Now that we’re halfway through the year it’s time to share what my New Thing was for June. I wish it were as exciting as finding a fun new workout class or traveling to a new city, but this month I kept it simple and made a small lifestyle change that has really paid off! Over the past year or so I’ve experienced a lot of stomach pains and aches, so much so that it was completely distracting me at work and leaving me couch-ridden in the evening some days. It was nothing severe enough to see a doctor but it was a major annoyance. I tried to take note of the foods I was eating that were causing me to feel that way but there was nothing obvious like gluten or dairy that was triggering the pains (thank goodness because cheese and pasta, am I right?!) so I was left at a loss.
One day I was reading a magazine on the bus ride to work just a day or two after a round of stomach pains and saw a story from a woman who had similar symptoms and after cutting out gluten and dairy with no luck, she followed a low FODMAP diet and felt so much better. I had heard the term before but wasn’t sure exactly what this diet was so I did some research and decided to use it as a guideline for the next few months. I’m so glad I did because since starting that diet I haven’t had stomach pains once! (knock on wood…)
What is a low FODMAP diet? Traditionally it’s used to treat IBS and other digestive disorders, but FODMAP an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols which are molecules found in food that are known to be poorly absorbed. Essentially, there’s a list of foods that are known to upset people’s stomachs and I’m avoiding them. The list of high FODMAP foods to avoid is long, but it’s pretty random so it leaves a lot on the table and is much less intimidating than something like Whole 30. If I were a lot more serious about this, I would cut out all high FODMAP foods entirely, and then slowly introduce them back in to see exactly what I need to personally avoid… but let’s be honest I love food and have little to no willpower to stick with those kinds of restrictions. So instead of diving all in I decided to use it as a guideline and do my best to avoid or limit the high FODMAP foods within reason.
Unfortunately, some of the foods I eat several times a week are no-go’s. First and foremost, two of the biggest, most difficult foods I’m avoiding are onions and garlic. Have I eaten a few bites of salsa with onions in it? Yes. But for the most part I’m avoiding entirely. A couple of other major bummers for me personally? The 3 A’s: apples, asparagus and avocado. You may notice that Mexican food has become a lot less exciting for me! The other two big categories are lactose products like milk and ice cream, (but hard cheeses are OK) and grains. I’ve never felt a big intolerance to these two things so these are foods I’m trying to limit, but not avoid completely. That being said, I have really found a new love for almond milk so that one isn’t so difficult.
I’ve been trying new foods, forming new habits and feeling a lot better than I was a month ago! Following the FODMAP diet has been just a minor lifestyle change and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t have to dive in head first into the deep end in every situation. It’s okay to go slow, try something out, and do what makes sense for you and your lifestyle. For me that’s not committing myself to some intense, restrictive diet. It’s being aware of foods that may make me feel bad and taking small steps to eliminate some of them from my daily routine. When you step back and simplify big, intimidating new things, and alter them to your needs, it’s amazing how much more easily you can conquer them and make positive changes. Next time you think something is out of reach, break it down into smaller pieces and chip away at it in a manner that works for you. I’ll have more on that topic next month when I’ve completed my first month of the Cultivate What Matters “PowerSheets”… Stay tuned!