So you've just been diagnosed with IBS. Congratulations, you are now a member of the Low FODMAP group. What an honour.
You've probably been told you have to go on the low FODMAP diet to help ease the symptoms of IBS. You've also probably done a little research into what this diet involves. You may be feeling a little overwhelmed at the long list of food you can't eat. You may have even cried. Or sobbed your heart out. Or rocked in the corner while keening loudly.
It can be incredibly overwhelming and scary to think about all the changes you have to make in your diet. From a personal perspective, I really struggled with the realisation I could eat barely any of the foods I loved and ate on a regular basis. It seemed like there was nothing to eat, so I would often go hungry because I just didn't feel like I could anything at all. Let me tell you, that is not a healthy way to live!
Yes, the low FODMAP diet is overwhelming at first. Yes, there is a lot you can't eat. But there is still a large amount of foods you can eat, and even enjoy. This post is the first in a four week series I call: Low FODMAP for Beginners. In this series I will help you to make the necessary changes to your diet minus the stress because, let's face it, IBS is stressful enough, we don't want to add to it.
The first thing you need to do when beginning the low FODMAP diet is to sort through your pantry, replacing items that are high FODMAP with low FODMAP alternatives. The list is quite long, but to begin I will give you a list of the top 6 staples/staple groups you will need.
Top 6 Staples in a Low FODMAP Pantry
1. Fruits & Vegetables
Of the low FODMAP kind, of course. Even if you are a fructose malabsorber, it's important to keep eating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, as fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients that help your body function as it should. The fruits that are reasonably priced and LF (low FODMAP) include; oranges and other citrus fruits, bananas, kiwifruits and grapes. If you can afford it, pineapple, honeydew and rock melons are also great options. It is important to note that you should make sure you wait at least two hours between each consumption of fruit and stick to the recommended serving, so you don't overload your system with fructose. 'Safe' vegetables include; carrots, potatoes, capsicum, kumara/sweet potato, pumpkins (all except butternut), spinach, corn, green beans, parsnip and yams.
2. Rice Products
As wheat is now out of the picture, you need a reasonably cheap staple to replace it with. Cue, rice. Rice is a readily available and cheap staple food and comes in many products. You can get rice noodles, commonly used in a lot of Asian dishes, which are incredibly cheap and can be used as a replacement to egg noodles in stir fries. There is also rice pasta, which comes in most shapes and styles of regular durum wheat pastas, including penne, spirals and spaghetti. Rice crackers are a great snacking option, as long as you only get the plain salted kind. Flavoured rice crackers often contain onion and/or garlic powders. NOTE: It may not state onion powder on the pack, often onion and garlic powder fall under the name 'vegetable powder', as they are not an allergen so therefore the company is under no legal obligation to state them.
3. Gluten Free Bread
Although gluten itself is not an issue with IBS, wheat, and the fructans it contains, is. So it is best to purchase gluten free bread to avoid the wheat fructans. To try keep it as healthy as possible, I recommend eating gluten free breads with grains for added fibre, this can also assist in preventing constipation. Also, try to avoid breads that contain soy, as soy can prevent the absorption of minerals and stop the gut from healing. A good brand of gluten, dairy and soy free bread which is also low in sugar and doesn't have the consistency of cardboard is hard to find, but luckily it exists! After months of searching I have stumbled across Gluten Freedom Quinoa & Chia Bread a delicious and soft bread with a cheeky addition of cumin that is perfect for sandwiches! Hallelujah! Check out their Facebook page here
Cornflour is a fantastic replacement for plain flour in most recipes that require flour for thickening. You can use cornflour to make a cheese sauce for mac 'n' cheese, gravy for roasts or thicken sauce for tomato pasta or soups. It is also useful in desserts and sweet dishes, such as a filling for lemon meringue pie. NOTE: Cornflour is not suitable to replace flour in baking, unless stated in the recipe.
5. Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is a staple of any kitchen and adds a delicious flavour to a lot of dishes, so it is important if you want to maintain a sense of normalcy that you find a low FODMAP chicken stock. You will need to look for a stock that specifically states it doesn't contain onion or garlic. A good brand of low FODMAP chicken stock is Massel, which is available at most supermarkets.
6. Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Finally, the secret weapon of any low FODMAP kitchen is garlic infused olive oil. This incredible product adds the flavour of garlic with none of the fructans, meaning a happy gut for all! It can be substituted for garlic and onions in most dishes which means that Italian food is no longer off limits! Plus, your non-IBS suffering family will barely notice the difference. This product also saves you a lot of the time and effort (and tears) of cutting up onions and garlic. Hoorah.
I hope this has helped ease a little of the stress associated with the low FODMAP diet. Don't worry, it will get easier over time!
Keep an eye out for next week's Low FODMAP for Beginners post.