Should you stay on the low FODMAP diet long-term?
Now I understand. One of the first things to focus on when you’re trying to control the painful spasms, the unpredictable bowel movements, and the bloating and gas that comes with IBS is the food that you eat.
And following a low fodmap diet plays a big role for many IBS sufferers.
But, and here’s the but.
I see far too many of my clients suffer the fallout from spending too long on restrictive diets such as the low fodmap. So in this post and in the video below, I want to share with you 7 reasons not to stay on the FODMAP diet long term.
By understanding these 7 reasons, my hope is that you don’t make these same mistakes. And make sure you read until the end as I’ll be sharing with you what to focus on instead!
Now I want to preference what I’m about to say in this post with you must always seek dietary advice from a qualified health professional, whether that’s a nutritionist, a naturopath or your GP. I also want to add that restrictive diets such as low fodmap can be a useful tool in helping to initially calm down your gut when you’re suffering from IBS.
But restrictive diets can also keep you stuck and exacerbate your symptoms, and can end up creating far more issues than when you started.
So let me take you through the 7 problems I see when people stay on the low fodmap diet too long so you don’t get caught out.
The 7 Risks with the Low FODMAP Diet
Reason 1: It changes your gut microbiome
So here’s the thing, FODMAP foods are actually a key source of prebiotics in your diet.
Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber that feeds the “friendly” or the good bacteria in your gut. So when you cut back or eliminate FODMAP foods, you’re actually in turn creating a change in your gut microbiome. In particular, you’re affecting the amount of two specific types of bacteria that are beneficial to your health.
In fact a study completed in 2020 which looked at the Role of a Low FODMAP Diet on the Gut Microbiome, suggests that to ensure a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut, you should be taking probiotics at the same time.
Reason 2: You’re not eating a balanced diet
Eating low fodmap means you’re not eating a wide variety of foods and can lead to you missing out on key nutrients. The main ones you’re likely missing out on are fibre, calcium, iron and b12.
Now you can take supplements, but the best way is to get nutrients from your food. So it’s important to always make sure that you are not eliminating more foods than necessary.
Reason 3: It can trigger Disordered Eating Behaviours
Following a low fodmap and other restrictive diets can increase the anxiety and stress you feel around meal times in general, and when it comes to eating certain foods.
Unfortunately, you start becoming afraid of food and fearful of reintroducing them back in, due to what may happen with your symptoms. Will you get a flare up? Will you be doubled over in pain all afternoon?
And all the increase in stress and anxiety around food can also trigger symptoms, because of the impact of these emotions on the gut.
What this means is that over time the build-up of stress, anxiety and fear of food can lead to you being stuck with only a limited number of foods you can and will eat.
Reason 4: It’s stressful and overwhelming
Restrictive diets can create a lot of stress and overwhelm due to figuring out what to eat and what to cook.
You may find yourself wandering the aisles of the supermarket cross-eyed as you double-check every ingredient. Perhaps you are constantly asking yourself ‘’Can I eat this?’’ ‘’Is this low fodmap?’’
This is also a real issue when you’re eating differently from everyone else, for example, if you have a family and you’re cooking for your children and a partner.
Reason 5: Increases hypervigilance
When you become hyperfocused on the food that you eat you are often questioning everything you’re putting into your mouth.
This makes it highly likely that you’re also hyperfocused on what’s happening inside of your gut, and on the lookout for symptoms.
This is called hypervigilance.
Unfortunately the more you focus on looking out for signs of a reaction or a flare up – the more you magnify what’s happening in your body, and the slightest twinge in your stomach can send you into a panic.
This then turns up that anxiety dial and can even trigger the very flare up you were hoping to avoid. You are then left questioning whether it was the food that triggered the reaction, or the anxiety that flared up your IBS.
Reason 6: It impacts your social life.
Following a restrictive diet can significantly impact what you can yes to, and how you feel when you’re out with friends and family.
Events like weddings or where there is a set menu can be particularly troublesome, and you may also find you have to call the restaurant in advance to see what options you have.
It’s emotionally taxing and stressful. And unfortunately, it can just feel easier to say no to going out, than risk saying yes and feeling either embarrassed about the restricted range of food you can eat or worried that you’ll have to eat something you ‘shouldn’t so you don’t go hungry.
Reason 7: You use it as a safety crutch
From my experience far too many people stay on restrictive diets for too long either because they believe it’s their only option to control their symptoms or they are fearful of making any changes – all of which compound the other 6 reasons I’ve covered.
So what should you be doing instead?
There’s another way to manage your IBS
For some people cutting out foods for a limited amount of time can help to calm the gut down.
But if you’re finding that restrictive diets aren’t helping or you’re stuck with reintroducing foods back in either due to anxiety or gut symptoms, then you may want to explore a different approach.
Because when it comes to IBS, unless you have been diagnosed with a food intolerance or allergy, then food may not be the culprit for your symptoms.
You see at its heart IBS is a functional disorder of the brain-gut connection.
What this means is that there’s not a physical issue with your bowel, despite how it may seem.
Instead, the issue lies with the function of your gut, and specifically with the connection between your gut and brain which is no longer working as it should. And it’s this miscommunication that is likely responsible for your symptoms.
So instead of drastically changing your diet, you need to address the factors which are impacting this communication.
One of these factors which I teach inside my clients is understanding the pattern between when you eat, what you eat and your levels of stress and anxiety.
Because what you’ll notice is that when you are relaxed and calm, you can eat many different foods and have no reaction in your gut. But as soon as you start to feel stressed or anxious and then eat, your IBS symptoms flare up.
Do you need help with your IBS?
Now whilst there is technically no cure for IBS, I want to assure you that it is possible for you to reduce your symptoms to such a degree that they no longer show up in your life – in a sense putting symptoms into remission.
IBS does not have to be a life sentence, and you can do something about it.
So if you’ve had enough of restrictive diets and taking medications just to get through the day, then it may be time to take a different approach.
You can take your first step and learn more about how I work with clients inside of my online gut directed hypnotherapy programs here.