My three month blogging hiatus is over (yay!) and I’m finally ready to answer the FODMAP question. Namely, what are FODMAPs and why should I care? The short answer? You shouldn’t. Unless your gut says that you should, of course. (Yes, that was a digestion pun. You know you liked it … er…ate it up.)
(I sincerely apologize for the above.)
Anyway, FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are present in grains, veggies, fruits, and dairy at different levels. They are fermented by your gut bacteria, which uses them as food. In individuals who have an overabundance of gut bacteria – or bacteria in the wrong place (as with SIBO, when there is too much gut bacteria in the small intestine) – eating a diet high in FODMAPs can cause all sorts of digestive distress.
My journey with FODMAPs started about a year ago, when my doctor suggested that I try the FODMAP elimination diet for six weeks and see if it made a difference for me. I only lasted two weeks – but that was enough to see a huge reduction in my primary symptom (looking pregnant). After the FODMAP elimination diet, I was supposed to gradually try to reintroduce FODMAPs one by one, since there are several different types and people don’t typically react to all of them. But I couldn’t handle the idea of staying on the diet for long enough to gradually reintroduce foods, and instead just tried to reduce my overall FODMAP consumption, eating low FODMAP some days and then whatever I wanted other days (not a plan that was condoned by my doctor). Then, just before my wedding, a different doctor suggested that I get tested for SIBO, a condition where too much gut bacteria ends up in the small intestine (your gut bacteria is supposed to primarily reside in the large intestine!) Not wanting to impose any new dietary restrictions on myself before the wedding, or mess up my summer trip to Italy, I ended up waiting until the fall to get the test. The result was – surprise, surprise – positive for SIBO.
The SIBO diagnosis meant a strict low FODMAP diet, at least for a while. (Note that a low FODMAP diet is not intended to be adopted permanently; once the SIBO clears – generally with antibiotics or herbs – people can usually eat a much more varied diet embracing many high FODMAP foods, although it’s still important to be conscious of your carb/fiber intake in order to prevent recurrence.) Since being vegetarian on a low FODMAP diet and still getting enough protein/nutrients is far from easy (tips on that coming soon!) I took a break from blogging so I could focus exclusively on keeping myself healthy.
I’m happy to report that what began as an almost impossible diet has gotten considerably easier and has caused me to grow as a chef and recipe developer. If it weren’t for the new “Low FODMAP” tag and the noticeable absence of onion and garlic on the ingredients list of some of my upcoming savory recipes, you probably wouldn’t even notice a change. (Btw, while onion and garlic – both high FODMAP foods – are probably my two favorite things to cook with, it is empowering to be able to create flavorful recipes without relying on them. And any onion/garlic free recipe you see on this site is easy enough to “normalize” by simple adding in some onion/garlic if you wish!) Also, even though I’m still undergoing treatment for SIBO, I do have the green light to start the FODMAP reintroduction process, where you systematically test FODMAP foods one by one and see what you can currently tolerate.
So I’m back. And even though my blog name might be slightly ironic right now (onions haven’t smiled at me in a while) I hope you’ll stick with me. I’ll occasionally be sharing tips for cooking and meal planning on a low FODMAP diet (gotta help out my fellow low FODMAP vegetarians!) but for the most part, I’ll be focusing on the food. Food that is designed for all of you, FODMAP-conscious or not.