So you’ve done the exclusion diet, identified your triggers, downloaded the Monash app and still you feel ill all the time. Either you are going mad or there are foods you didn’t realise aren’t fodmap friendly. I can’t help on the former, but I’ve learned the hard way about the latter.
I am so sensitive to my fodmap triggers you could use my body as the equivalent of a drug detection dog. As I don’t have IBS which is what the Monash and NHS apps are tested for but get a mixture of inflammatory bowel disease gut based symptoms and auto-immune ME symptoms that feel like the worst hangover on earth, I frequently find that even the ‘safe’ portions on the apps can make me feel deathly.
So I’ve written this piece to show you where some unexpected triggers lie especially when you are trying to be as strict as possible on the exclusion and re-introduction stages. Hopefully it will save you from needing to take out shares in peppermint tea and toilet roll manufacturers and make nagivating the supermarket or eating out a little bit easier.
Ten Foods You Didn’t Realise Aren’t Fodmap Friendly:
Gherkins: one of the great loves in my life but check for the onions in the jar gently spoiling the fun. You may need to be careful if your burger or sandwich comes with a pickle on the side when eating out. I find the sweeter the style of gherkin the less likely it is that they’ve been brined with onions though. Enjoy quizzing your waiter in detail and having to leave a mahoosive tip to make up for sounding like a nitpicking killjoy.
Beetroot red food colouring: the low fodmap diet makes me such a carnivore I even need my food colouring made of dead beetles. You’ll find beetroot red as a food colour in some ice creams, any red or pink veggie jellies (don’t snigger. I’m so starved of fruit flavour I’ve had to resort to raspberry jelly to get a hint of the flavour) and gummy sweets such as veggie Percy Pigs or Haribo. It’s also common in ‘healthy’ brands keen to promote that everything is natural so double check to be sure.
Jam: even the fodmap friendly fruits such as berries can be problematic in jam as these soft fruits don’t set well during jam making without added pectin. Commercial pectin tends to come from apples so is super duper fodmap-tastic. I’ve had issues with added pectin sugar and liquid pectin. Plus double check your probiotics if you’re taking one because many brands use pectin to add fibre which is like throwing a match on a gas canister fodmap wise.
Celery salt: it’s ground up celery seeds mixed with salt making it a super charged level of celery aiming straight for your small bowel. It’s particularly common in spice blends to bulk out the expensive ingredients with a savoury flavour so be careful to only buy spice blends that are clearly labelled such as Barts or Steenbergs. Celery salt is another reason Bloody Marys are a potential fodmap fiesta these days along with the poshed up tomato juices like Big Tom or my beloved Clamato that use onion and garlic powder to add flavour.
Cocoa powder: lots of mass produced confectionary uses cocoa powder mixed with oils or fats to create a shapeable chocolate flavour coating. If you ever wondered how they layer up a Magnum that’s how. Look out for it in things like Tunnocks Caramel Wafers and Kinder Buenos too. It also lurks in Oreos and Bourbon biscuits as well as a lot of chocolatey cereals, milks and of course Nutella as well as ready made hot chocolate powders especially the low cal ones made with water.
Vegetable fibre: this benign sounding ingredient is a sneaky addition to a lot of ‘healthy’ foods like poshed up granolas and low fat products such sausages and yoghurts and cereal bars. It’s there to mimic the action of fat so that the food holds the shape and texture by bulking it out before swelling up inside you to create the feeling of fullness or satiety that full fat foods have.
Very clever until you realise it’s almost always made from chicory or inulin or other oligosaccharides and is the evil granddaddy of fodmaps. These ingredients used to have to be labelled as their individual vegetable fibres such as chicory root because until a few years ago manufacturers were allowed to make health claims about prebiotic ingredients like these. But after greater restrictions on unproven health claims on food packaging were introduced by the EU they can now just be labelled ‘vegetable fibre’.
It’s irritating for those of us who knew they weren’t so health giving. But you also can’t claim they are the second coming of Christ healthwise either so it’s swings and roundabouts really. Everyone reacts to these fibres as they are literally indigestable to humans but the tolerance point for each person varies. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of this, you have if you’ve ever made a joke about Jerusalem artichoke soup. Those little knobbly bobblies are packed with inulin which makes everyone fart in varying amount.
Day to day you are most likely to encounter ‘vegetable fibre’ in diet foods such as those miraculously no sugar fat free creamy yoghurts, skinny sausages or ‘health’ brands like The Diet Doctor or the very cheapest foods such as those almost marshmallowy soft cheap cocktail sausages. It’s also abundant in Camp Coffee if you still live in 1952.
Ham: people love a honey roast ham and you often can’t be sure if the sliced stuff in sandwiches in a cafe or sandwich shop is honeyed or not. I also bought some sliced ham in Iceland recently that wasn’t labelled as honey roast and it had honey in it instead of sugar despite being so cheap I was surprised it had actual pork in. And if you thought you could just switch to the sliced crumbed ham around, a lot of it is now gluten free as standard and uses pulse flour instead to create the topping which are high fodmap.
Gluten free foods: gluten is a protein. Fodmaps are sugars but since most low fodmap people react to wheat, rye and barley they assume gluten free foods are safe for them. Not necessarily. Some gluten free flours are wheat, rye or barley with the gluten removed which does nothing to reduce the fodmap content. Also some standard gluten free substitutions like pea flour, gram (chickpea) flour and ground almonds are really high fodmap. I groan at gluten free as standard sausages as they invariably mean I can’t eat them. This is why it irritates me to see so many fodmap friendly bloggers labelling things #glutenfree because it means sweet FA fodmap wise.
Black pudding: It always has dried onion in it. So do hash browns. So the full English is down to just bacon and eggs so far since mushrooms and baked beans are out too. Just one more reason I find the Ulster Fry superior.
Fruit based baked goods: anything baked commercially containing fruit (including dried) tends to contain glycerol which is a humectant designed to absorb the moisture of the fruit and stop the product going off quickly. It’s in the polyol family and explains why even fodmap friendly fruit based things are giving you symptoms. It’s also found in commercially made tortillas and other either long life or flat malleable breads such as part baked baguettes and those sandwich slims.
So hopefully these tips which I haven’t seen on the apps or in the NHS booklets save you from some uncomfortable experiences. I can’t promise to make eating out easier but it should make your new full time job of reading labels easier at least!