Strategies for Improved Digestive Health That Don’t Involve An Elimination Diet

low FODMAP pasta

Today’s post is a guest post from my colleague, Stephanie Clairmont RD, who specializes in the low FODMAP diet.  Elimination diets are all the rage right now to control unwanted symptoms.  However, before embarking on that route, we can sometimes modify the diet in small ways that add up to big changes in the way we feel.  So, before even looking to take something out of your diet, you may want to try adding in the top five strategies that Stephanie has highlighted below!

Elimination diets get a lot of attention for being the key to successfully managing your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are annoying, uncomfortable, and can really interfere with your day to day life. IBS symptoms can be really disruptive and affect your life on so many levels, so learning how to successfully manage them is really important for getting your quality of life back.

The Low FODMAP diet is a popular elimination diet in the world of IBS. Have you heard of it? This elimination diet is starting to get more and more attention in media, so if you haven’t heard of it yet, I’m sure you will soon.

I have focused my professional practice on using this diet along with other strategies to help my clients with IBS and digestive health issues, and along with a real plan it has really given my clients their lives back!

Here’s the thing… an elimination diet is TOUGH and actually very restrictive. They are not meant to be followed for very long. The Low FODMAP diet is no exception. Initially, you will have to cut out many common, everyday foods that you may love. After a few weeks you will slowly add them back in, but that first phase can be really challenging as it affects the way you cook, eat out and live every day.

Despite their challenges, elimination diets are definitely worth all the effort, and that’s why in my program I really help my clients stick to a plan that gets them the quickest, most effective results so they can get back to living their lives as soon as possible.

For many people with digestive issues, there are other strategies that can help as well. It’s important to remember that food is not the enemy or the cause of symptoms. Food is a trigger of symptoms under conditions when other factors (like stress) are also out of whack.

The truth is, the Low FODMAP diet on its own is not a cure or a stand-alone answer to digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, discomfort, diarrhea and/or constipation… there are other strategies you can implement before turning to an elimination diet that may be able to help you get your gut happy again!

Here are the top five strategies I find most helpful in relieving IBS and digestive distress.

Strategies to Provide Real Relief and Aid in Digestion

1. Cut Caffeine

Caffeine is a gut stimulant which causes our digestive system to process food faster. If you already have a problem with your meals moving through you too quickly, it would definitely be worth cutting back on your caffeine intake or trying to eliminate it completely to see if it has any positive effects on your symptoms. Having a tea in place of one of your coffees, or trying half-caf if you can’t handle going straight to decaf are two of the strategies I have used effectively with my clients.

2. Cook Your Veggies

Ever found you have a tummy ache after you eat a giant salad for lunch? Don’t worry, this is pretty normal. As healthy as veggies are, raw vegetables are actually really challenging to break down and digest by the body. So instead of eating huge bowls of raw greens, focus on including more cooked vegetables or smoothies to give your gut a break. This small change may significantly reduce your symptoms while ensuring you don’t miss out on a lot of important nutrients and fibre.

3. Swap Sulphurous Vegetables

Aside from being high in FODMAPs, which are poorly digested sugars, sulphurous vegetables like onions, garlic, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussel sprouts and broccoli are known for being gas-causing. It’s best to limit these vegetables and choose non-sulphurous veggies more often. What are some less gassy vegetables? Include fennel, bell pepper, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and zucchini instead!

4. Fat Free Isn’t the Answer

A moderate amount of fat in your diet is key, so don’t go cutting it out or trying to eat low fat if you’ve heard that it can be hard on your system. It’s true, too much fat can cause symptoms (especially diarrhea) since it takes such a long time to digest. Include moderate amounts of fat in your diet, and try to spread it out throughout your day instead of having one really high fat meal and eating lower fat for the rest of the day. For example, if you were to go out to eat and order a burger with fries and a milkshake, that would likely be a lot of fat you’d dump into your system at once. Instead, choose one of those foods, the one you’re craving most, and have lower fat alternatives in place of the other two to round out your meal.

5. Mind Your Beverages

Alcohol is a histamine containing food, which can increase inflammation. This increased inflammation can lead to muscle spasms and stimulation of the digestive tract. Not good for your symptoms! It’s best to completely avoid alcohol during periods of symptom flares. If you still want to consume alcohol, do so with food to make it a little easier on your system.

Carbonated beverages can also be problematic. The gas pumped into these beverages isn’t doing you any favours in terms of your symptoms.

In my practice over the years, I’ve seen clients with all kinds of digestive issues and I know that an elimination diet like the the Low FODMAP diet can be part of real relief, but it also doesn’t have to be, it’s not the only answer. If you are experiencing digestive health issues like gas, bloating, abdominal distension, diarrhea, constipation or anything else, make sure you first talk to your doctor about getting testing done and then make sure you work with a dietitian who will give you the right support while keeping you well.

The Low FODMAP diet is not to be followed on your own, with just a food list and a prayer. Elimination diets are serious business. Please take care of yourself, my friend, and let me know if I can be of any help!

Much love,

Stephanie

Stephanie Clairmont, MHSc, RD is a Registered Dietitian who has helped thousands of people just like herself overcome symptoms of IBS and get back to feeling normal again. To learn more about Stephanie’s approach to digestive health, visit www.StephanieClairmont.com

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Real Life Advice from a Dietitian Living with Celiac Disease