Resources for Low-FODMAP Living


April is IBS Awareness Month and, as such, I though it would helpful to share the books and websites that have helped me so very much over the last few months.

My default reaction to a new idea or problem to solve is research. This used to mean hitting the library when I was in school and heading to the bookstore once I was a gainfully employed adult. Of course, the Internet is a fabulous resource, but you have to be able to weed out the truth from the fiction, tested theory from mere supposition. Respected authorities are still respected authorities, right?

image via Monash University

image via Monash University

Monash University, Dept of Gastroenterology These folks literally wrote the book on FODMAPs and are continuing to test and evaluate more ingredients as time goes on to determine just what effects they have on our delicate digestive engines. They recently released an iPhone app that, from all accounts, is quite helpful to its users. I can’t speak to it, personally, as I’m still waiting for the promised Android version (coming out soon, I hope). You can order their information booklet (link is to pdf order form) that goes over the basics of what FODMAPs are and how they can effect us, along with a handful of recipes to get your started. There are also some product information bits, but unless you’re in Australian those won’t help too very much. It doesn’t go into incredible depth on the subject as they believe (and not without good reason) that going through the low-FODMAP elimination diet and challenges should be  overseen by a qualified dietitian. But with FODMAPs stll relatively new in the US, it can be hard for those of us here to find someone who really knows about it and can guest you through the process.

image via the author's Facebook page

image via the author’s Facebook page

Which leads us to IBS: Free at Last! by Patsy Catsos. Catsos is a registered dietitian in Maine who is a great champion of the low-FODMAP diet for IBS sufferers. If you can’t find a local dietitian to work with, Catsos’ book is the next best thing and can gives very detailed information on what FODMAPs are, how they (can) effect us, and how to systematically remove the known high-FODMAP food sources from our diets and gradually test them through specific challenges. Catsos writes in a very approachable style, but also includes a chapter that goes into the nitty-gritty scientific details for those who want to go more in-depth. There’s an extensive Q&A section (in my Kindle version they were actually linked at the end of each chapter, which was pretty convenient) and a couple of recipes for basic bits.

One thing that I really found useful–and this is the only place I’ve found it put so plainly–was the explanation of just why High Fructose Corn Syrup is such a questionable ingredient. Yes, it’s true that HFCS is a combination of glucose and fructose (the “same” as table sugar, according the HFCS lobby, right?), table sugar is always 50/50 fructose and glucose, the glucose making the fructose easily digested by bodies with IBS. HFCS, on the other hand, can come in various ratios, three of which are the most common: 45% fructose/55% glucose, 55%fructose/45% glucose, and 90% fructose/10% glucose; and there’s no knowing which one the manufacturer is using. Fructose that’s not “balanced” by equal amounts of glucose are a problem for many IBS sufferers. I can this the free-range fructose problem 🙂

Catsos maintains both a website and facebook page to support her book and is very good about responding to questions on both.

image via Kate Scarlata

image via Kate Scarlata

Kate Scarlata is a Boston-based dietitian who is another proponent for the low-FODMAP diet. It was her guest post on Fooducate that started this whole journey for me. The author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well with IBS (I have not read this one, yet, but understand that it has a chapter on FODMAPs, but it’s not the main focus). Her blog, however, is a great source for inventive recipes that are frequently low-FODMAP friendly. Her Homemade BBQ Sauce is really tasty and even includes finely-grated carrots for a bit of extra vegetables. I used it to make BBQ Chicken Pizza one night and it was a big hit.

The easiest way to adjust to a low-FODMAP lifestyle is to cook most of your meals at home. If you’re already comfortable in the kitchen, this isn’t such a big change, but if you previously depended on a host of pre-made convenience foods or eat out for most of your meals, this can be a big adjustment. Finding good sources for recipes, then, is paramount.

Which is why I’m happy to see that Scarlata has put together 2 pdf ebooks: Low FODMAP Cooking with Kate Scarlata and a 21 Day FODMAP Friendly Meal Plan. I have purchased these but have only glanced at them so far. Still, they look like good resources, especially for Todd when he needs ideas when it’s his week to cook.

image via

image via

Finally, on the book front at least, I picked up a copy of this 3-in-1 Gluten Free Cookbook at Homegoods just before the holidays. Since it was an overstock-style store it was only $8 and I figured it was a low-risk investment in the event I didn’t need to continue wheat-free after the Elimination Phase, but would give me some pointers in the mean time.

Turned out to be the best $8 I’ve spent in a while! The cookies and cake I made over the holidays were well-received by my family and Todd and I continue to cook out of the book for dinner ideas. Because the focus is one gluten-free cooking, there are still plenty of recipes that won’t work for low-FODMAP living, but the bread and dessert chapters really are huge helps.

Of course, once I was out of research mode and into the day-to-day, I needed to stay on top of what was going on and the best way I’ve found to do that is by banding together with others of the same purpose. There’s a Low-FODMAP for Foodies facebook group that works both for inspiration and support, and a Pinterest board of Low-FODMAP Products and Recipes created by a fellow member of that group.

Then there are three recipe blogs I follow that focus on FODMAP or similar issues:

Granted, not all of the recipes available on those sites (or any other, for that matter) will be perfect for every IBS patient that responds well to a low-FODMAP lifestyle because everyone’s individual tolerances are different. It’s perfectly possible to be sensitive to only one or two of the five FODMAP groups or (like me) to be sensitive to all of them. It’s also possible, over time, to increase tolerance to certain foods over time.

It’s also entirely possible to be in that 25% or so of IBS sufferers that do not respond to a low-FODMAP lifestyle, which can be incredibly frustrating.

Products and tactics for eating out (fast food and fine dining, both) deserve their own posts in due time. For now, I think this is a pretty good start, don’t you?

Confessions of a Reluctantly Picky Eater


A few years back I chose to cut out tomato products and a few other items from my regular diet as a result of a health issue that had cropped up. Even though tomato products are all over the place, it’s still very possible for an otherwise-omnivore to enjoy social gatherings without making a pill of oneself.

Now, all of that has changed.

My fellow foodies, I have a confession to make:

I have become what I once despised: a picky eater.

What happened to make this once adventurous eater now reticent to accept a dinner invitation? It all comes down to three little letters that have been causing me a whole lotta trouble:

I. B. S.

No worries, I’m not going to go into any graphic details about the whole thing, just understand that what used to be a minor inconvenience had been escalating over the last few years, to the point I didn’t even realize how sick I was was.

My family, at least my father’s side of it, kind of jokes about the “family stomach”–we all seem to have some form of tummy troubles on a regular basis and when you grow up hearing that, you don’t really think much about it, you just deal with it as a matter of course. It is what it is. And my other, known, health issues could also explain some of my issues, so we just went with it and worked around it as much as possible.

Only, lately, it’d been getting worse. Since June, 2012, I’d been pretty much sick more than well, though thankfully not to such an extent that it stopped me from doing what I needed to, it just made things damned inconvenient and uncomfortable.

And then, in November, I heard about 6 other letters that might just mean a return to normal:


Research out of Australia’s Monash University has shown that FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Monosaccharides And Polyols–in English, certain short-chain carbohydrates) may act as symptom-triggers in up to 75% of IBS patients due to varying levels of intolerance or malabsorption. And all it takes to find out if it works is to cut out a few (okay, a lot of) key ingredients from your diet for a little while.

I found out about FODMAPs from a guest post on Fooducate written by dietitian Kate Scarlata. That led me to Patsy Catsos’ site and book: IBS: Free at Last (insert “I Have a Dream” joke here). While it really is a good idea to seek out and work with a dietitian familiar with the FODMAP program that can guide you through the process while still insuring you get a well-balanced diet, if you have trouble finding one Catsos’ book will walk you through the Elimination Phase and subsequent challenges step by step.

After talking it over with Todd and doing quite a bit of research, we started the Elimination Phase (a minimum of 2-weeks without any of the identified FODMAPs) the week after Thanksgiving.

You might guess that since FODMAPs are carbs, wheat would be included in high-FODMAP foods, and you’d be guessing right. Lactose (the naturally occurring sugar found in milk) is another common culprit and I already knew I was lactose-intolerant, so that wasn’t a huge change for me. Fructose can be tough for many people to digest if it’s not balanced by glucose, so this free-range fructose as I like to call it counts as a FODMAP–no more honey for my tea, no HFCS (though I try to stay away from it in general, anyway), but also no apples or pears or anything sweetened with their juices, just to name a few. Fructans, the FODMAP found in wheat, is also found in garlic, onions, and certain other vegetables, which was probably the hardest change for us to make, as well as Galactans and Polyols (sugar alcohols) which meant no beans or legumes.

In the challenge phase you test one FODMAP group at a time, with breaks in between to let your body return to normal (FODMAPs are believed to work en masse–which is why you can eat something one day and feel perfectly fine, but eat the same thing another day and get sick–it’s a critical mass thing). If you experience symptoms, you know that group of FODMAPs might be an issue for you. If not, you’re probably in the clear for that group.

The good news is that even if you “fail” a challenge, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never have whatever it was again. It just means that you can choose. FODMAPs aren’t allergies–it’s not life-threatening and you won’t die if you accidentally or intentionally eat something that you challenged and reacted to, you might just not feel too great–but they are intolerances, and if you continue to eat them on the regular, you may continue to feel ill in whatever way that these foods affect you.

Unfortunately, for me, I reacted to everything. According to Catsos this could point to an underlying gastro issue that effects rate of digestion (which my previous diagnosis does) so it makes sense for me to be more careful.

For me, it’s worth it. Not everyone experiences a night-and-day difference pre- and post-FODMAPs, but I certainly did. A week and a half into the 2-week Elimination Phase I felt better than I had in probably 3 years–definitely better than the last 6 months. So good, as a matter of fact, I almost didn’t want to do any of the challenges because WHY would I want to go through feeling bad again? And I did feel bad. Several times. Broccoli, for instance, will not be reappearing on my plate for a very long time. Which is a shame, because I liked broccoli, but I now know it doesn’t like me.

And why do we want to eat things that aren’t good for us? I’m not talking about the occasional junk food indulgence. A bit of fried this or that. And there may be times when I choose to eat an otherwise high-FODMAP food for nothing other than I really want to, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.

But for the most part, I’ll be living the low-FODMAP lifestyle for the foreseeable future because I’ve felt fabulous since I made this change. I still have to be careful of my other health issues. I still can’t eat huge, non-FODMAP meals–it’s not like my gallbladder grew back or anything. And I need to be careful that I’m getting enough variety in my diet when so many things are now ingredient-non-grata.

It means more than a little research before going out to eat, and careful consideration when I’m invited to a party or other gathering. But it’s still up to me to have the right attitude, to take responsibility for my diet and not expect others to cater to me, that will keep me (I hope) from being the type of picky eater I dislike so very much.


And with that, we’re back to our usual blogging schedule here at Nibbles ‘n Bites! If you read Nibbles on another site or through a feed reader, you might want to click through to see some of the site updates that were made during our month away–we’ve been busy little monkeys! You may also want to sign up for the monthly Helper Monkey Network News, to keep up with all the sites in the network in a handy, once-a-month package (see the sidebar for the sign-up link).