Following a Low FODMAP Diet Away From Home

thai food

I have been following the low FODMAP diet for about 3 weeks now, and although I have felt about 85% better since initiating the diet, it has not been a walk in the park especially when I’m not preparing food for myself. For most of us many of our social events revolve around food and drinks. Some functions I’ve attended in the past 3 weeks include: a wine and cheese night, a Pi(e) party, a wine tasting, a couple of restaurant visits and a family brunch. Although I couldn’t eat all of the options at each event,  I did manage to find some FODMAP friendly foods at each function.

The hardest part for me was trying to order something when out at restaurants as many high FODMAP foods (particularly onions and garlic) can be hidden ingredients. Fortunately I found servers and chefs to be very knowledgeable about their menu items and was able to find things that I could eat with some help.  Just make sure you ask the server about what foods are trigger foods for you.

If you do enjoy eating out be reassured that if you do indulge in some high FODMAP foods (accidentally or on purpose) although you may suffer from some IBS symptoms, you will not be doing any damage to your gut and once the FODMAPs clear your system you should be fine. Also because IBS symptoms are typically brought on by high amounts of a FODMAP (or combination of FODMAPs) just try to stick with menu items and foods that look like they are likely low FODMAP.

To help you on your outings I’ve developed a few tips for eating away from home on a low FODMAP diet:

1. Eat a snack before you go out –> this way you won’t be starving if there isn’t much selection for you and will be less likely to break your diet for the sake of eating something. Once you get to the party stick to foods you can tolerate.

2. Bring something you can eat –> If you’re going to a potluck, make something you know that you can tolerate. For my Pi Day I made a FODMAP friendly sheppard’s pie (recipe to come) and everyone loved it!

3. Tell your friends and family that you are following a low FODMAP diet (you might have to explain what this means) –> give them a list of some of the foods you absolutely cannot eat (onions and garlic are big ones for many people and possibly also wheat in large quantities) and maybe a list of some foods you are ok with. This way you give them some options for what they can cook with to cater to your needs. Ask what they are planning on making ahead of time and suggest some options that you can have. For example, I went to a family brunch and my fiancee’s mom just made omelettes and had everyone build their own with ingredients they liked that way I didn’t feel like I had to have something special made for me. I also had a friend leave some bruschetta aside for me that was onion and garlic free so that I could try some of her appy too. You will be surprised at what people are willing to do for you to accommodate your diet concerns if you let them.

4. At restaurants: read menus carefully and let your server know your top trigger foods –>When I went out I let my servers know that I couldn’t tolerate onions, garlic and wheat because these can sometimes be hidden in foods; then I looked through the menu to try to decipher if food looked like it might have some other foods I knew were high FODMAP. If you don’t know your foods very well, I would suggest you write your trigger foods on a small card and provide it to your server to show the chef so that he can think of something that will work for you.

  • Salads are usually a safe bet at restaurants, but check the dressing and make sure there is no onions or garlic.
  • Small amounts of wheat in sauces like soy sauce, are typically tolerated well so you don’t have to worry too much about these

7. Do some research before you go out –> look at restaurant menus online and see if there are items you can tolerate. It is also a good idea to call the restaurant ahead of time to ask them some questions about the menu and let them know your intolerances (try to call outside of the lunch and dinner rushes).

8. Limit alcoholic beverages to 1-2 drinks –> stick to dry wine and beer but only have a small amount as not only does alcohol affect our guts it also increases appetite and may make you more likely to break your diet if you’re not thinking clearly (like perhaps after a bottle of wine…)

Most importantly, enjoy your food when you get it. Taste the different ingredients and take your time eating your meal because IBS symptoms can be increased if you swallow air.


Having Bowel Troubles?

I have been struggling with GI issues for years now and no one has been able to diagnose it. I’ve gone to my doctor numerous times and just been told I had gas. And although it was true I was having gas and bloating and stomach pain I wanted to know why. After 10 years of dealing with the symptoms with no diagnosis I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I’ve tried cutting out random foods, I’ve been tested for celiac disease, I’ve had ultrasounds, I’ve been referred to a GI specialist (my appointment is in the Fall a short 6 months from now!!!) and I still haven’t figured out what’s causing the GI symptoms. All my doctor ever tells me is that I’m healthy and it’s likely just IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Anyone who can say it’s just IBS has never had IBS symptoms before; which include gas, cramping, abdominal pain, abnormal bowl movements including sudden onset diarrhea and constipation.

Commonly IBS has been diagnosed based on elimination, basically if doctors couldn’t find anything  wrong with your gastrointestinal tract they diagnosed you with IBS. It is now typically defined as symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, that persists for more than 3 months (doesn’t need to be consecutively) without any specific disease diagnoses and abdominal pain is usually relieved by having a bowel movement.

The Rome III Diagnostic Criteria define IBS as

Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 days/month in the last
3 months associated with two or more of the following:

  • Improvement with defecation
  • Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
  • Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool

IBS, although uncomfortable if not managed properly, does not increase one’s risk of developing colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease and does not specifically damage the intestinal tract.  Symptoms can start at any time but can be triggered by an infection in the intestinal tract, a significant life event or extreme stress.

If you are experiencing IBS symptoms you should speak with your doctor and have your IBS properly diagnosed before trying to treat symptoms on your own. You should also have a colonoscopy to check for any intestinal inflammation or diagnosis of celiac or inflammatory bowel disease. Celiac disease and lactose intolerance are commonly associated with IBS.

IBS is frequently treated by diet, stress relief and sometimes medications (like antidiarreal agents). One of the most widely used and well researched diets to relieve symptoms of IBS came from the Monash University in Australia, the low FODMAP diet. I will be posting my experiences on this diet which I started on Monday. I encourage you to trial this diet if you have been diagnosed with IBS since 75% of people find symptom relief with the diet.  I am a Registered Dietitian therefore I can ensure my diet is balanced all by myself, I encourage you to seek help and advice from a registered dietitian experienced in the low FODMAP diet to help you with proper meal planning as the diet involves eliminating a large amount of foods.

Stay tuned for more posts about what the low FODMAP diet is and my experience on it including some of my trialed recipes including a vegetarian quiche, sheppards pie and even desserts 🙂