22 Oct 2015
How do I know if I have a FODMAP Intolerance?
How do I know if I have a FODMAP Intolerance?
I recommend that anyone who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome try the FODMAP elimination diet, since FODMAPs include many of the irritants responsible for symptoms of IBS (carbohydrates, prebiotics, and certain sugars). You can be tested for 3 of the FODMAPs: fructose, sorbitol and lactose, through a hydrogen breath test (although the accuracy of such methods is questionable). However, intolerance to the other FODMAPs (Disaccharides, Mannitol, and Polyols) can only be discovered through an elimination diet. This means experimentation and listening to your body. At the end of the day you will be the best judge. Here are just a few things to look out for when trying to determine whether you have a FODMAP intolerance:
Even “healthy” foods cause bloating, stomach upsets, and bowel irregularities.
FODMAPs found in “healthy” foods such as fruits (which are high in fructose, fructans and polyols), beans (high in galacto-oligosaccharides & fructans) and vegetables (some are high in Polyols) are absorbed through the lining of the small intestine in healthy individuals. However, when an individual has a FODMAP intolerance, the carbohydrate or sugar continues to move through to the large intestine, where it ferments and causes bacteria (not the friendly kind) to multiply. This leads to a host of unpleasant symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation, as well as stomach pain and discomfort. Whether you are intolerant to just one or several of the FODMAPs, your symptoms, although perhaps varying in severity, will be similar. An apple a day may keep the doctor away from most of us, but if you’ve got a fructose intolerance then put down the damn apple people! Pick up some berries or a papaya instead 😉 Check out The FODMAP Friendly Vegan Shopping List for some ideas on acceptable foods and the high FODMAPs food list for things to avoid.
You’ve been diagnosed “lactose intolerant” or “wheat intolerant”, have eliminated dairy and wheat … but the issues still persist.
If you’ve eliminated all dairy and wheat (known irritants) from your diet after being diagnosed intolerant, yet still continue to face similar (albeit lesser) symptoms, then perhaps you’ve only addressed only part of the problem. You could be intolerant to a number of other FODMAP culprits, such as fructose or mannitol. This is where the elimination diet, and re-introducing one food group at a time, will help you narrow in on your problem area. Similarly, this is where diagnosis through medical breath testing may help.
The same food is OK in the morning but disastrous if you have it later in the day.
Have you ever found that your symptoms are better in the morning as soon as you get out of bed, and get progressively worse during the day, even if you’ve been eating the EXACT same food? This is the concept of FODMAP load at work. As mentioned, most foods will contain at least some FODMAPs – some more than others. As we eat throughout the day, our “FODMAP load” accumulates – which is why it’s important to have moderate-high FODMAP foods (e.g., sweet potato), with a number of low FODMAP foods so that the one meal doesn’t tip you over the edge. Similarly, it is wise to spread these potentially offending foods out throughout the day, so that your stomach has had time to finish digesting the, let’s call them “FODMAPPY” (that’s a word right?!) foods, before it tackles the next load.
You feel better after going to the toilet.
Again, this is the FODMAP load concept at work. When you go to the toilet (number 2 to get technical), you are clearing out built up matter in your intestines. This is why ensuring you’re getting enough fibre on the low FODMAP diet is so important. There are plenty of low FODMAP fruits, vegetables, and grains such as quinoa, brown rice, black rice, and oatmeal that are high in fibre and will help keep you regular.
Doctor’s throw their hands up and say “I can’t help” or “it’s just IBS”.
Ever wanted to punch a doctor in the face when they look at you like you’re a spoilt brat and shake their head while muttering the words “it’s just some IBS”. Doesn’t matter how many doctors you see, they all come back to the same diagnosis “nothing can be done for IBS” or “eat small, regular meals”. They may even make suggestions that it’s time you “clean up your diet” which, to most people, would mean upping their fruit and vegetable intake … potentially disastrous advice for someone with a FODMAP intolerance! The problem is that FODMAP intolerance is not yet well-known and doctors receive very little nutritional training throughout their education. That’s OK .. these guys have enough to learn as it is! Those doctors who are good and recognize their own limitations will refer you on to a nutritionist or dietitian who is trained in FODMAP intolerances. If they don’t the request this! You will find many holistic doctors are also familiar with FODMAPs – however be weary of any supplements they may prescribe, as many contain prebiotics e.g., FOS, which could worsen symptoms and leave your pocket much lighter!
Your digestion affects every aspect of your life.
Want to go to yoga but embarrassed about your stomach making all sorts of funny sounds? Want to go for a walk with a friend but scared you won’t make it the whole way without a toilet stop? Feel yourself unable to concentrate at work or study due to painful or uncomfortable stomach symptoms? Approach your meals with utter fear as opposed to eager anticipation? If all of this sounds all too familiar then your digestion is ruling your life! Enough is enough! None of this is normal! Sometimes, after years of suffering in silence (what many of us with digestive issues do due to the stigma and embarrassment speaking about such issues), we begin to lull ourselves into thinking that our pain or discomfort is “normal”, just another part of life like eating or sleeping. The reality is anything but the truth, and if you never try then you’ll never know what being pain-free feels like. Go ahead and ask your doctor about testing for fructose, sorbitol and lactose intolerance. It is true, the low FODMAP diet can be restricting during the elimination phase, during which time diagnosis is paramount. However, once you’ve passed those ugly few weeks, there is NO REASON you can’t enjoy a myriad of delicious low FODMAP meals. Especially as you become more attuned to listening to your own body (using the food & symptoms journals), and begin experimenting with what does and doesn’t work, you will see your diet and recipe repertoire flourish. The FODMAP Friendly Vegan is a 195-page resource & recipe eBook that contains handy guides, shopping lists, and over 65 breakfast, snack, main, salad, soup, beverage and dessert recipes that are all vegan, low FODMAP, gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Many are also Paleo –friendly and raw. You can purchase your eBook here and start reaping the delicious benefits of digestive peace of mind!
Good luck on your journey to digestive health! 🙂