6 Tips for Starting the Low FODMAP Diet
Have you been diagnosed with IBS and helpfully been told to go and Google the ‘low FODMAP diet’ or the ‘IBS diet’? Are you feeling totally overwhelmed by all the information out there? Does the diet sound ridiculously complicated? Well, you’re not alone! I’ve put together a list of the things I think you need to do before starting the low FODMAP diet. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by it, this is for you. Doing these 6 things will help you to get some clarity and feel confident to get started.
The Low FODMAP diet has completely changed my life. It’s enabled me to learn what my IBS triggers are and therefore finally take control of my gut. This is such a relief after years of feeling like my gut controlled me. However, there were a lot of challenges along the way and the first one was actually getting started. Sometimes, getting started with something new can seem like the hardest part, especially with a diet like this.
A lot of doctors and medical professionals aren’t trained specifically in the diet and don’t offer much guidance. Then, there is so much information on the internet that it’s hard to work out what’s fact and what’s opinion. After being in this position myself, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, I’ve now come out the other side. I want to help others in my position do the same so have listed out the things I couldn’t have got through the elimination and reintroduction phases without.
MY 6 ‘GETTING STARTED’ TIPS
Before diving into the tips, I want to call out how important it is to get diagnosed with IBS by a doctor before considering this diet. IBS shares symptoms with lots of other health issues and it's really important to rule out any serious conditions first. However, once you've been properly diagnosed, and you want to try the low FODMAP diet, this is where I'd start...
1. GET CLEAR ON YOUR ‘WHY’
The low FODMAP diet isn’t easy. You’ll definitely come across challenges and setbacks along the way and that’s completely normal. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone who hasn’t. That’s why it’s so important to get clear on why you’re doing it. Think about how you’re feeling now and how you want to be feeling and picture that in your head.
For me, I wanted to ‘gain control of my IBS and feel normal again.’ I actually wrote this down and stuck it by my bed and in the notes on my phone. I read it to myself every morning. By reminding myself of the end goal and why I was doing this, I gave myself the motivation to keep going even when I messed up. If you aren’t clear on why you’re doing it and the results you want to achieve, then it will be very hard to keep going when you face a challenge.
Write down your ‘why’ and remind yourself of it every day.
2. MAKE THE TIME
Is this the right time to be starting the low FODMAP diet? It takes 12 weeks minimum (if you’re lucky!) to get through the elimination and reintroduction phases of the diet, before working out your personalised low FODMAP diet. So, you need to make sure you’ve got at least 3 months ahead of you where you can really commit to the diet.
As with everything, I don’t personally think there’ll ever be a right time. There’s always something that could stop you – a birthday dinner, wedding or holiday. However, maybe starting when you’re going through a particularly stressful time at work or about to get married isn’t the best idea.
Just make sure that you’re going to be able to commit AT LEAST 12 weeks to figuring this thing out.
3. DOWNLOAD THE MONASH APP
Download the Monash low FODMAP app (you can find out more about it here)! This is the absolute best thing I did.
When I started the diet, I just had lists that I found on the internet of low FODMAP foods and high FODMAP foods. I thought that each food was either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ I hadn’t realised that portion size is SUCH a big factor with FODMAPs. Some foods are high FODMAP in any quantity but a huge range of foods are only high FODMAP at a certain portion size. This is brilliant because it massively expands the range of foods you can eat. However, I didn't realise this until I downloaded the Monash app a few weeks in!
Monash University actually developed the low FODMAP Diet, so they have the most up to date and trustworthy information on it. I would personally get rid of any other apps or lists of high/low FODMAP foods and just use this as your bible. It was mine and it 100% still is. It’s got a really comprehensive guide to the diet and traffic light ratings of a massive list of food items. It also tells you what portion sizes are low FODMAP, which is such a useful thing. I’m actually going to do a whole post just on this app and getting the most out of it.
However, for now, just download the app. It’s my low FODMAP bible and it will become yours too.
4. GET GUIDANCE FROM A FODMAP-TRAINED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
When I was diagnosed with IBS my doctor just told me to go away and Google the low FODMAP diet (read more about my story here). I then saw a dietician who clearly wasn’t trained in the diet and knew absolutely nothing about it. This made me realise the importance of getting guidance from somebody trained specifically in the low FODMAP diet. It’s such a complicated diet that you need to speak to someone who’s experienced in it, so they can really help you.
For me, that meant training myself in the diet by taking the Monash University dietician course. However, most people do not have the time or the inclination to do that so I’d highly recommend speaking to a dietician, nutritionist or health coach who has had specific training in the diet. It’s not worth wasting your money speaking with someone who hasn’t. Take it from someone who made that mistake!
Find a health professional trained in the low FODMAP diet to guide you.
5. MAKE A CLEAR PLAN
Setting out a clear plan for the elimination and reintroduction phases of the diet was so helpful for me. I geekily made a spreadsheet where I scheduled out everything, putting in test foods, quantities and test days. I also drew up a food diary that I had ready to record all of my food and symptoms in!
To be honest, planning is something that’s been a key factor in helping me stick to anything in my life. When I started scheduling in my exercise sessions on a weekly basis, I found it so much easier to stick to them. Having a clear plan for starting the low FODMAP diet helped me so much. By knowing what I was eating or testing each day and having a food diary ready to go, it eliminated the need to think about it every day. I just checked my plan and did what was on it.
6. ENLIST SUPPORT
Even if you’ve done all the things listed so far, starting the low FODMAP diet will be so much easier with support. It’s tough sometimes and you can really feel alone in it.
So, tell people what you’re doing. You may feel like nobody is interested or you’re embarrassed to talk about it. However, I’d encourage you to go for it. Talk to anyone you’re close to about what you'll be doing – your boyfriend, parents, best friend, sister, wife. If they know about what you’re doing, when you have a bad day, they’ll be there to pick you up. I couldn’t have done it without my fiancé's support. He’s probably bored to death of hearing about the low FODMAP diet (I think he’s happy I set up this site so I can stop going on at him about it) but knowing about it let him help me. He’d cook low FODMAP meals, choose FODMAP friendly restaurants when we went out and cheer me up when I had a bad day.
Also, speaking to friends about the diet helped me realise I wasn’t alone. I thought I must be the only one doing it and that nobody would have heard of the low FODMAP diet. I mentioned it sheepishly to a friend when we were out for dinner, as a way of explaining why I didn’t want garlic prawns. To my surprise, she said she was also doing the low FODMAP diet but wasn't going to say anything. If I hadn’t mentioned it, we never would’ve known we were going through the same thing. This friend is now a huge source of support and it’s so great to know we are not alone.
Share what you’re doing with those close to you so you don’t feel alone.
So, if you can do these 6 things, then you’ll have put yourself in a pretty good position for starting the low FODMAP diet. Yes, there’ll be setbacks and challenges along the way (there are with all things worth doing). However, if you’ve got all of these things in place, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up again and keep on going. From my experience, it really is worth it. Think of how great it will feel to finally be in control of your IBS; To know what your triggers are so you can feel comfortable and confident to live your life.
I hope this has helped you feel even slightly less overwhelmed by the thought of starting the low FODMAP diet.
6 TIPS FOR STARTING THE LOW FODMAP DIET - KEY TAKEAWAYS:
Get Clear on Your 'Why' - write down your 'why' and remind yourself of it every day
Make the Time - make sure that you can commit AT LEAST 12 weeks to figuring this thing out
Download the Monash App - just download the app. It will become your low FODMAP bible!
Get Guidance from a FODMAP-Trained Health Professional - find a health professional trained in the low FODMAP diet to guide you
Make a Clear Plan - plan out every phase of the diet so you know what you're doing each day. Get in touch with me if you’re struggling to make your own.
Enlist Support - share what you're doing with those close to you so you don't feel alone
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. I’d love to hear any questions or comments on it in the comments below.