Author, The Low-FODMAP 6-Week Plan and Cookbook
Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s the bane of your existence. It’s the enemy at the gates that never leaves you alone. It’s the siege that saps your energy and drains your personal power. Because when you’re battling IBS, you’re at war – with yourself and your own body. But what if you could end this war? The low-FODMAP diet has been scientifically proven – at research centers at Monash University in Australia and the University of Michigan – to help eliminate symptoms for most IBS sufferers.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and are found in a wide range of foods - like apples, beans, and garlic. So you’ve committed to following a lowFODMAP eating plan and to living a life free from the symptoms of IBS. That’s great! Let’s walk through some healthy habits that’ll maximize your chances of success. For best results, you must eat five small meals three to four hours apart, so you’ll need to work out a schedule that suits your lifestyle.
It may look something like this:
Breakfast: 7:00 a.m.
Snack: 10:00 a.m.
Lunch: 1:00 p.m.
Snack: 4:00 p.m.
Dinner: 7:00 p.m.
Bedtime: At least three hours after eating dinner.
Here’s why a routine is so important. We need to leave approximately three hours between meals in order for a cleansing wave to pass through our digestive systems. A cleansing wave occurs when the muscles in the small intestine create a wave of forward motion in order to clean it out and prevent matter from remaining in it. If we wait much longer than three hours, we start to accumulate gas in our intestines, which, in turn, can cause symptoms. So you’ll have to schedule your meals – and then schedule the rest of your life. After all, our bodies love routines, especially when it comes to life’s basics, like eating, visits to the toilet, and sleep. We function much better when healthy routines are in place. Make sure you record your meal times so you can see if you are following your schedule.
Breakfast literally means breaking your nighttime fast, and that’s what you must do within thirty minutes of rising. Your IBS body hates fasting at any time except during sleep: so, if you don’t eat immediately, your gut can start to accumulate gas pockets, which cause bloating and pain.
For sufficient energy, you need to combine carbohydrates and protein at each meal. Carbohydrates supply energy quickly, but that energy doesn’t last long. Energy from protein is metabolized slowly, and it lasts longer. Together, carbs and proteins keep hunger at bay until your next meal. Make sure all five of your meals include protein, a grain or starchy vegetable, and, usually, a non-starchy vegetable.
Headaches are common during the first week of the diet as your body detoxes from the wrong foods, especially caffeine and sugar. Even shifting from a diet comprised mostly of processed foods to a clean, whole-foods diet will help you detox from the added chemicals in manufactured foods. Don’t worry: the headaches will soon disappear as your body adjusts.
Stop taking all nonessential vitamin supplements (except vitamin D) so that you don’t muddy the waters. Everything you put in your mouth can affect your gut. You can always test them later when you enter the reintroduction stage.
Suzanne Perazzini is a certified nutritional therapist living in New Zealand, specializing in using a Low-FODMAP protocol in the treatment of IBS.