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!
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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!