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.
Top 5 Tips for FODMAP Reintroduction
It’s frustrating when you work really hard only to realize later that you were operating WITHOUT all the necessary information, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, I see this all too often when it comes to the FODMAP Diet.
When I ask people in the CBK community what their biggest challenges are, I hear things like:
When I finally realized X…
When I started doing Y…
Psst! If you’re ready to get started, click here to receive my complete FODMAP reintroduction plan, checklist and food tracker.
While I believe it's important to cover what not to do, it's even more important to know what you SHOULD be doing to make the process as smooth as possible. That's why the goal for this post is to give you my top tips that'll make your life easier AND prevent you from falling victim to the most common reintroduction pitfalls.
Study these tips, especially if you’re just getting ready to start FODMAP reintroduction.
And if you'd rather watch, I talked through these tips on a recent edition of Calm Belly TV. (Click here to subscribe to CBK on YouTube and watch past videos!)
If you follow them from the very beginning, you won’t look back later and think, “If only I’d known…”
Top 5 Tips for FODMAP Reintroduction
#1 Choose test foods that contain only one type of FODMAP.
You do NOT need to test every high-FODMAP food under the sun--Instead, you’ll choose one test food from each FODMAP category. Your response to these test foods will be an indicator of your general tolerance for that category. Cool, right?
For example, honey is a good test food because it only contains fructose. Apples are not because they contain both fructose and polyols.
Use the Monash app to determine your test foods. Whenever possible, choose a test food you enjoy and want to add back to your diet!
Need a list of high-FODMAP foods organized by category? Just click here and we’ll send it directly to your inbox free!
#2 Continue to eat a low-FODMAP diet throughout the reintroduction process.
This ensures that you’re collecting the most accurate data about your FODMAP tolerance levels as possible.
Wait until you’re done testing all the FODMAP categories to permanently bring back the high-FODMAP foods you DO tolerate.
Not sure if you’re ready to reintroduce FODMAPs? Read this post that covers 3 simple ways you know it’s time.
#3 Track your data.
It’s helpful (but not required) to track all your food because it keeps you focused on maintaining a low-FODMAP Diet.
If you’d rather not track everything, you must track your test foods/amounts and any symptoms. You’ll use all this data as your guide when you start bringing other high-FODMAP foods back into your diet.
Choose whatever tracking method you’ll use consistently. A spreadsheet, notebook, Word doc, the MySymptoms app, or the My Fitness Pal app are all great options.
#4 Wait 24 to 48 hours before increasing the serving amount of your test food OR testing a new FODMAP category.
Symptoms can happen as late as 48 hours after eating a high-FODMAP food, so this ensures no lingering symptoms interfere with your next test.
As you get comfortable with the testing process, you’ll learn when symptoms typically show up, if you get any symptoms at all. Remember, you might discover one or more FODMAP groups that you tolerate really well!
#5 Make the testing process flexible.
If you have an event where you're unable to avoid high-FODMAP foods, take a break from testing and continue as soon as any symptoms resolve.
Pause your testing for vacations or holidays.
Plan it to fit around a busy work week or other commitments.
If you’re ready to get started, click below to get my complete reintroduction checklist. It’s what I use to make sure my clients are successful from day one. You’ll also get my reintroduction planner and tracker to help you get AND stay organized.
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!
Ready For the Next Step?
If you're ready to create your lifetime eating style or tackle a NEW health goal ASAP, save time and get valuable support in Calm Belly Club, our members-only online community. As a member, you get access to Free To Eat, my comprehensive guide to the reintroduction phase!
During a group coaching session recently, one of my awesome clients asked if I had a great low-FODMAP pizza recipe that wouldn't trigger her IBS symptoms. I said no because I only use ONE recipe: my favorite classic, chewy-crispy, stone-fired pizza dough.
“So what gluten-free flour do you use?” Another client asked.
When I clarified that I use regular all-purpose wheat flour for my pizza, minds were blown.
In that moment a light-bulb went on in my head: No one talks about life AFTER the FODMAP Diet.
You might not know you can bring certain high-FODMAP foods back into your life because nobody bothered to explain it.
You might know about avoiding high-FODMAP food and testing FODMAPs (i.e. the Reintroduction Phase), but what about the end goal of this process?
To put it plainly, less FODMAPs = less IBS symptoms isn’t the full story. The end goal is to eat some pizza, or crisp apples, or ice cream - or whatever food you’ve loved and lost!
The end goal isn’t to restrict all high-FODMAP foods forever. The goal is learning your unique triggers for your IBS symptoms.
When you know your personal triggers and tolerance levels, you can...
Bring back high-FODMAP foods that don’t cause your stomach issues
Know what portions of high-FODMAP foods trigger your symptoms, and eat smaller amounts of those
Stop avoiding “natural flavors” in foods that might have a tiny amount of onion or garlic
Go to restaurants and not shy away from every bit of wheat and lactose on the menu
Choose what you’ll eat based on solid knowledge of how food affects your body, instead of guessing and fearing the consequences
For me, this means my favorite pizza is back in my life - I learned wheat doesn’t trigger my IBS symptoms. Here’s what it means for some of my clients…
Testing FODMAPs and learning their personal triggers is how these ladies went from anxiety and restriction to having fun eating again.
And it doesn’t take tons of time or willpower to test FODMAPs. The key is to create your testing plan, set a date, and track your results.
In case you missed it, I designed a tool to make this quick and simple. Click here to get the FREE Reintro Checklist and Tracker for the FODMAP Challenge Phase!
Avoiding every high-FODMAP food 24/7 is good when you use it for a purpose: Learning about your body and giving it a clean slate. Kind of like hitting the reset button.
But if you’re doing it with no purpose or end goal, you’re depriving yourself of a huge variety of food when it’s not necessary.
Going through the process and testing the different FODMAP categories is worth it because of what you get in the end: You know what triggers your IBS and what doesn’t so you’re free to eat without fear.
It can feel like discovering the FODMAP diet is what changes your life, but it’s not.
Knowing your triggers is what changes your life - It breaks you out of food jail and leads you to freedom. And if freedom looks like pizza to you, you owe it to yourself to find out.
Leave a comment and tell me what you want your life to look like after FODMAP! Is the thought of eating high-FODMAP foods again blowing your mind? (and if you just want my pizza recipe, don’t hesitate to ask!)
You’re Missing Out on Delicious Food (here’s how to enjoy eating - even with IBS)
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When you take away high-FODMAP foods and get relief from your IBS symptoms, it feels pretty amazing.
You work hard to eliminate every possible FODMAP ingredient from your plate so you can keep feeling good.
You avoid going to restaurants whenever possible and turn down social meals.
You’re good at planning and cooking your own food, but the effort is exhausting and you wish you could just pick up pizza once in awhile.
It seems like you can count your “safe” foods on two hands, and stressing over every bite is wearing you down (or making you want to binge on Mexican).
Right now you’re missing out on delicious food, and you don’t need to be.
There’s a way out of this lonely, hungry place and it’s all about finding your unique IBS triggers.
I’m here to tell you finding your triggers isn’t as difficult as you might think. It’s even a little fun, especially with this handy tool I created to help you along the way!
Ready to challenge and reintroduce high-FODMAP foods?
Why Test High-FODMAP Foods?
You need to test FODMAPs for three reasons:
Right now you know you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, but you don’t know which ones
There’s a very good chance you can eat some high-FODMAP foods and still keep your symptoms in check - one study found only 33% of people with IBS are sensitive to fructose
You’ll be able to have much more variety in your diet which is important for gut health...but also important for living life and enjoying eating again
Who Should Test FODMAPs?
You're ready to start the testing process (a.k.a. the Reintroduction Phase) if…
You saw an improvement in your symptoms when you eliminated FODMAPS
You discovered the other factors that contribute to your IBS symptoms (stress, sleep, hormones, etc.) during the elimination process - and learned how to handle them
If those statements describe you, you’re ready to bring back FODMAPs and learn your unique triggers!
Through the Elimination Phase you gave your body a clean slate. Now it’s time to learn what FODMAPs are the culprits for YOU specifically - and which ones can be part of your life again.
The #1 Tool You Need to Test FODMAPs
When I coach people through FODMAP testing, we approach it like an experiment - You’re collecting data about your body in an organized process.
In the end, you use all this awesome info to create your unique lifetime eating style so you can stop policing every bite and start enjoying food again.
Having a simple tool to track your food testing results is essential. Why?
It lets you see patterns in how your body reacts to different FODMAPs.
It clearly shows you how long it takes for symptoms to pop up - many people notice that it takes 1 to 2 days. This info is gold!
For every FODMAP category you test, you’ll start with a very small serving (so you’re never blindsided by major symptoms) and work your way up to a large serving.
As you go through the process you need to track the following:
The test food and its FODMAP category
Any symptoms you experience up to 48 hours (depending on your body) after testing
You already know that FODMAP testing is the way to more food freedom - but it can be overwhelming, so I created a free Test Food Tracker that you can download and get started as soon as today!
It’s the same tool I use in my program Free To Eat, which guides you through the FODMAP reintroduction phase (Become a member of Calm Belly Club to get access to this program!).
This Tracker is a workbook that you can fill out on your computer (just save it to your device and you’ll be able to type into it), or print it out and write on it!
As an extra bonus, I added a cover page that helps you design your personalized testing plan. There’s also a place to fill in your start date - Put it on your calendar and commit to it.
Remember, it’s not healthy (for your body or your social life) to stay in a strict elimination diet for more than a few weeks. More importantly, it’s not necessary!
Download the free Test Food Tracker and start planning. If I’d never learned my unique IBS triggers, I wouldn’t have known it was okay to eat my favorite pizza dough again - wheat is NOT one of my trigger foods.
Having more freedom and less stress in my diet was totally worth the effort, and that’s what I want for you too!
Top 3 Mistakes When Reintroducing FODMAPs
Most of my health coaching clients are fearful of mistakes when they first get started with the FODMAP Diet and take food away (aka the Elimination Phase or FODMAP Challenge Phase).
While this first part of the diet takes some getting used to, I see more mistakes happen in the crucial testing process (bringing foods back in to find out what you can eat and still keep your IBS in check).
If you've come up against any of the snafus listed below during your elimination, don't feel bad! This FODMAP challenge phase has a learning curve, but it shouldn't take a PhD in food science and the steely resolve of a navy S.E.A.L. to get your FODMAP situation sorted.
So to de-mystify this whole process, I want to dig into the biggest mistakes I've seen and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Getting hung up on the details
Sure, it’s okay to have questions (I guarantee you’ll have questions!) about the testing FODMAPs, but don’t spend too much time thinking about every little thing you could do wrong.
Not eating the correct amount of a test food - The amounts are guidelines, so you don’t have to measure down to the gram. If you’re testing ¼ cup of onion, yes it’s okay to use 1 cup of onion in a big ‘ol stir fry and eat about one-fourth of it.
Raw or cooked? Canned or fresh? - It depends on the food, but whatever you choose to test with, be consistent. If you’re testing lactose, don’t have yogurt one day and drink milk the next.
What if I don’t like the test food? - You’ve never eaten a mango in your life and you don’t plan to start now. That’s okay, but you’re not testing mango, you’re testing fructose. (If that just blew your mind, stick with me.) Mango is a great test food because it contains high levels of fructose and no other FODMAPs. Your reaction tells you if your belly gives fructose the thumbs up - or not so much.
Mistake #2: Giving up too soon
What happens if you test a high-FODMAP food and the results don’t make sense? There are lots of possible reasons for this (work stress, anxiety about symptoms, your period, other foods...). If this happens, you haven’t hit a brick wall - you can just retest it.
This is a part of the testing process that doesn’t get talked about much! Don’t worry, most of my clients don’t test foods multiple times. But once in awhile your symptoms go wonky - maybe your belly rumbled like crazy after a smidge of garlic, but you had no issues when you indulged in a big scoop of garlic-y marinara sauce.
If the data doesn’t add up, it’s not a danger sign that you should give up and abandon garlic forever. You either test again right away, wait till later, or even try another test food in the same FODMAP group. Easy!
Ready for FODMAP Reintroduction? Grab your free checklist and tracker!
Mistake #3: Expecting an instant reaction
You might have symptoms within a couple hours of eating a test food.
Bloating can happen relatively quickly. But diarrhea or constipation may not hit you for 24 to 48 hours, since gut transit times are different for everyone.
If you test honey and feel great the rest of the day, you’re in the clear, right? Maybe. You may have read that it’s wise to test a high-FODMAP food on consecutive days, but I've seen better results for my clients when you give it more time and keep track of how YOUR unique IBS symptoms tend to play out. Moral of the story: Listen to your body.
This happens BEFORE you even get started, so I'm calling it a "bonus," and this is it: Waiting until you’re symptom-free to start finding your IBS triggers. This might turn out to be the most important thing you take away:
It’s okay to test FODMAPs even if you have IBS issues occasionally. Most people do NOT have all their symptoms disappear completely even when they avoid FODMAP foods 24/7. So how do you know if the food you’re testing is causing symptoms or if it’s something else entirely?
The answer is that you’ll figure it out as you go. Just like you identified IBS culprits and learned to manage them when you first got started, you’ll see how your body reacts when high-FODMAP foods set you off.
The only way to learn to ride a bike is to hop on and pedal. Same’s true for testing FODMAPs.
The effort is worth it because of what you get in the end: You know what you CAN eat and what to avoid so you can stop policing every bite and start enjoying food again!
What can you order at a Chinese restaurant on the low-FODMAP diet? Read a quick summary of good menu options, and learn about why these are your best bets.
Client Success Story: Reintroducing FODMAPs and Training for a Half-Marathon
I read health and fitness magazines for new workout ideas, but my favorite articles are always the reader success stories. Workout advice is great, but I gain so much more insight from seeing that Jane Jones from Seattle does 30 minutes of interval training 3 times a week.
That’s why I’m so excited to share the success story of one of my FODMAP Coaching clients with you! Her story shows what life ACTUALLY looks like when you reintroduce FODMAPs, even with a lot of work and life commitments.
AND that you don’t have to eat a boring, depressing diet (kale and rice I’m looking at you). Suzy tried new saucy Asian stir fries and experimented with polenta so she never got bored. But that's getting ahead of ourselves!
Suzy did my Reintroduction Roadtrip 1-on-1 coaching program earlier this year. For 6 months, she’d been living on mostly water and air (okay, it was more like basic salads with olive oil and lemon) in the elimination phase.
She loved not being bloated and constipated, but knew she couldn’t go on like this forever. She wanted to get back to cooking meals both she AND her husband wanted to eat. Read her Behind the Belly story!
Suzy Remmert lives near Austin, Texas, and works in a salon/boutique. Suzy was in the middle of training for a half marathon with her husband. It was going to be her first one, and she and needed her belly to be calm and fueled up not only for training, but for race day!
Combine her high-protein needs with her limited food groups and she stuck in an unappetizing rut.
Even though cutting all the high-FODMAP foods - garlic, onion, beans, dairy - tamed the IBS beast, she thought she’d be stuck on...
A) A joyless diet FOREVER
B) Randomly testing high-FODMAP foods out of boredom and risking her health
C) Not being able to hit her physical goals because of poor diet
Being stuck in the elimination phase didn’t feel like much of a win, but Suzy didn’t have hours or days to spend becoming an expert on the reintro phase. And she definitely didn’t want to jeopardize all the race training she was doing.
Key results Suzy was looking for:
Finally figure out what foods were making her bloated and constipated.
Be able to have fun at social events and enjoy her workouts without feeling like crap.
Go out to dinner and enjoy it fully since she knows what and how much to eat.
Let’s hear the scoop from Suzy!
Julie: Where were you in the FODMAP diet process when you started working with me?
Suzy: I had been doing the elimination diet for 6 months, feeling frustrated and so defeated and alone.
Julie: What made you decide to work with a FODMAP coach?
Suzy: I had seen several dietitians and none of them were knowledgeable with the FODMAP diet or had been able to help me at all. I was literally at my wits end.
Julie: What did you hope to accomplish through coaching?
Suzy: To find out how to reintroduce foods correctly with as little discomfort as possible. Also, to get more recipes and have more selections and not feel so deprived.
Julie: How did coaching make the reintroduction process easier?
Suzy: By walking me through step by step and explaining the process. Also, I would not have known that after testing a food and having no symptoms that I still needed to keep it out of my diet till I was completely done with reintroduction.
Julie: Now that you're done with coaching, how is your life different?
Suzy: I feel so much better tummy wise, but also emotionally. I feel more confident with my food choices, and that I do have control in feeling better. I have a ton of recipes to chose from and I feel more confident in the kitchen.
Julie: What would you say to anyone considering coaching?
Suzy: I definitely think [FODMAP] coaching is worth every penny. The Fodmap diet is extremely confusing and overwhelming, having someone that understood it and was able to guide and educate me through it made all the difference in the world.
Here’s how Suzy summed it up in a post in the Calm Belly Kitchen Facebook group:
Suzy got the exact results she wanted from her time together with me and you can too. It doesn’t matter if you’re a foodie who loves Italian or a Triathlete who needs protein, I’ll make sure you, your belly, and your kitchen are all working together.
What life is like after:
Learn what FODMAPs trigger your symptoms and in what portions so you can go back to eating the ones that don’t.
Eat at restaurants and social events without monitoring the distance between you and a bathroom at all times.
Stop spending a fortune on “special” food because everything else contain “less than 2% natural flavors” (translation: probably garlic).
Be able to travel to exotic places and eat on the road without stress (and if you’ll be traveling during the reintro phase, we can make that work!).