Only the last phase of this diet was designed for long-term application.
The 3 P’s of the Low FODMAP Diet
There are 3 phases in the low FODMAP diet: the elimination phase, the reintroduction phase, and the maintenance phase. The first two phases last anywhere from two to eight weeks, which means your diet is not restricted to low-FODMAP foods forever.
Elimination Phase: Temporary Withdrawal
The actual low FODMAP diet takes place during the first phase, called the elimination phase. So, how long should you stay in this phase? Generally, with the guidance of a dietitian, you should undergo this phase for two to eight weeks, and within this suggested time, eliminate FODMAP-rich foods from your diet.
Keep in mind that the low FODMAP diet is a learning diet. During the elimination phase, your objective is to find out if removing FODMAP-rich foods from your diet improves your IBS symptoms.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Monash University, the most significant symptom changes are exhibited during the first seven days of the diet. This means you will know if your body benefits from a low FODMAP diet right away. Complete removal of all high-FODMAP foods during this phase is necessary to get accurate results and objectively assess if the diet will work for you.
Reintroduction Phase: Systematic Addition
If your symptoms improve during the elimination phase, you can gradually begin the reintroduction phase. This second phase involves a systematic reintroduction of high-FODMAP foods so you can continue to learn and discover which specific FODMAP-rich foods can be tolerated by your system at different times in your life, such as times when you are experiencing an immense amount of stress.
This methodical reintroduction of high-FODMAP foods back into your diet is designed for you to recognise which foods trigger your symptoms and which do not. Each FODMAP subgroup should be reintroduced separately to obtain definite results, and under the counsel and direction of your dietitian to ensure your proper nutrition.
It is advisable to keep a food journal or diary where you can list down not only all your food consumption but also the amount of food you consumed and how you felt after eating it. This will help you keep track of foods that trigger your symptoms, and show you if you have fluctuating triggers and changing IBS symptoms. For example, the food that triggers your symptoms for a week may eventually be tolerable later on.
Follow a rest period to avoid any crossover effects and make sure you regularly consult with your dietitian to interpret your body’s response to the different foods you reintroduced. This reintroduction phase usually lasts from 6 to 8 weeks.
Maintenance Phase: Regular Adjustments
The end-goal of the maintenance phase of the low FODMAP diet is to develop and maintain a progressive diet fit for your system. As your dietitian interprets your food triggers and tolerances based on your experience with the first two phases, you can reintroduce high FODMAP foods that you were able to tolerate and reduce or avoid the foods that stimulated your symptoms.
Remember that FODMAP tolerance can alter in time. Some foods that initially triggered your symptoms may eventually cause you minimal to no negative effects at all. You can always try eating a particular high-FODMAP food again to see if there’s a change. Should your symptoms flare-up, simply go back to a restricted low-FODMAP diet.
IBS is an unpredictable condition and is affected not only by food but other factors like stress, poor sleeping habits, lack of exercise, other illnesses, and even everyday challenges. Including these factors in your journal or diary may shed more light on other possible triggers behind your IBS attacks.
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