The FODMAP elimination stage should last 4 to 8 weeks. Read the 3 key reasons why you should complete BOTH phases of the FODMAP diet and bring the foods that don’t trigger your symptoms back into your life.
When & how to reintroduce FODMAPs? (3 simple ways to know!)
When you start the FODMAP Diet, the goal is to hit the reset button on your body by eliminating as many high-FODMAP foods as possible.
But how do you know when it’s time move out of that restrictive phase and bring FODMAPs back into your diet? And how do you reintroduce FODMAPS?
It’s not about a certain period of time, and it’s definitely not about being 100% symptom-free.
Instead there are 3 specific factors that let you know when to test your FODMAP tolerance so you can eventually enjoy a whole lot more variety in your diet.
Keep reading to learn if it's time for YOU to test FODMAPs. Or watch this episode of Calm Belly TV to go even deeper. I cover the 3 factors in about the first 10 minutes, but if you’re not pressed for time there are some great Q&As from the live viewers!
Ready to challenge and reintroduce high-FODMAP foods?
(Watch the video or scroll down to read about the 3 factors!)
When is it time to reintroduce FODMAPs?
#1 You've seen consistent improvement in your IBS symptoms
- You don’t have experience 100% improvement in symptoms
- 75% improvement is awesome, 50% is still great
- At 50-75% improvement you feel well enough to easily recognize reactions to high-FODMAP foods when you test them
- If you do the elimination phase for 6 to 8 weeks, feeling that level of symptom relief for about a 4-week period qualifies as consistent
#2 You've identified other factors that affect your digestion
- Other factors include stress in all its forms, hormonal fluctuations, exercise level, the overall volume of food you eat, the timing of meals, or how fast you eat
- Your goal during the FODMAP testing phase is to keep your IBS symptoms as well-controlled as possible, so understanding those other factors is an important part of the elimination phase
- Becoming more aware of your body and what it needs (NOT a common skill!) is one of the great side effects of the elimination phase
#3 You have a black belt in taking FODMAPs out of your diet
In other words, you’re really good at doing the elimination phase, and you know what your body feels like when you have maximum symptom control (remember, that doesn't necessarily mean being symptom-free - see #1).
This is important so you can recognize reactions when you test high-FODMAP foods in the reintroduction phase.
Here’s what a black belt in FODMAP looks like:
- You know you’re not missing any hidden FODMAPs in your meals
- You understand how portion sizes impact FODMAP load
- You know where sneaky FODMAPs can hide in restaurant meals
- You’re good at checking ingredients lists
- You’re super-comfortable using the Monash app
- You’ve got plenty of tasty go-to meals and snacks
>>> All of the above means you’ll be able to easily test your FODMAP tolerance for those high-FODMAP foods without the stress of what to eat the rest of the time. It’s also a helpful skill because you can fall back on it during stressful times or health challenges that might come up in the future.
When you can check off the 3 items above, it’s time to move onto the reintroduction phase and test your personal tolerance to the various types of FODMAPs.
Most people with IBS can add certain high-FODMAP foods and categories back to their diets and still feel great. But the only way to know which FODMAPs are your friends is to test!
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Doing all the phases of the FODMAP Diet usually looks something like this:
- You learn about the FODMAP Diet (the short-term learning diet that helps you find your unique IBS triggers and control your symptoms) and start changing the way you eat
- You eventually get the hang of it, and your IBS symptoms improve
- You test high-FODMAP categories to find your personal tolerance levels
- Along the way, you learn a ton of valuable information about all the things that affect your digestion (both food and non-food factors)
- You’re more empowered when it comes to IBS than you’ve ever been.
This is awesome. But where do you go from here?
How do you know you’ve been successful? When are you actually finished?
The end goal of the FODMAP Diet is rarely explained. If it’s not supposed to be a lifetime diet, what should you be eating for the rest of your life?
Short answer: You should bring as many high-FODMAP foods back into your diet as you can while keeping your belly happy.
This is “your unique lifetime eating style.” It’s unique to your FODMAP tolerance levels (based on testing those various FODMAP categories) AND what you enjoy eating. For example:
- You may want to move toward a plant-based diet
- You might want your diet to fuel you for a fitness goal, like running a marathon
- You might want to get back to the family recipes and comfort foods you love, but modified to keep your belly happy
Today, I want to give you a simple framework to go from, “What’s next after to FODMAP,” to a lifetime eating style you love.
Your 4-Step Plan for Life After FODMAP
Step 1: Figure out our tolerance for all the high-FODMAP foods you’ve been missing
Testing each FODMAP category through the reintroduction process helps you determine your tolerance level for ALL the foods in that category, but how much should you eat?
Go through the Monash app. List out the high-FODMAP foods you can bring back into your diet and an estimated serving size based on your tolerance for that food’s category.
If you had a moderate tolerance for wheat and want to eat rye bread, start with one slice. If you have no issues, you might try two slices next time.
Do this with all the foods you love. You can take a casual approach, or add one new thing every other day. Soon, you’ll know the portion sizes that work, and you can start enjoying them regularly.
Step 2: Experiment with frequency
Now that you’ve brought back the foods that don’t trigger your IBS, it’s useful to understand how many high-FODMAP foods you can tolerate in a day or in single meal.
Do some experiments. If you have a moderate tolerance for wheat, can you eat toast at breakfast, half a sandwich at lunch, and a serving of pasta for dinner?
Step 3: Revisit other factors that impact digestion
At this point you’re regularly enjoying high-FODMAP foods in the amounts you can tolerate. If your IBS symptoms are fully in check, fabulous! If you have symptoms more than you’d like and can’t link them to a specific food, then take a look at other things that impact digestion.
For example, have you started eating larger portions? Are you skipping meals or eating late at night? Have you stopped exercising or moving as much throughout the day? Have you started a new medication or supplement that might be causing side effects?
Step 4: Take on a new health goal
The FODMAP Diet tends to be all encompassing. Giving it your focus likely helped you succeed, but that probably forced you to put everything else on the back burner.
The momentum you’ve built by taking control of IBS puts you in the perfect position to tackle a health goal you’ve put on hold for months, maybe even years.
Do you want to finally get to your happy weight? Kick sugar? Go vegetarian? Keep refining your lifetime eating style? Now's the time to go for it!
If you're ready to create your lifetime eating style or tackle a NEW health goal ASAP, let me save you time with my group program Free To Eat. You'll get the support and guidance you need to stop stressing over every bite and START enjoying food again.