IBS and the Low-FODMAP Diet
Although it's to blame for about half of all intestinal complaints, IBS is a condition that often goes undiagnosed. Since April is IBS Awareness Month, I thought it was the perfect time to share my experience working to heal patients who suffer from the symptoms of IBS. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I've helped a client figure out why they feel the way they do and that I've been able to set them on the path to fixing it.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt this good.”
Is there anything better a client could say to her nutrition coach? Music to my ears.
When I began working with this particular client, a mom and executive, busy keeping up with the fast pace of living and working in New York City, she was having some pretty uncomfortable and very inconvenient gastrointestinal issues. Abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, frequent constipation. She wasn’t sure what was causing it. She just knew it was no fun at all.
By the time she came to me, she was frustrated. She was “doing everything right,” eating a super healthy diet that included lots of veggies, fruit, nuts, and healthy fats, and had recently transitioned to a pescatarian diet. After speaking with her at length about her lifestyle, her eating habits, and her symptoms, I had a hunch.
“Have you ever heard of IBS?” I asked her. “I think that could be the beginning of our answer.”
WHAT IS IBS?
Affecting more than 10% of adults in America, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal disorder. While symptoms may vary, people with IBS tend to experience some combination of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, and even headaches and anxiety.
The bad news for those suffering from IBS is that researchers are not sure what, exactly, causes IBS, and worse, that there is no definitive cure for it. The good news? For many people suffering from IBS, finding relief from symptoms is often as “simple” as changing up their diet.
I say "simple," because the truth is, some things sound much easier in principle than in practice, and altering your diet, sometimes dramatically, even to alleviate some pretty fierce stomach issues, is one of them.
But you don’t have to do it alone. I have had some absolutely incredible results helping clients to zero in on an eating routine that will help relieve their symptoms and to incorporate that routine successfully into their daily lives so they can continue to feel symptom-free in the long term.
My secret weapon: a Low-FODMAP diet.
WHAT'S A FODMAP?
FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, a group of simple and complex carbohydrates found in milk, wheat, and some varieties of fruits, veggies, and legumes that are poorly absorbed by the body. Because they are not broken down and absorbed properly, they can draw fluid into the intestines, causing bloating, cramps, and pain.
So, when I had my first session with this client, she walked me through her super healthy diet. I noted, though, that apples, garlic, cashews, and a bunch of other veggies and legumes factored prominently into what she ate in a given week. And these are all high-FODMAP foods. I knew I was onto something!
I created a personalized elimination diet for her to remove the most common “bad foods” (I’m looking at you, gluten and dairy!) and also those considered super healthy for most people, but high in FODMAPs and extremely inflammatory for someone suffering from IBS (think garlic, cauliflower, honey, apples, nuts, and more). We replaced them with low-FODMAP foods (sweet potatoes, lean protein, zucchini, strawberries, brown rice).
As difficult as it was for her at first, she stuck with it. And as soon as she began to feel better, she said keeping it up became easy. After about two months, we began to gradually reintroduce foods one at a time and tracking how she was feeling and any discomfort she was experiencing, in order to really zero in which foods were her triggers, and how much, if any of them, her body could tolerate.
This, to me, is the beauty of bio-individuality and what I do. One person’s food is another person’s poison, and it’s my job to figure it out and provide them with a roadmap to navigate around them.
The results are, of course, the best reward. This client emerged from this “learning diet” feeling better than she could ever remember feeling. Goodbye chronic bloating, cramps, tummy discomfort, migraines, and almost 20 pounds…hello clear skin, more energy, and freedom!
If you are suffering from IBS, or if some of the symptoms I described earlier sound all too familiar, you do not have to live that way. Working with a nutrition coach like myself to figure out which foods may be triggering your IBS symptoms, and coming up with a low-FODMAP plan to help you feel a whole lot better, is worth the short-term sacrifice for all that you stand to gain going forward.
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT IBS AND HOW YOUR DIET MAY BE AFFECTING HOW YOU FEEL? SCHEDULE a 20-minute complimentary Discovery Call with me.
Check out one of my favorite low-FODMAP recipes here.