FODMAP Diet FAQs Part 3: How long until I'm symptom-free?

FODMAP Diet FAQs Part 3: How long until I'm symptom-free?

In part 3 of the FODMAP Diet Frequently Asked Questions series, I'll answer the common concern, "When will I start feeling better on the FODMAP diet?" If you're in the elimination phase, this can be a real struggle, and the answer might surprise you. I'll also explain the related problem of feeling even worse when you first begin doing the FODMAP elimination diet. Click through to watch the video or read the key points now!

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Welcome to Part 3 of the FODMAP Diet Frequently Asked Questions Series!

Here are the other parts of the FODMAP FAQ series:

Part One: Eating at Restaurants and No-FODMAP vs. Low-FODMAP

Part Two: Easy Workday Lunches

Today in Part Three, I'm answering a two-part question that comes up a lot, especially when you're just getting started with the FODMAP diet:

  • How long does it take until I'm symptom free?
  • I feel worse on the low-FODMAP diet...what is going on?

You can hear my thoughts in the 5.5-minute video, or read the key points below.

FAQ Part 1: How long does it take until I'm symptom free?

Short answer: It takes as long as it takes (to put it bluntly!). But what I hear most often is that it takes 2 to 4 weeks before people see a noticeable improvement.

I often hear that people with IBS-D (diarrhea) get symptom relief faster than those with IBS-C (constipation), so that may be a factor in how long it takes for you.

If you've done the elimination phase for 2 to 4 weeks, with no changes, here are some possible explanations:

  • You're overlooking high-FODMAP foods and/or serving sizes in your diet. I recommend using the Monash app as the easiest, most reliable source for keeping track of this stuff.
  • I often say that one restaurant meal won't ruin everything, but when you're doing the elimination phase you want to minimize FODMAPs in your diet as much as possible. So, if you're "cheating," or going out to eat, or having cake for dinner (It's been quite a few years, but I have definitely done this.) every 3 or 4 days, your body won't have a chance to experience life without FODMAPs. This is important because your goal is to find out if eating low-FODMAP truly improves our symptoms or not.
  • It might take a few weeks to get into the groove. The FODMAP diet is really complicated and for a lot of us, me included, it's going to take some time to change our whole way of eating, cooking and shopping for food. You might need to spend a couple weeks learning what to buy at the supermarket and coming up with those go-to meals (My Free 7-Day FODMAP Cleanse is great for that!). So, if the elimination phase takes you 8 weeks instead of 4 because you eased into it, that's more than okay.

If you've done the elimination phase as efficiently as possible for at least 4 weeks and you're not seeing improvements, you might have an issue that's not related to FODMAPs.

FAQ Part 2: I feel worse on the low-FODMAP diet...what is going on?

Some people feel worse in the beginning, and there could be a lot of different reasons for this. All the things mentioned above could be factors.

Another big one is stress. You might be stressed about whether or not you're eating the right foods. It doesn't matter where the stress comes from; it can have a real effect on our digestion.

It could be a small thing like drinking a diet soda everyday. It might not contain FODMAPs, but the carbonation can cause bloating and mess with your gut.

People often ask if fiber is a factor--it might be. The low-FODMAP diet is very healthy, so you might be getting more fiber than your system is used to. Whether you're getting too much or not enough, try to add it in slowly so your body doesn't get overwhelmed.

Whatever you're experiencing, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or the medical pro advising you. If something doesn't seem right, it's better to figure it out sooner rather than later!

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