Thursday, 26 February 2015

Why Keeping A Food Diary Didn't Help My IBS ..

And How You Can Make It Work For You.

Hi Fodmappers - How are you?

I have a couple of questions for you. Do you keep a food diary? And how useful are you finding it?

When I was diagnosed with IBS (and this was pre-fodmap) my G.P suggested I keep a food diary as I felt sure that my symptoms were, at least, aggravated by certain foods. And as this made perfect sense, I did just that. I still have it as it doubles up as my recipe book but looking back it's scary to see what I was eating!

But as careful as I was in recording everything I ate, as well as keeping notes on the events of the day in case stress was a factor, I couldn't make head or tail of what was making me ill. I had already cut out coffee and orange juice at that point as I had noticed that those were definitely a trigger for me but I wasn't getting any further in pin-pointing which other foods were a problem for me. Does that sound familiar?

When I discovered FODMAPs I realised why this was. I was going about this the wrong way round!

Let me give you an example of a meal from just one of my old diary entries. It was one of our favourites - Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognaise.

The ingredients we would use were onions, garlic, red peppers, soya mince, passata, herbs and, of course, spaghetti. Nothing complicated there really, just a typical vegetarian meal, but if i'd known then what i know now! OMG!

In case you are still new to the low-fodmap diet, let me take you through that list.

Onions = High Fodmap
Garlic = High Fodmap
Red Peppers = Low
Soya =  High Fodmap
Tomatoes = Low
Herbs = Low
Spaghetti (Wheat) = High Fodmap

Looking at that, it really is no surprise I was unwell!

One of the problems with a food diary is that you need to list all the ingredients of everything you eat separately. And that includes the ingredients of shop bought products. You soon learn this, if you haven't already, as even foods which appear to be fodmap friendly (such as gluten free breads) can contain high fodmap ingredients like soya flour. But without knowing about fodmaps, unravelling the ingredients and the symptoms is pretty near impossible. Or at least I found it so.

As soon as I learned about the low-fodmap diet it just made so much sense. Rather than looking for a needle in a haystack (which is what I felt I was doing) you cut out ALL likely trigger foods and reintroduce them a few weeks later, one at a time, to see which ones cause the problems. It's so simple and so logical! This is when keeping a food diary comes into it's own. You can do just what I was failing to do, you can pinpoint EXACTLY what is upsetting you. And you can see how much better you can feel.

One of my first low-fodmap entries read;

"Felt pretty good most of the day, though a little bloating (very little) after lunch and evening meal. Both times this was short lived (less than an hour) and no pain!"

I'd been in a lot of pain prior to starting my low-fodmap journey, and though I think I was reluctant to get my hopes up at that point, that entry showed me there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. The bloating lessened soon after.

As for the bolognaise - I'm sure I've mentioned before that cutting out high-fodmap foods isn't about depriving yourself, it's about replacing them with low-fodmap alternatives such as spring onion greens instead of onions, garlic infused oil instead of garlic and opting for wheat free pasta. We do just that and we use diced aubergine instead of soya mince for that bolognaise texture. (See how I've just sneaked in another yummy recipe for you?) I'm also really enjoying discovering new pastas. Who knew there were so many out there?!

So if a food diary isn't working for you, maybe consider going about it the other way around?

'Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous! x


  1. I totally agree with you here! I really only find food journal useful when I am experimenting and expressly testing foods in/out of my diet. If I just journal everything and try to see a pattern, as you say, it's a needle in a haystack! I find it super useful for tracking during elimination diets, reintroduction, and so on though. Great post, thank you!

    1. You're welcome Samantha. I'm glad to know it wasn't just me!