I don’t like the term ‘diet’ – to me that word conjures up thoughts of being punished or restricted, which isn’t an aspiration for me. I want to have my occasional crunchie bars AND my tender-stem broccoli – but sometimes it pays to listen to your gut (something I didn’t do until recently).
One of the hardest things about waiting to be diagnosed with UC (Ulcerative Colitis) was spending months being scared of eating food because I didn’t know whether it would give me twisting, throbbing, period-like pains right in the bottom of my tummy a few hours later. It verged on becoming an eating disorder (or what I imagine an eating disorder to feel like) and my weight soon began to plummet. Then a colleague mentioned FODMAP, and she told me it had literally ‘saved her life’, and cured her IBS symptoms. I was fairly convinced at the time that what I had was also likely to be IBS, so I thought this would be a good option to try.
*Incidentally I have UC and stress induced IBS (lucky me).
The low FODMAP diet was developed in 1999 by Dr Sue Shepherd, and focuses on reducing the intake of foods which contain naturally occurring sugars and acids which ferment with the bacteria in the large intestine (as far as I can gather) and reduce the bloating, painful effects of IBS (which up to 15% of the population suffers with – perhaps unknowingly).
But this ‘diet’ isn’t like any other, as explained in the following good and bad food examples:
- Coconut milk
These are just three very random examples, but as you can see the list of good and bad is not what you’d expect from a stereotypical diet. This is because the list isn’t ruled by calories or fats – its more closely linked to the potential for those foods to ferment in your large intestines and cause you problems.
I cut out the following things from my diet with immediate effect:
- Garlic (I swapped this for garlic infused oil when cooking my spag bol)
- Onions (I cut these out initially but actually found they didn’t cause me any problems particularly so re-introduced them in smaller quantities)
- Apples and apple juice
- Deep fried foods
- Fizzy drinks (I swapped this for sparkling water mixed with fruit cordial)
- Sugar (easier said than done on this one but I tried to reduce my intake where possible)
Your gut/bowels are totally personal to you, so the reason the FODMAP diet is great (in my opinion), is that it helps you to identify the foods which cause your system issues specifically – and enables you to try cutting them out.
Medically speaking, I was told that there are no proven links between UC flare ups and the specific kinds of foods you eat, but its safe to assume a healthy salad would be milder on your gut than a KFC Bargain Bucket – much to my disappointment.
Sometimes with UC you can feel like you’re totally at the mercy of your tummy, but I found that by experimenting with the list of good and bad FODMAP foods – I was able to regain some control, and when I did get into remission I also relaxed the FODMAP diet a little to allow me that odd glass of prosecco, or to have a Friday night fish&chip session because…
My recommended FODMAP diet cookbooks: