Though this isn’t a sexy or even totally comfortable conversation, if you’ve been following my journey on Instagram, you know I’m knee deep in the Low-FODMAP Diet; taking back my digestive health after nearly three years of chronic and often debilitating IBS-D (diarrhea). Affecting one in seven adults, IBS burdens many of us with gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, or altered bowel movements. Finding myself consistently lethargic, bloated, swollen from my toes to my nose, and on a first name basis with my roll of toilet paper, a drastic change was necessary. After years of a passionately plant based existence- subsisting on leafy salads and stews, rich smoothies, raw nuts, and simmered grains- even as a nutritionist, there was a metal hump rationalizing that these inherently health promoting meals were now causing such extensive physical and mental harm. Meeting with a number of gastroenterologists and researching pharma-free treatment options, I was led to the Low-FODMAP Diet as a method of management and relief – an eight week elimination diet of those common symptom triggering culprits (FODMAPs).
Certain food components – specifically foods high in fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates- cause the bowel to distend, drawing in more fluid and rapidly generating gas when fermented by bowel bacteria (hence: symptoms). These short-chain carbohydrates are often referred to as FODMAPs, which stands for: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccarides, and Polyols. The Low-FODMAP Diet strictly eliminates all FODMAPs for a minimum of 8 weeks, followed by a gradual reintroduction phase of one group at a time. Gauging individual tolerance, the idea is that you’re then able to pinpoint and then eliminate the foods that are specifically triggering for you. Below you’ll find a useful (pescatarian centric) FODMAP chart I made for myself – breaking down what to include and exclude during your 8 week elimination. Far from comprehensive, I wholly recommend downloading the Monash University FODMAP app.
So after three weeks, how am I feeling? If I’m being really honest, I was hesitant about welcoming dietary restriction. Recently and vehemently stepping away from dietary and lifestyle labels, I didn’t want a Low-FODMAP classification to interfere with a grounding and healthful relationship with food, and I didn’t want that relationship to teeter. Consistently reminding myself this was not a weight loss stint and that this step, albeit drastic, could improve my physical and mental wellbeing, was the little push I needed. Three weeks in, and my diet has actually felt expansive -thickening morning smoothies with coconut meat instead of ripe avocado, discovering new and favorite snacks, and steering clear of garlic and onion with fresh spices, briny olives, and nutty unctuousness. One fluke day of abdominal pain aside, my stomach (legs, face, fingers) have been completely bloat free, and I haven’t experienced any abdominal pain. Every human and every gut is different, and my (three week) success if not indicative how how your journey may unfold, but if you’re dealing with chronic bloat, diarrhea, constipation, or any array of the noted symptoms, I urge you to reach out and maybe give Low-FODMAP a glance.
I’ll continue to update over the course of my remaining five weeks, with insight, recipes, and meal guides. You can also check out my Low-FODMAP resource page. Below you’ll find a recent breakfast, lunch, and dinner stable, my Low-FODMAP friendly Weeknight Shakshuka. A Low-FODMAP variation of my traditional make-ahead recipe, this simple stew comes together in less than 30 minutes, requiring only minutes of active cooking time for a workweeks worth of accessible meals. Deeply flavorful, even without the onion and garlic, I serve mine over steamed quinoa or brown rice (instead of pita or crusty sourdough), topped with a simmered egg.
Low FODMAP Weeknight Shakshuka
Makes 6 Servings
3 red bell peppers, halved + deseeded
4 medium tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
½ cup raw walnuts
½ cup black Moroccan olives
3 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes
12 large eggs, preferably pasture raised + organic
Preheat oven to high -broil and line a baking sheet with high-temperature safe parchment paper.
Arrange peppers and tomatoes on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, cumin, and paprika until oil and spices are well distributed. Broil for 15 minutes, or until peppers are just charred and tomatoes are very soft. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a high speed blender, blend walnuts, olives, and 1 can of the diced tomatoes on high until very smooth.
Add broiled peppers, tomatoes, and all juices. Blend on lowest setting until just combined, but still chunky. Stir in remaining 2 cans of diced tomatoes (do not blend, just stir with a spoon). Transfer to an airtight Tupperware and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze, until ready to serve.
To Serve: transfer desired amount of shakshuka base to an appropriately sized skillet (1 ½ cups per serving – you’ll want the shakshuka to be about 1 inch deep). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then crack in desired amount of eggs (2 eggs per serving). Cover skillet and allow eggs to cook until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy!