Digestive distress is…stressful. And to compound this (obvious) statement, if you are an unfortunate sufferer of IBS, stress makes stomach sensitivity worse. It seems like a disastrous, uncontrollable cycle one gets easily caught in. You eat something that causes you to bloat, then you stress because you feel bloated, hence you bloat more.
A low FODMAP diet can feel extremely restrictive and unhealthy for anxious mindsets. When I first started my own exploration into the realm of the low FODMAP diet, I scavenged the internet, books and blogs looking for information on what was “permissible” to eat. I was in denial for a long time. I really couldn’t believe that the foods I loved so much were causing my stomach pain. It’s for this reason, and with the best of intentions that my sharing this journey can help inspire positive nutrition if you are suffering from IBS as well.
A while back I read an interesting article describing the notion that eating the same thing every day can cause intolerances and sensitivities. While I see the rational, as some who’s dealing with IBS it can feel incredibly overwhelming. When you finally find a meal that works, it’s comforting to turn to it day after day!
My “go-to” breakfast as of lately has been a warm bowl of oats and scrambled egg whites on the side. The comforting and creamy oats feel warming in the early morning, while the egg whites give me a little boost in protein as well as a little side of salty goodness. The berries (of the blue and strawberry variety) give my meal some sweetness as well as a kick of antioxidants.
In an obligatory fashion, I always bring a jar of peanut butter to the table to dip my spoon into and dunk back into my bowl. I use it on a per bite basis, some spoonfuls require a little more peanut butter, while others are fine on their own. This breakfast keeps me full for a long time, and is super easy to digest. I’ve found I can tolerate it incredibly well as an option for fuel before the gym.
By the time lunch rolls around, I will admit that I am definitely ready to eat. While not all days are the same, I usually try to make it to lunch without a snack. Having said that, every day is different and my hunger varies as well! If I’m starving, I’ll eat a gomacro bar to tide me over, or in the rare event, a Questbar. While both are not perfectly low FODMAP, I’ve found that my body is pretty good at digesting them both, and the protein content is pretty high as well. I’m a big proponent of whole food nutrition and don’t love relying on protein bars, but life doesn’t always permit me to do as I please.
For lunch on this day I made my classic tuna salad over a bed of greens. I like using brands such as SafeCatch because it’s sourced sustainably than other brands, and the mercury content is significantly less. To make my tuna, controversial to typical low FODMAP protocols, I use about 1/4 cup full fat greek yogurt. Dairy is not usually permissible unless it’s lactose free, and while I can’t drink a straight up glass of milk, I’ve had no issues eating yogurt or using lactose free milk in smoothies, my coffee, or mixing it in my tuna like in the picture below.
Seasoned with turmeric, sea salt and black pepper, this tuna salad is so delicious and creamy, as well as packed with protein. I put it on a bed of greens with 1/4 avocado (a serving size greater than 1/4 is not low FODMAP), half of medium raw green zucchini, and one tablespoon of buckwheat groats. I dressed the salad with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon and apple cider vinegar.
While this salad is full of good fat and protein, it is missing a source of complex carbohydrate. On this day in particular, I had two puffed brown rice cakes, but sometimes I’ll have a slice of sourdough bread (sourdough is Low FODMAP!) or mix in 1/4 cup quinoa or brown rice. Dealer’s choice.
Dinner for me is a time to reconnect with my boyfriend on all the of the day’s happenings. That is to say, it’s usually my favorite meal. While I would love to be a plant based eater, and while I consider my diet to be heavily influenced by plants, the protein sources permissible for those suffering from IBS comes mostly from animals. Beans and legumes are some of the biggest contributors to digestive distress as they require a lot of energy to break down in the gut. This is by no means a bad thing, but if you have trouble already, adding more work for you digestive tract is not typically the best protocol.
I do my best to buy only organic meat, and in addition, I try to do as much label research as I can in an effort understand where exactly my meat is coming from. On this day I cooked up organic ground turkey, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and oregano. After I let the meat brown, I sautéed zucchini and previously steamed broccoli florets (not including their stems as broccoli stems are not low FODMAP) all together, seasoning it with a pinch more salt and herbs. The base of our meal was 1/2 cup brown rice rotini. A helpful hint would be that once the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the same pan as everything else so the flavors become incorporated.
Elan and I were a bit too hungry for this step, but it was still delicious nonetheless. I also indulged in a small mason jar of red wine. This is when I like to include the line; eating a balanced diet is exactly that, making sure it’s balanced. If your body is telling you it wants something, try your very best to give it what it’s asking for. Chances are that if you listen to the small signals, it will prevent you from over indulging in the future.
Alcohol is permissible on a low FODMAP diet, but you need to be cognizant of how much you’re drinking — my body doesn’t support more than a glass at a time, so I make sure to drink slowly and hydrate in conjunction.
I used to proclaim myself the Snack Queen. And while I still feel very proud of that title, now that I’ve gotten a handle on my digestion I’ve been feeling much more satiated after and in between meals. Because my digestion is working properly, I don’t feel the need to carry with me little baggies of nuts, fruit, extraneous bars and what not.
However, not everyday is the same, and there are definitely still instances where I may want a little something sweet after lunch or dinner. In such an event, my go to’s are usually either two or three cups of air popped popcorn, frozen grapes (I never thought I’d be on the frozen grape band wagon) and yogurt with banana and chia seeds. All of these “snacks” are usually what I use to curb a sweet tooth at night, bring to the movies, or curl up with on the couch in the event of a storm outside.
Try, try, then try again.
It’s important to point out that portion sizes are critical. I’ve never been very good at controlling them, but learning to utilize my measuring cups and kitchen scale has proven to be belly saving. Sweet potato, for example, is contingent on its portion. More than 1/2 a cup can cause irritation, whereas any quantity at or below is usually fine. 1/3-1/2 cup of yogurt is absolutely fine for me, but if I eat a little more than that, I do notice I start to feel sluggish and lethargic.
In the end, IBS is very much trial and error. Sometimes you’ll find that a food was fine one day but not the next. It can make life incredibly difficult. My best advice would be to try your best not to feel discouraged. For those with IBS, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had flare ups with foods that are deemed permissible, we’ve all sometimes over indulged in a foods that aren’t low FODMAP friendly, and we’ve experienced bloat after thinking we’ve solved the problem. The most I can contribute is to say try your best not to stress.
- Chew your food. A lot. Aim for thirty chews per bite. It’s a lot but it helps break down and begin the digestive process. It starts in your mouth!
- Sip water in between bites.
- Try and eat slowly.
All of these things in conjunction can help aid digestion. You may even find that you’re not as hungry as you anticipated you were upon sitting down, and may even eat less, or eat towards feeling more satiated. Every day is different and not every day will be perfect. So try not to stress, and if you do your best at every meal, chances are it’ll all sort itself out.
Move your body!
Here’s a cheeky workout to try the next time you’re lacking gym inspiration. It’s all bodyweight, so all you need is a little bit of room, a towel in case you’re known to sweat (as I am) and some good music.
Warm up: I use a jump rope, but if you don’t have one or space is limited, turn on some motivating workout music and jumping jacks will suffice. Aim for 60 seconds of jumping rope right into 60 seconds of a high plank, keep your shoulders directly over your wrists. Repeat this 3-4 times through or until you feel sufficiently warmed up.
Circuit 1: 7 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute)
30 seconds chest to floor burpees
30 seconds sumo squat hold (option to pulse slightly up and down)
Circuit 2: 10 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
10 squat jumps, 20 step back lunges (10 each leg), 15 mount climbers, 10 push ups (on knees as a modification), 10 bodyweight shoulder taps in a high plank
Circuit 3: complete as fast as possible
50 cross fit sit ups (soles of feet touch, knees out to the side, hands above your head when lying down, then as you sit up hands go above your head at the top)
100 bodyweight Russian twists
100 bodyweight jump squats
100 jumping jacks or high knees (whatever feels better on your body)
50 chest to floor burpees