Food is a common trigger of digestive symptoms. Interestingly, restricting certain foods can dramatically improve these symptoms in sensitive people.
In particular, a diet low in fermentable carbs known as FODMAPS is clinically recommended for the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This app explains what a low-FODMAP diet is, how it works and what foods are low fodmap.
A low-FODMAP diet is more complex than you may think and involves three stages.
Stage 1: Restriction
This stage involves strict avoidance of all high-FODMAP foods. If you're not sure which foods are high in FODMAPs, read this article.
People who follow this diet often think they should avoid all FODMAPs long-term, but this stage should only last about 38 weeks. This is because it's important to include FODMAPs in the diet for gut health.
Some people notice an improvement in symptoms in the first week, while others take the full eight weeks. Once you have adequate relief of your digestive symptoms, you can progress to the second stage.
If by eight weeks your gut symptoms have not resolved, refer to the What If Your Symptoms Don't Improve? chapter below.
Stage 2: Reintroduction
This stage involves systematically reintroducing high-FODMAP foods.
The purpose of this is twofold:
To identify which types of FODMAPs you tolerate. Few people are sensitive to all of them.
To establish the amount of FODMAPs you can tolerate. This is known as your "threshold level."
In this step, you test specific foods one by one for three days each (1Trusted Source).
It is recommended that you undertake this step with a trained dietitian who can guide you through the appropriate foods. Alternatively, this app can help you identify which foods to reintroduce.
It is worth noting that you need to continue a low-FODMAP diet throughout this stage. This means even if you can tolerate a certain high-FODMAP food, you must continue to restrict it until stage 3.
It is also important to remember that, unlike people with most food allergies, people with IBS can tolerate small amounts of FODMAPs.
Lastly, although digestive symptoms can be debilitating, they will not cause long-term damage to your body.
Stage 3: Personalization
This stage is also known as the "modified low-FODMAP diet." In other words, you still restrict some FODMAPs. However, the amount and type are tailored to your personal tolerance, identified in stage 2.
It is important to progress to this final stage in order to increase diet variety and flexibility.