Can I tackle the low FODMAP diet on my own?
IBS can have a significant impact on people's lives. The low FODMAP diet can help, but can you do this alone? The low FODMAP diet is scientifically shown to improve symptoms in over 75% of sufferers. However, it can be tricky to negotiate alone. So the best results are seen when sufferers have expert advice and support from a dietitian who specialises in FODMAPs. A dietitian can help tailor the diet to that of the individual and therefore make it more manageable.
Impact on life
IBS isn't life threatening, but it can be debilitating and have a significant impact on the lives of sufferers and their families. People often report avoidance behaviour such as avoiding nights out, shopping and even holidays. It can also affect work life, with sufferers needing time off to manage their symptoms or visit their GP, but it also affects the way people work in avoiding meetings, starving to accommodate time out of the office or needing extra comfort breaks. In a current project, I’m running with NHS staff, I’ve found it significantly affects sickness absence.
Most patients have tried different types of medication, had numerous invasive and unpleasant (to say the least!) procedures and tried dietary changes themselves to try to find some relief from their IBS symptoms. Many have tried cutting whole food groups out of their diet and even gone veggie and vegan in an effort to identify trigger foods. Some, but few, have heard about the low FODMAP diet.
The low FODMAP diet
The low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet that helps to identify the triggers that cause the symptoms of IBS. The low FODMAP diet is ‘evidence-based’ and importantly, only a temporary diet. That means it’s not a faddy diet, but rather a treatment plan that is supported with a whole body of evidence. Usually, only two sessions are needed: the first to begin the low FODMAP diet and the second to begin the programme of reintroductions or food challenges to help identify trigger foods.
Expert help = better results
By trying the low FODMAP diet, the odds of success are really stacked in your favour, but your chances are really increased by seeking expert advice and support from an IBS dietitian trained in FODMAPs. Some patients try this alone but then stumble particularly at the reintroduction stage. Going it alone often means a very restrictive diet, but it doesn't have to be this way. Dietitians are trained to help translate the science into more practical ways to manage a dietary change. So under expert guidance, you can still enjoy many of the foods that usually make up your diet. But eliminating the high FODMAP foods, followed by a food challenge phase will help identify the triggers that result in symptoms.
Take back control
So, this diet can be life changing, but should only be followed for a short time. Once trigger foods have been identified, all the ‘safe foods’ can be reinstated back into the diet and those that triggered symptoms can be avoided or just eaten in small amounts. The low FODMAP diet helps patients regain their confidence, enables them to re-join social activities and even consider a long haul flight again! Maybe it’s time you took your IBS in hand and took back control. For help with the low FODMAP diet find a FODMAP-trained dietitian near you.
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About Debra Thomas
I am a multi-award winning Registered Dietitian with the Health Care Professions Council, a member of the British Dietetic Association and a listed member of the BDA's Freelance Dietitians Group. I have over 19 years' experience of advising on a range of therapeutic diets, but my area of expertise is the treatment of IBS using the low FODMAP diet.… Read more
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