Low FODMAP challenge, what have I learned?

Today seems like a good time to give you an update on my low FODMAP challenge. Having completed the elimination part of the plan I am now at the point of reintroducing foods back into my diet to see how they affect my symptoms.

It is fair to say that I have found the diet extremely challenging and if I were to do it again, I think I would approach things differently. I have an all or nothing personality and not only did I choose to give up FODMAP’s, or high FODMAP’s at least, but also Nightshades, so no tomatoes, chilies, peppers or white potatoes. As I had already given up dairy, gluten and soya this made my options very limited. I reasoned that if I noticed any improvements in my symptoms, it would be worth it.

Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed any real improvement and at times it has felt like my symptoms have deteriorated. This is not as unusual as it may sound, and my dietician forewarned me that the diet is only successful in 70-75% of patients. IBS is not always directly related to the foods that we eat, there can be other causes including stress and anxiety or prescription medication; both of which may be an issue for someone living with a chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia.

Another thing to factor into the equation is that although I generally watch what I eat, I am not in the habit of recording every meal that I have and monitoring how I feel throughout the day. So, in part it may also be that I am more mindful, or more conscious of how food affects me.

As previously mentioned, I have already determined that dairy, for me is a no-go and any time that I have dabbled with it I experienced more pain. This is normally felt as a chest pain and a very unpleasant tightness and inflammation around my rib cage. This is a condition called Costochondritis that I have had previously diagnosed by my doctor.

Soya, I can tolerate in small doses. As soya will often be the preferred alternative to dairy in many restaurants, café’s or coffee shops I manage to have the odd cappuccino or latte without any real consequences. I do however notice that sustained intake of soya does not bode well. Whilst on my recent holiday to Mauritius soya milk was the only non-dairy milk alternative available. After a few days of cereal, coffees, ice cream and even the odd milkshake I experienced a massive fibro flare which wiped me out completely. I cut out the soya and felt better almost overnight.

Gluten, however, has always been something that I was a little uncertain about. I know that many people find gluten difficult to digest and although they may not have an allergy or even an intolerance it can make them feel lethargic or lacking in energy. There is also a lot of research that suggests that people with fibromyalgia may develop a gluten sensitivity and that through following a gluten free diet many patients have experienced an improvement in their symptoms. Therefore, it made sense to me to eliminate it from my diet, even if it was purely to improve my energy levels.

Following advice from my GP, gluten was the first thing that I tried to reintroduce into my diet. I can now safely say that I do not cope well with gluten! Having reintroduced it over the course of 5 days my pain levels skyrocketed. I had days where I was so tired, I couldn’t move, and the brain fog hit new highs. Although delicious, the crumpets were not worth it!

Over the next few weeks I will reintroduce the healthy foods that I have missed so much and will monitor if I have a flareup in symptoms. I will always look out for and be open to new things that may help and improve my health and wellbeing. However, I can honestly say that this has been an exhausting and at times a really hard thing to put myself through, especially when trying to live with a chronic illness.

To end on a slightly more positive note, although I haven’t had any great revelations or noticed any real improvements, I can say that I have ticked that box and that the healthy, balanced diet that I followed previously was not making me feel any worse. It has also been useful to have a qualified dietician look at my diet and confirm that dietary wise, I am doing everything that I can. In many ways IBS is very similar to fibromyalgia in the sense that although it is possible to identify common triggers that may cause a flareup in symptoms this will be different for each individual and may change over time.

It is important to speak to a qualified dietician before starting any diet that eliminates certain food groups, to ensure that it is appropriate for you and that it is done safely. I had advice and support from both my GP and a registered dietician before, during and after completing the low FODMAP diet plan.

For more information about my experience on the low FODMAP challenge see:

For more information on the low FODMAP diet visit Kings College London or the Monash University website.

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