The Weirdly-Named Low-FODMAP Diet Worked Magic for My Gut
Melissa Jones works in health care in California and has been on the low-FODMAP diet for nine months. The low-FODMAP diet is essentially a diet low in fermentable carbs known as FODMAPs (which stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols). It is sometimes recommended for the management of irritable bowel syndrome. “I eat a lot more vegetables than I used to and I switched to snacks like carrots and cucumbers since the snacks I used to eat had trigger foods in them,” she explains. The diet starts with an elimination phase and Melissa’s overlapped with her birthday. “I had to adhere to it even for my birthday dinner! But I was able to and that felt good.” Melissa shares how her heathy is all about food freedom.
20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.
My Healthy: Low-FODMAP Diet
- Name: Melissa Jones
- Location & Occupation: Health Care in California
- What Is a Low-FODMAP Diet? “A low-FODMAP diet is designed to keep those fermentable carbs that are triggering digestive issues at low levels. Initially, it’s more of an elimination protocol where all FODMAPs are cut out and then slowly added back individually in an attempt to determine which ones are triggering GI distress.”
- How Long on Low-FODMAP Diet?: 9 months
What does “healthy” mean to you?
Healthy means that I feel good in my body, strong, and without any major ailments. Healthy also means that I can eat what I want and do what I want without much trouble.
So health for you is defined in relation to freedom to eat and do what you want. Can you tell me more about that?
I wasn’t feeling great in the beginning of 2019. Whatever I ate didn’t sit well with me. I had terrible heartburn all the time and was on medication for heartburn. I never knew what was triggering my bad feelings. I was also fatigued and just didn’t feel good in my body. I did an intense elimination diet and unlocked some magic key in terms of how I eat. Now, I have that freedom to know how I can eat. I feel a lot better because of that. I even started to go to the gym because I felt so much better.
What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
So I meal prep and cook at home but the biggest change was going to a low-FODMAP diet. I was having gut problems that were persistent. I was on medication that only worked sometimes. And I was scared to eat! My doctor recommended the Low-FODMAP Diet and I really bought into it. I did a complete elimination phase, discovered my triggers, and it’s completely changed how I eat and think about food. I feel so much better. I’m eating healthier and more confidently. I have stopped needing any medications for gut stuff, and I can still enjoy my favorite foods. I feel pretty lucky!
What were your goals when you made that change?
My goals were to eat without gut problems or discomfort and stop taking stuff like Prilosec.
How did you make that change? What motivation pushed you on?
When my doctor recommended the low-FODMAP diet, I read about it and it freaked me out. It took me a while to warm up to the idea. I was pretty intimidated by it all but continued to feel so bad. I bought a book with recipes, a journal, and got details on the elimination phase. I dove right into it. The elimination phase was hard, but I reminded myself that it wasn’t forever. I knew there would come a day when I could start to reintroduce foods that felt more normal.
And it was like a night and day difference in how I felt. The feedback from my own body — it was feeling so good — was an easy reminder that I was on the right track. And now I don’t take Prilosec anymore.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I stuck to the elimination phase. I am a good cook, so I make all sorts of things for lunch and dinner during the week. The low-FODMAP elimination was long and really limited what I could eat. I’m proud that I stuck to it to really figure out what my body reacted to. That knowledge has significantly changed everything for the better. I am proud that I kept to the rules, used a food diary and an app, even when I was at a restaurant or traveling. All of this made the change itself easier to maintain. And I am proud that I have been able to continue.
So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
I just keep reminding myself how much better I feel. And I make it as easy as possible for myself. When I get hungry, I know I’ll eat anything even if it’s not recommended for me and I’ll suffer the consequences. So I make sure to plan for those hungry moments. I always have a quick snack or two on hand that can keep my hunger at bay until I can get a real meal. Along a similar vein, weekly meal prep has been a lifesaver. I cook over the weekend so there are always lunches and dinners on hand, some I even freeze for later. Making it easy is a big part of making it consistent. As well, I let myself have tiny rewards every once in a while. If I did well, I want to give myself a pat on the back for that. And if I mess up, then it’s just something to learn from instead of beat myself up over.
What’s the one food you love the most?
Cheese. I’m not dairy-intolerant so I can still eat cheese.
If you were to recommend Low-FODMAP Diet to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
Get a good book or go to a low-FODMAP dietitian (if you can afford it). I went back to the book again and again. I also recommend the Monash University app. It’s an app from the Australian University that developed the low-FODMAP diet. The app gives you the red light, green light, and yellow light on foods and portions. It’s right there in the app so I can trust it. I used the app in the grocery store to make sure I got the right ingredients or at a dinner to make sure I wouldn’t overdo it on a certain food. It made what was totally intimidating into something manageable.
Thank you, Melissa!
What Is a Low-FODMAP Diet? Start Here.
My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices
Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.