Food & Recipes

My ‘Flexible’ Low FODMAP Diet

Here we go – the nutrition student is finally showcasing what she eats in a day! I primarily focus on eating foods that will not exacerbate my IBS symptoms after consumed, yet provide me with enough energy for my long and active days. I don’t count calories nor do I count macros, I just honestly listen to my body and follow my cravings (healthily of course). I’ve previously jumped from diet to diet – vegan, vegetarian, only eating chicken as a meat etc. considering my IBS-symptoms but have now adopted a diet that follows the low FODMAP scheme to test if it does indeed decrease my symptoms.

What is a FODMAP diet you may ask?

Well essentially, some carbohydrates fall under a category called ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols’. These are sugars and are commonly known as fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides, lactose, excess fructose and polyols. Unfortunately, people with IBS-like symptoms need to reduce the intake of these sugars as they are not absorbed in the small intestine but pass through to the colon instead where they are fermented by bacteria. This can cause those not-so-nice symptoms such as gas, pain and bloating. This is more common in people susceptible to IBS-like symptoms so some people may never experience them (count yourself lucky!).

The FODMAP diet follows the principle that excluding these foods from your diet for six-eight weeks will gradually reduce the intolerances. Thus, you can then start reintroducing them into your diet. Despite this, some foods may still trigger these unsightly symptoms and this may mean that you are in fact intolerant to them. For those six-eight weeks of restriction, you eat these foods in exact minimal portions that maintain ‘low FODMAP’ and instead eat more of low FODMAP foods. Unfortunately, the low FODMAP cannot be followed long-term as some of these high FODMAP foods are essential to your wellbeing.

Some high FODMAP foods and their components may include:

  • Barley – Fructans
  • Chickpeas – Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Watermelon – Excess Fructose
  • Mushrooms – Polyols
  • Icecream – Lactose

The low FODMAP diet is regularly used in practices to reduce digestive issues and is also known as an ‘elimination diet’.

Well wait… what is IBS?

If you haven’t heard the term IBS before, the term stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Common digestive problems fall under this disorder so it stands as a broad term. Symptoms can include bloating, pain, diarrhoea and passing wind. The most common causes are foods intolerances, weak intestinal muscle contractions, inflammation and changes in your microflora in your gut (an imbalance of more bad than good bacteria). These symptoms can be triggered by numerous factors, including hormonal changes, stress and the foods that you consume. Unfortunately, IBS is chronic and so has to be managed through some life changes, hence why the low FODMAP diet is often introduced.

An example of What I eat in a Day

So following the concept of a low FODMAP diet, I try and adopt a diet following the above principles. I eat gluten-free, lactose-free and pescatarian. Additionally, I avoid eating sugar as I can and go for eating more low FODMAP vegetables instead. For good digestion, this is generally what I follow on a daily basis, along with some examples of meals I prepare:

Pre-Breakfast

  1. Try and drink water or tea 20 – 30 minimum before you eat

Although good to drink water if you are trying to lose weight or just for your general health, it is best to drink it at least 20 minutes minimum before you eat. Water can make you feel fuller if losing weight is your aim but it dilutes your digestive enzymes and juices before you eat – which is NOT ideal if you suffer from IBS symptoms! You want those enzymes and juices to be highly concentrated so that food is broken down in the correct manner and that it ensures no delayed digestion which can cause the negative symptoms.  Similarly, wait 20-30 minutes after you eat to allow a smooth digestion of your food.

2.  Apple Cider Vinegar, Tumeric and Lemon Detox Drink

I try and always have this drink before I eat. The turmeric soothes my stomach if it is inflamed from the night if I have eaten something that has caused my symptoms to flare. This is because this amazing spice is inflammatory. In addition, the turmeric supports to clear my skin (seriously, add this to everything you eat). The lemon contains a potent amount of Vitamin C which helps boost my immunity which I always need as a student (turmeric does this too-amazing right?!). Furthermore, the lemon encourages a healthy flush of toxins from your body and rehydrates you. Apple Cider Vinegar also provides some amazing benefits – some including killing the overgrowth of the bacteria in your stomach, regulating your body’s pH and supporting healthy weight loss and your metabolism. I really do notice a difference in my stomach and skin if I do not drink this every morning as I feel I benefit from the detoxifying effects.

3. Take a Digestive Enzyme Supplement 5-10 minutes before your meals

This is more of a precautionary measure to ensure that my body is digesting the food that I am giving it and easing the stress off my body that may cause it to inflame more. I am receiving more enzymes that can break the food down more, reducing the worse of my IBS symptoms. Digestive Enzymes are known for reducing IBS symptoms, but also acid reflux. As a result of taking these, my stomach issues have greatly improved so I know that it is working for my body.

Now onto an example of what I would eat in a day!

Breakfast

This is basically my go-to breakfast as I know it does not aggravate my stomach, in addition to keeping me satisfied to lunch – which is important for those long days in University! Normally I make it overnight and put in the fridge to make overnight oats or if I have more time in the morning, I will heat in the microwave.

With my added detox drink on the side!
  • Handful of Strawberries
  • 40g Gluten Free Oats
  • Tablespoon Crunch Peanut Butter (without unsustainable Palm oil and added sugar – I recommend Whole Earth brand)
  • 2 Cup Koko Milk
  • 15g Milled Flaxseed with Bio Cultures & Vitamin D

The Bio Cultures in the flaxseed help to support my stomach bacteria, whilst the added Vitamin D supports my bones. The sun is sparse in the UK, thus it is paramount that I get my Vitamin D source from elsewhere! Flaxseed is a rich source of omega 3 alpha-Linolenic acid, that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.

Lunch

  • Roasted courgette, red pepper and butternut squash with oregano and other mixed herbs
  • Mixed salad
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas (this is considered max low FODMAP*)
  • 125g quinoa
  • Dressing: Tbsp Tahini*, drizzle of honey, dash of gluten-free soy sauce and ground ginger)

Courgette is a vegetable high in water content, which makes it more of a ‘bulk’ food if on a diet. However, the vegetable still provides micronutrients such at Vitamin C to support immunity and potassium to help control blood pressure. Red pepper provides anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties from the phytochemicals and carotenoids it contains. Butternut squash is one of my favourite vegetables as it is so versatile in the way it can be cooked, whilst also tasting delicious. This squash is a good source of B6 which is essential for a healthy nervous and immune system and Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A) that supports eyesight.

Snack – My Pre-workout Smoothie

  • 1/2 frozen small banana
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach
  • 1 small handful of frozen blueberries
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 scoop of Vanilla Sunwarrior Vegan protein powder

I like to drink a smoothie before I exercise as I feel like it is easier to digest and makes me feel light enough to work out, yet keeping me energized. I try and use fast-digesting sugar sources such as bananas, before I workout. The blueberries provide some sugar and also an anti-oxidant property. Spinach is probably the best green out there as you can put it in anything and you still can’t taste it. It’s ridiculously beneficial for your health, containing Vitamin C, E, K, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, thiamin… the list goes on! Cacao powder produces an energized effect similar to caffeine, however, this is without the slump and shakes. It also has 40x more antioxidants than blueberries, which is always good to have to boost your Immune system. The protein powder is there to assist my muscles in recovery and growth.

Dinner

(My dinner and my meal-prepped lunch for the next day)
  • 1 salmon fillet with a dressing of GF soy sauce, a bit of honey and ground ginger
  • Boiled green beans and butternut squash
  •  Roasted sweet potato with mixed herbs
  • Mixed salad greens with rocket

Salmon is a rich source of Omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids, as well as being high in protein. These fatty acids are essential – meaning that you can only get them from your diet. Additionally, Omega-3 is essential to support cognitive function, to leach anti-inflammatory purposes and to lower heart disease and other risks of disease. Green beans are high in fibre which supports healthy gut health and ease of bowel movements. Sweet potato holds the same love as butternut squash for me as it also contains beta-carotene essential for good eyesight and B vitamins for a smooth functioning of the nervous system.  The added greens are to add to the ‘bulk’ of the meal and to add more minerals to my diet.

This is just an example of what I eat in a day, not every day is like this! The reason why I claim that it is ‘flexible’ is that I don’t always eat typically like this. I like to follow the 80/20 approach, which means 80% of the time I eat like this, whereas 20% of my diet consists of the not-so-good stuff (pizza, alcohol, cake – all the works!). I want to be realistic, as I’m only young and am at University so don’t want to miss out. Currently, this diet is working to reduce my major symptoms and so one day of having some worse IBS symptoms isn’t going to affect me massively. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

Ari xxx

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