In my last post, I shared the best bites of Jamsil Arena in Seoul along with cheering for the Doosan Bears. If you missed it, read more here!
The first time I ever heard of a low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet was while listening to a webinar back when I was a dietetic intern. At the time, details about a low FODMAP diet to alleviate IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms was still very new, as many of my preceptors had never even heard of it. Like many things at the time, I crammed in the information to be able to study for my exam, but have since worked with very few clients needing to follow a low FODMAP plan, so the details dwindled.
Cut to last fall when the s*%t hit the fan, almost literally. I was having more and more GI symptoms to the point where I could barely go anywhere for fear of getting sick and not being able to get to a bathroom in enough time. I was tired of powering through without any relief, so I finally went to my doctor and was diagnosed with IBS. I wasn’t excited to have IBS, but I also didn’t feel completely lost. I knew I could brush up on my FODMAP skills, as well as the plethora of resources now available. Kate Scarlata’s low and high FODMAP lists were a godsend. The lists became my sacred template of foods that finally relieved my painful symptoms. It wasn’t easy at first, as I’m sure anyone who has followed a low FODMAP diet before can attest.
As you can imagine, I adore food from all over the world. The most challenging aspect of IBS for me has been the recipe modification to fit in the cuisines I love while making sure I’m not in pain after eating them. This has been particularly tough when I moved to South Korea. Adjusting to a new style of eating in addition to a new country, work environment and ingredient availability has felt like being on a roller coaster at times.
In the beginning, even some of the low FODMAP foods caused me distress. I’ve learned over time (and listening to my body), that even though I love some of the low FODMAP ingredients, I have to stick to the serving size otherwise I find myself in trouble! Overall, there are three major things I’ve adjusted in order to help me better manage my IBS.
Drastically decreasing the amount of onions and garlic I eat has been so weird, since these two ingredients have been the foundation of much of my cooking over the years! But I keep the flavor bumped up by adding in all the other herbs that aren’t irritating, especially basil in my Feta, Basil and Cherry Tomato Salad (recipe here) below. To keep the allium flavor alive, I’ve switched over to the low FODMAP-friendly green onions. Chives are also low in FODMAPs, but the ones I have found here are just not my cup of tea. Thankfully green onions are readily available in South Korea, so I usually grab a few bunches when they’re on sale. I slice the green parts and freeze them to use as garnish and incorporate throughout recipes. I steep the white parts in heated oil for about an hour or so with other herbs to create an infused oil. I use the oil in salads or to cook with, making sure to strain out the white parts, since they’re high in FODMAPs. These two ways to use green onions give me the satisfaction of the flavor of onions/garlic as well as not wasting the part I can’t tolerate.
One of the more difficult ingredients to adjust to eating modified amounts of is dairy. Don’t get me wrong, I eat as many low lactose dairy products as I can find! However, it’s much harder to find labeled lactose free products (milk and cottage cheese, for example) here so I rarely eat those. Although, I have been indulging in enough of my favorite low lactose cheeses (Parmesan, feta, Gouda) to more than make up for it. My favorite dish of the moment is this FODMAPs friendly Crispy Parmesan Chicken (recipe here) featuring the always delicious Parmesan cheese!
Since my diagnosis, I’ve also started taking a probiotic. They’re great in general for aiding in maintaining a healthy microbiome along with balanced eating, but I want to make sure my GI system is keeping strong during times when my bouts of IBS stress are higher than others. My pal and RD colleague, Liz Hurley, was so helpful when I was looking at the endless choices of probiotics to help narrow down to one that has worked well for me so far. She also shared a great resource to determine which probiotic is the best option for your needs here.
All in all, following FODMAPs has been a key item in eliminating a lot of my IBS pain and symptoms when I’m feeling really sick. I know I’m not alone, especially as more dietitians are specializing in this area and more clients are seeking help in alleviating their IBS specific troubles. However, this eating plan is suggested to be followed for 2-6 weeks at a time, give or take depending upon your symptoms, so don’t be dismayed that it’s all or nothing! It’s also something that ebbs and flows – over time you’ll be able to see which foods trigger you more than others and adjust your portions and intake accordingly.
Do you have some great low FODMAP recipes? I’d love to try them out! Leave the link to your recipe below in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and check in for my regular posts over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.