Cooking At Home

How I Survived the Low FODMAP Diet

low fodmap no garlic onion

Back in January I wrote about how I was determined to get to the bottom of my stomach issues. I have had colonoscopies, endoscopies, blood tests, etc., and all of them had come back inconclusive or negative for major diseases (crohn’s, celiac, etc.) so after speaking with an allergist we decided to give the low FODMAP diet a shot to see if we could figure out a type of food that might have been causing my digestive issues.

Here’s how it’s going… so far.

It’s been about 6 months since I started the diet and I can honestly say that it has changed my life for the better. When I first started with the low FODMAP foods, I thought there was no way in hell I was going to be able to endure the 6 week elimination phase, followed by slowly reintroducing foods/ingredients each week after that, but I did, and I’m almost to the point now where I don’t need to reintroduce anything because I don’t eat a huge variety of foods in general… which also may be part of the reason why this diet was so successful for me.

Let’s start at the beginning. 6 months ago the elimination phase of the FODMAP diet started. My doctor printed out the Stanford FODMAP guide for me and this is what I followed for the remainder of the elimination phase. I know there are a lot of websites out there that say these things are high FODMAP, these things are low FODMAP, or some of these things you can have a little of, but not too much… and so forth. It was because of all this conflicting information that I stopped reading about other people’s experiences online and just stuck to the document that my doctor gave me. Yes, that even meant that I never once looked at the Monash guide, which is supposedly the bible of FODMAP.

So with the list in hand we made our way to the grocery store to try and figure out what we were going to eat for that week that would satisfy the diet… it was difficult. We ended up eating a lot of boring chicken dishes, eggs, cereal with almond milk, carrots, burgers with cheddar cheese and gluten free buns… totally boring stuff, but this is what I set out to do, so it had to be done.

FODMAP Elimination Phase

Throughout the elimination phase things were going really well. I actually forced myself to eat breakfast every day, which I normally never did, I only drank water at home, and had to completely change my alcohol of choice (Captain Morgan), and switch to something more basic, and low FODMAP, Tito’s Vodka and Club Soda. I thought the alcohol would be the one thing I would miss, but Tito’s and Soda is actually pretty damn good, and a lot less sugar than rum and coke. Word of warning though, FODMAP or not, if I have too much alcohol the day/night before, I end up having stomach issues the next day… so quantity does matter, but even people that aren’t on this diet have those problems… it’s just part of drinking too much. So if you’re really trying to play it safe, make sure you don’t have more than a drink or two at the most… just a heads up.

I actually found the elimination part of the diet to be a lot easier than anticipated once we got into the swing of things, and I didn’t really have to do any meal prep. Obviously dinners were the most difficult, because it’s not just me eating, my wife and daughter have to eat as well, but the breakfast and lunch changes were super easy and helpful.

As I said, I normally never ate breakfast… like ever. I’d always felt like I would feel nauseous if I ate breakfast first thing in the morning, but now I’m starting to think I was feeling nauseous because I wasn’t eating breakfast in the morning… hmmm, imagine that… Now, I know most people will not be able to do what I did, but I literally just eat a bowl of fruity pebbles for breakfast… and no, I’m not 5 years old.

The sugar content is way less than it used to be (although it’s still got a bunch of sugar in it), and it’s made with rice, so it’s technically low FODMAP. I did read that some people think that it might not be, due to the dyes and processes used to make the cereal, but I have yet to have any issues from them and I’ve been eating a bowl every morning for the last 6 months. The only side-effect of eating Fruity Pebbles every morning is that it turns your shit green… literally. It never changed consistency, it’s just green. For a while I thought it was because we were eating more leafy vegetables during the elimination phase, but I soon realized it was cause of the cereal. So if this is the route you choose to go, don’t be alarmed when you head to the bathroom during the day, it’s normal… well, normal when you eat a bunch of chemically colored rice cereal.

For lunches we found that Mission makes a gluten free tortilla which I would use to make turkey, lettuce and cheddar cheese wraps. The Mission wraps do contain pea protein, and snow peas are on the bad side of the FODMAP diet, but I never had any issues. I even tried switching over to BFree Gluten Free products and even though their products contain pea protein, I was fine as well.

So for 6 months I ate Fruity Pebbles for breakfast and a gluten free turkey wrap for lunch, then our dinners consisted of a lot of chicken and rice dishes with some vegetables, and things like that. Whatever we could throw together from the safe side of the FODMAP list is what we’d make for dinner. We did end up eating a lot of the same meals week after week, but we knew there was an end in sight, so we stuck with it.

Safe, but not Safe

As the weeks progressed, I started to get a little bored with the plain turkey wrap, so I decided that some raw tomatoes might add a little flavor to the mix. So for two days I diced up some raw tomatoes and added them in with the turkey, cheddar cheese, and lettuce, thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal since tomatoes were on the safe list… boy was I wrong.

Even though something is on the safe list doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be safe for everyone, so definitely keep that in mind. If you want a true elimination diet to try and figure out major digestive issues you should just do a straight up chicken and white rice elimination diet… Every meal should just be chicken and white rice for 2 weeks, then you add things back in… it sounds terrible, but if you find FODMAP isn’t helping, it might be the best option.

But anyways, I soon discovered that raw tomatoes were no good for me, and immediately scratched them from my diet. In fact, I scratched anything with tomatoes from my diet. This meant no pizza, no pasta sauces, nothing… it sucked. I’ve since figured out how to manage and eat accordingly if we have things to do, so I can still enjoy pizza every once in a while, but we definitely don’t eat it like we used to.

Re-Introduction Phase

After discovering tomatoes are an issue, and making it through the 6 week elimination process, it was time to start adding things back in, week by week, starting with wheat.

I was eating gluten free tortillas only because it was easier to go gluten free than to just try and find something without wheat, but still had gluten… gluten is not the issue. In fact, it’s not the issue in most people who think it’s an issue. Unless you have celiac’s disease, there’s a very slim chance that you’re actually sensitive to gluten itself, you’re more likely sensitive to something like wheat (not the gluten in the wheat), but that’s a whole different topic for another day.

Anyways, we added wheat back in that first week by changing my gluten free tortillas into white bread instead. A week went by and I had zero issues… thank god. If it was wheat I’m not sure what I would have done. There are obviously more gluten free options out there these days, making it a bit easier to go wheat free, but that’s not really what I wanted to do.

Week 2 found me re-introducing dairy back into the mix. I eat a fair amount of cheese, but most of the cheeses that I eat were on the safe list anyways (cheddar, mozzarella), and we just decided to completely give up Kraft singles as it is, so that wasn’t an issue. The main issue with not being able to consume dairy is that a ton of dishes have some sort of milk or cream in them, so this had to be figured out.

Up until this point I was just using almond milk in my cereal and to cook, so we figured the best way to re-introduce dairy would be to just eat a shitload of ice cream each night for a week… you didn’t have to twist my arm.

A week went by and zero issues… it definitely wasn’t dairy.

Next on the list was raw onions.

From what I read, before I stopped reading the internet, the biggest culprits of people’s issues were wheat, onions, garlic, and dairy (HFCS to a degree as well), so with two of the four scratched off the list, it was time to dive in. The best way I knew how to re-introduce raw onions to my diet was to just eat hot dogs and top them with mustard and onions…I could have cooked any number of meals that included onions, but I wanted super raw onions just to be sure.

No good.

Onions did not agree with me at all. The next day was terrible. With all those Fruity Pebbles in my system the toilet looked like slimer exploded in it… no more onions for me. On to the next one…

Garlic.

I wasn’t just about to eat a raw clove of garlic to see how it went, so we actually made a meal where the main ingredient was garlic; this also did not turn out well. I think this had more of an affect on me then the onions did, so garlic was definitely off the list.

Once I had made my way through the ‘big four’, as I like to call it, I haven’t felt the need to re-introduce much else at this point. Now that it’s summertime, I think the next thing we’ll re-introduce is watermelon because who doesn’t love watermelon… then maybe apples, because I do enjoy myself a good hard apple cider every once in a while. But outside of that, I’m content with the foods I can eat at this point and the foods I can’t. I never really ate a lot of fruits and vegetables to begin with, so the ones on the safe list are fine for me and we’ll just leave it at that for now.

So after going through this FODMAP diet, I’ve determined that Onions and Garlic are deadly to me, and tomatoes may or may not pose an issue. I literally had pizza yesterday for lunch and have had no issues yet, so it could just be raw tomatoes or it could just be certain pizza sauces. I know the majority of them have onions and/or garlic, but I’m totally ok with the powdered versions of those (onion powder and garlic powder), so I guess it might depend on how these chain pizza places are making their sauce. I’m sure the majority of them are not making their sauces from scratch, so who knows… all I know is that I’ve been slowly figuring out how to still eat pizza despite having issues with tomatoes, onions and garlic.

So after sticking with the FODMAP diet for the last 6 months, I absolutely feel better. I’ve figured out which foods affect me and which ones don’t, so I’ve been able to eat more of the foods that I know I won’t have issues with, and stay away from the ones I can’t have. It’s allowed me to not have to worry about finding the nearest bathroom every time we go out, or having to take a preemptive imodium, just in case (although I do still keep one in my pocket at all times… for emergencies).

And in addition to figuring out what I can eat and what I can’t, I also lost 4 pounds… although that’s not really a good thing considering I weigh next to nothing as it is… but my wife lost weight too, which she was happy about. I’ve gained that lost weight back now that I know what I can eat and what I can’t, but my diet overall has gotten much better in terms of the quality of food I eat, so I definitely feel healthier. You don’t really know what’s in fast foods, so it’s hard to be sure that I won’t have issues, so I’ve just been avoiding it as much as possible…

but I would fuckin kill for some Taco Bell right now…

What has your experience with the low FODMAP diet been like? Have you found success? Have you found foods that bother you? Have you found foods on the safe lists that still give you issues? I know it’s kind of tough to talk about these things, digestive issues are shitty, literally… but feel free to discuss in the comments below and I’d be happy to answer any questions about my experience.

About the author

Tom

I'm a married man in his 30's who doesn't really "like" food. If it weren't for my wife I would be living off of pizza and cheeseburgers for the rest of my life. Follow me as I venture slightly out of my comfort zone to try different foods and restaurants.

15 Comments

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  • I loved your blog post. I’m with you its all about the pizza, right? I’m on week 3 of the elimination phase of the Low FODMAP and I miss pizza! Fortunately for me, I love to cook & bake, and try new recipes. I already do a lot of my own cooking, so going on the diet wasn’t a complete life-style change for me; it just meant that I couldn’t use many of my “easy-button” lunch or dinner meals that I rely on to feed myself, my husband, & 2 kids (12 & 15). It also meant that I needed to get in some Low FODMAP ingredient options & fast. Fortunately, with the advent of gluten-free ingredients & food options, including recipes, its easier to find comparable enough foods that are Low FODMAP friendly to buy, make, and eat. Are they just like the real thing? No. But, I can still find things to eat and they’re things I’ve eaten before (hello, quinoa!), so its just a shift from unconscious eating to conscious eating. The effects of the Low FODMAP diet, for me, made themselves known right away in week one. So, for me, it has merit. I’m pleased with the results, so far. I’m looking forward to the reintroduction phase. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Hi Chris! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. The low FODMAP diet definitely takes some discipline and hard work, but I’ve seen tremendous results after just over a year. The elimination phase was definitely the hardest, but since I don’t need a ton of variety in my diet, once I found foods I could eat and enjoy, I just kept eating those for 6 weeks haha. Not ideal for most people, but it worked. A year after starting I still have yet to introduce everything back into my diet, but from what I have re-introduced I’ve been able to go back to eating things I love, but also having to cut out things I didn’t think I could live without, but feeling better is way more worth it. Good luck as you finish up the elimination phase and start the re-introduction phase. And remember, re-introduce one high FODMAP food at a time per week, so you don’t overlap foods, which could make it harder to determine what triggers you.

  • Thank you for this post. I’m on day 3 of elimination and I’ve found it to be quite a challenge. I am driving myself crazy with all the information online. I downloaded the Monash app and find it only somewhat helpful. Your Stanford link is like a lovely KISS version that I’m loving right now. Thank you!

    • Hey Nicole, glad you liked the post. Stick with it, you can do it! It’s definitely difficult to initially find things you can eat, but once you do, if you’re ok just eating the same thing over and over again, you can get through the elimination period and start adding things back in. Do be careful though, even though things may be deemed “safe” that doesn’t mean your body can handle them properly, as I found with tomatoes. But do stick to it and don’t cheat, you’ll be happy you did. I never downloaded the monash app, despite all the recommendations everywhere, and still refer to the Stanford list if needed, so it should serve you well. Good luck!

  • I’m on the FODMAP DIET week 2 following Bowel cancer surgeries .so far I have seen some improvement . I’ve made pizza using only foods on the list – gluten free base , passata , prosciutto, mozzarella, red and green peppers .
    I’ve also made a few of the recipes on the Monash app eg lamb shanks, salmon with quinoa.

    • Good luck Joan! Stick with it and when you start to reintroduce things make sure you don’t do it too quickly. You never know what may trigger you. Let us know if you find any awesome low FODMAP recipes that you like. I have one for taco seasoning that I’ve been meaning to post up here, but haven’t gotten around to it.

  • Week 5 of the elimination diet and going well the far. I,m even making my own sour dough starter and hopefully a loaf of bread soon. For those missing pizza, Mello Mushroom restaurant has a gluten free/wheat free crust, and the do not put onion or garlic in their tomato sauce. Ordered with black olives, baby spinach, and Canadian bacon (low fodmap ingredients. It was delicious and the crust was thin and crispy. Got that craving out of the way????. It cost more than the small regular pizza but well worth it. Illegal burger hand makes each burger. They use 100% beef, no fillers, no onion powder or garlic powder. 1 more week to re-introduction phase. Hopefully I will tolerate wheat as I love to bake.

    • sounds like you’ve figured out your own way to survive the elimination period, thanks for passing on those tips! Good luck with re-introduction, make sure to take it slow so you can truly figure out what affects you.

  • Thank you for this post. Need to know that fodmap has a very good potential to work. Also force feeding myself in the morning is probably necessary too..

    • Hi Jess, It’s not a magical cure for anything, so please keep that in mind, but in my case it seems to have helped tremendously. The main thing you have to remember is that you need to stick to it 100%, do not cheat or it won’t be effective. Also keep in mind that even though something is low FODMAP that doesn’t mean that your body may not have a reaction to it; everyone is different. I cannot eat tomatoes, yet they are low FODMAP, so just keep that in mind. Also, when you being the reintroduction phase, be sure to only reintroduce 1 thing at a time for a period of at least a week. And as you said, I found that making myself eat breakfast, as well as not drinking super cold water, or drinking anything while I’m eating (I usually wait 10-15 minutes after I’m done eating to drink, especially alcohol), are some weird little quirks that I felt helped as well… but they could just be in my head, but I was willing to try anything. Good luck with your journey! Hope you feel better!

  • Thanks for your blog. It’s really helpful. Garlic and onion are also big NO! NO!s for me. I also have the problem that I can’t mix carbs and proteins! This makes my life very difficult. Any ideas?

    • Hi Sandra,

      I wish I had all the answers, but unfortunately I can just go by what I’ve experienced during my time on the Low FODMAP diet. Have you tried to figure out if it’s just certain proteins or certain carbs? It may be annoying, but a full blown elimination diet may help you better figure that out. It’s super annoying though, cause you basically have to eat plain chicken and white rice for every meal for a week or two to flush out your system, and then introduce one thing at a time each week. But if you’re having that much trouble with certain things, it may be a good place to start.

  • Thank you for your article! We have recently been trying to get to the bottom of my husbands stomach issues too! But, the main reason for my comment – if your missing Taco Bell – at home crunchwraps are the best and its easy on the stomach if you can do flour tortillas, crispy tostada, sour cream, hamburger, taco bell taco meat seasoning, lettuce and tomatoes.

    • Hi Mauna,

      Thanks for the tips on homemade Taco Bell… usually I just deal with the aftermath when I have a taste for it though 😛 Although, you may want to be cautious when using your recipe, it’s not exactly Low FODMAP as the Taco Bell Meat Seasoning definitely has dried onions and dried garlic in it, both of which are, unfortunately, a no-go for me. But I have figured out a nice low FODMAP taco seasoning recipe, which I’ve written about on here, which could be a nice substitute.

  • Hi Tom, thanks for sharing your story. I could relate very much well.

    I’ve been on the low FODMAP diet for 2 weeks now since I was diagnosed with IBS. But life haven’t been better since then. That’s why I’m thankful to know that I’m not alone in this journey.

    By the way I also found a similarly helpful FODMAP Diet Stanford food list too at https://casadesante.com/blogs/low-fodmap-meal-plans-low-fodmap-recipes/low-fodmap-stanford-food-list (They have great recipes & onion free & garlic free seasonings & spice mixes that I use & love!)

    By the way can you recommend any good FODMAP apps? Thanks! Great post as always!

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