry – that would be enough to set me off. This went on for more than a decade.
And then I discovered the low FODMAP diet.
It’s made my tummy happy again, like 95% of the time happy. If you have gut issues like I used to, I cannot recommend this diet highly enough – it completely transformed my life.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (try saying that after a glass of wine). These food components are poorly digested in some people and are what lead to irritability of the gut. When these molecules are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, they continue through the digestive tract where they act as a food source to bacteria living in the large intestine.
This process essentially leads to fermentation, causing bloating (or, in my case, apparent immaculate conception), and uncomfortable bowel habits. You can read more about the fascinating inner workings of the gut, and how probiotics may also be helpful here.
But what foods are FODMAPs found in? At the bottom of this post I’ve included a low FODMAP diet PDF, detailing a list of safe foods and those which should be avoided.
By eliminating FODMAPs from the diet, the symptoms can be very effectively managed. Promise.
It’s thought that following the Low FODMAP Diet will eradicate symptoms in approximately 75% of IBS sufferers. They’re not bad odds, are they?
But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the diet is that after several strict weeks it’s recommended you begin reintroducing foods.
The Low FODMAP Meal Plan
If your discomfort is on the same scale mine was, the pay-off will be totally worth the effort of this elimination diet. Plus, you may discover new foods you’ve not experimented worth before – this diet is how I found some of my favourite vegetables!
What follows is basically a process of elimination to establish which particular foods have been making you ill. And if you’re as lucky as I’ve been, you’ll eventually return to an (almost) completely normal diet, including the very foods you can’t currently tolerate.
I’ve become reacquainted with the simple pleasure of a crisp apple (admittedly I usually enjoy them dipped in a Cadbury’s Caramel Pot of Joy).
And while I’ll never be able to partake in biting into a crunchy raw onion, neither am I sure that I’d want to… Which is handy.
If you have the willpower to be meticulous with your diet initially, you have a great chance at getting over the horrors of your sensitive gut. It could genuinely change your life.
FODMAP Diet PDF
I wish you lots of luck and I’ll leave you with this downloadable PDF of which foods to avoid and which are safe to eat: