Many are wondering where to start.
Keeping a food journal of everything you eat is essential and extremely useful. Whether you’re just starting out or have already started the fodmaps method, it’s never too late.
Why do it?
- Because it is not easy to identify the foods responsible for our illness. Digestive problems can appear 24 or 48 hours after ingestion of food: by then, you will have made several other meals that will have blurred the tracks.
- Only by keeping a regular diary will you be able to highlight and identify suspects or families of suspects. If you are in phase 1 (elimination), if you have made some deviations by eating mushrooms in a restaurant and sauerkraut at a friend’s house, if they have caused you some trouble, this will most likely indicate that you are having problems with mannitol. This will allow you to pay special attention to the ingredients in this family and attack the mannitol reintroduction test with interesting elements.
- But you can also show your diary to a dietician for example. A health professional or someone with expertise in fodmaps will then be able to identify foods high in fodmap that you hadn’t identified as such and that you eat occasionally or daily, explaining the persistent disorders that bother you.
In any case, the more “history” you have, the better the analysis and conclusions that can be drawn from it.
What to write down in your food journal?
At a minimum, the date, what you ate and what disorders appeared (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, pain). The Bristol stool scale is an interesting tool for the nature of the stool.
Don’t forget chewing gum (beware of sorbitol!), sweets given by your colleagues, chocolate in front of the TV, sauces, seasonings, bread, what you put in your coffee, what kind of sugar you put on your strawberries, etc.
There is no need to record your consumption of still/tap water, however, record any consumption of alcohol (even wine and beer), teas, coffees, sodas, syrups, carbonated water, fruit or vegetable juices.
Which format, digital or paper?
Several options are available:
- On paper: in a simple notebook or on sheets of paper.
- There are many applications dedicated to fodmaps or digestive problems, you will find a feature to record what you have eaten and your symptoms. I’m not a fan of these solutions for two reasons: the interface is often a bit constraining, forcing you to fill in fields that are not necessarily relevant, but also because the information is not easily exportable or searchable as a whole. But some people will find it useful, and statistics functionalities can help.
- My personal preference: keeping your own notebook in a spreadsheet format, whether it’s Excel, Numbers if you’re on Mac / iPhone, or Google Spreadsheet. Ideally online, so you can enrich it even if you are not at home, in a restaurant, on vacation, at a friend’s house, in a bar, etc.
In the end, between paper and digital, it is above all a question of personal preference, some will be more comfortable on paper, others with an application, others with a spreadsheet.
However, I encourage you to favour a digital version:
- Over time, there may be a lot of information in this document. A notebook or loose sheets are not easily analyzed to draw conclusions.
- A digital version is more easily shared with third parties. If you choose an application, see if you can export data and show it to a dietician during a remote consultation for example.
My fodmap diary template
If you want a blank template that is already formatted, you can get mine here:
I will simply add you to my newsletter if you are not already there.
In fact, it is not one template but two: a standard and a simplified version. The first one details the disorders, their intensity, the stress level for example as well as other information, the second one is a little less restrictive.
If you can’t fill in the first one, filling in the second one will already be useful.
“Ketchup”, “stock”, “dressing” or “bread” are not enough, specify the nature, the composition, the brand.
Is the broth homemade or industrial? With which ingredients? The flour used for the bread is essential. If it is sourdough, please specify this as well. Was ketchup the Heinz one or the one of a fast food?
If an ingredient has caused you clear trouble but you don’t know the exact composition, don’t hesitate to ask the cook (family/restaurant) or the store, either at the time or afterwards by email or on their Facebook page. Professionals take these requests seriously and usually come back to you with precise information.
Yes, it is. But this tool will be very useful to you, the conclusions that can be drawn from it are very valuable. The more you record, the more you will learn.
If you can’t write it all down, write down only when you notice problems: which foods you have eaten in the last two/three meals.
This will already be extremely useful, but try to fill it out as much as possible, depending on your motivation and your disorders. Be as rigorous as possible, especially during the eviction phase, which should not last more than 3-6 weeks, the effort is doable.
Diary analysis service
You’re still having digestive problems and you kept this diary?
It is not uncommon for certain foods high in fodmap to be overlooked.
Send me your diary, I will answer you in a personalized way and tell you if I detect any such ingredients, things to look out for or look at further.
Some people unknowingly eat foods high in fodmap on a daily basis!
I answer within 72 hours for $25/€20 (secured payment by credit card). Contact me here first to see if I can help you.
After a while
Once the reintroduction phase is over, you can stop noting everything you eat and the symptoms caused. Not only because it can lead to eating disorders, developing orthorexia for example (the worry of having to “eat well” all the time), but also because it is restrictive.
On the other hand, it seems interesting to me to continue to note the symptoms when disorders that you cannot explain occur.
With hindsight, this can bring out foods that you had not identified as being high in fodmap because they are much less common or some that are not necessarily high in fodmap but that you do not tolerate, especially more or less processed products, such as beer, sauce, etc.. Not everything can be explained by fodmaps for everyone.