Elimination diet versus a gradual approach
There are two ways you can go with the Low FODMAP Diet: the elimination diet or the gradual approach. There are pros and cons to both ways. Let me break it down.
One way to approach the Low FODMAP diet is to follow the elimination diet method to find out what your trigger foods are. This is done by following the Low FODMAP diet strictly for 6 weeks, eating only the foods listed as Low FODMAPs. Following the diet strictly for 6 weeks will give your digestive system time to settle down. Then at the end of the 6 weeks, you can slowly start reintroducing the high FODMAP foods one at a time, watching for the redevelopment of your symptoms.
Pros of the elimination diet method:
- you will give your GI system a chance to calm down and recover and will experience symptom relief
- it will be easier to identify your trigger foods when the diet is followed strictly and the foods are reintroduced slowly
Cons of the elimination diet method:
- can be hard to follow
- stress factors and monthly menstrual cycling could affect your body’s response while reintroducing foods, possibly causing you to think a food is a trigger food for you when it is actually the stress or your menstrual cycle that is causing the symptoms.
A second way to approach the Low FODMAP diet is to take a more gradual approach. With a gradual approach, you start by removing all onions and garlic from your diet. Onions and garlic are the most difficult to digest FODMAPs on the list. Simply by removing these two items you will see improvement in your symptoms. After a week or two of eating no onions or garlic, start looking at the other high FODMAP foods. Try to stick to your typical eating pattern, minus the onions and garlic, and notice how your feel when you eat one of the high FODMAP foods. If you find a food that you think is a trigger, make a note of it and move on to the next one. Then in another week or two, try that possible trigger food again and notice if you get the same response. It would be especially helpful if you eat the possible trigger food with the same other foods that you did before. This will help you see if that particular food is truly triggering your symptoms.
Pros of the gradual method:
- easier to adhere to (this is a big one for a lot of us)
- by retesting possible trigger foods a week or two later, your stress level and menstrual cycle will be at a different place and level than the first time so if the food still bothers you the second time, it is likely a trigger food.
Cons of the gradual method:
- it may take longer to figure out your trigger foods
- finding trigger foods will require retesting since this method isn’t an elimination diet
Low FODMAP diet all the way option
The last approach to the Low FODMAP diet is adhering to the diet all the time. One could argue that all the High FODMAP foods should be avoided even if they aren’t trigger foods since they are high FODMAPs and therefore difficult to digest. I don’t agree with that approach at this time. I am open to it if the science is there to support it in the future, but as of now I think it is best to reduce or remove the trigger foods from one’s diet, not all the high FODMAPs. My reason for this is that there are a lot of nutritious foods that are high FODMAPs. Eating a variety of foods is best practice for well-rounded nutrition. If there are some high FODMAP foods that you can eat without causing your symptoms, I think you should go ahead and eat them. Be aware what high FODMAPs you are eating though so that if your symptoms start to worsen again, you know which foods to experiment with removing from your diet.