Healing my gut - Low FODMAP life

If you’ve followed my journey for a while, you’ll know I’ve struggled with gut health for some time now. Basically since I had some routine surgery for endometriosis result in the perforation of my bowel in 2010/2011 (more on that here), my digestion has never been 100%. I’ve worked for years to fix this and get it to an optimal place, and whilst some things have worked, it’s still not perfect - so the quest continues! This time, I’m trying the Low FODMAP diet, I’m going to be sharing what I’ve learned, if it helps my gut and how exactly I’m doing this with my calories and macros!

Low FODMAP food

What symptoms should I look out for?

Poor digestion can include a number of symptoms. Bloating, loose stools, gas, changes to bowel movements, constipation, burping, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, brain fog, food intolerances and probably a lot more! I suffer from the first two, which makes me feel like I’m not actually absorbing any of the nutrients from the amazing food I’m eating.

What’s Low FODMAP?

FODMAPs are found in many foods and are short-chain carbohydrates (or sugars) that our gut is unable to properly absorb creating IBS like symptoms listed above.

Fermentable: Gases produced by the gut bacteria fermenting undigested carbs

Oligosaccharides: Fructans and GOS commonly found in garlic, wheat, onions and more

Disaccharides: Lactose found in dairy products

Monosaccharides: Fructose found in fruits + corn syrups

And Polyols: Sorbitol + Mannitol from some fruits, vegetables + artificial sweeteners

The idea of the Low FODMAP diet is to eliminate foods high in these FODMAPs, and after a period of time (2-6 weeks) re-introducing 1 FODMAP at a time to figure out which groups + foods trigger your symptoms the most. Everyone will respond differently to each group, there may be some foods within the group that don’t trigger you and others that do - it’s a whole lot of trial and error!

A day on my plate:

I’ve had to change things up because my diet consisted of large quantities of vegetables, which are the main offenders (as well as fruits) when it comes to foods high in FODMAPs. I’ve also had to adhere to my daily calorie and macro goals, so it’s been an interesting switch - there are some foods that you can eat unlimited, some you can eat up to a certain amount of and others you have to avoid entirely. I’ve been using the Monash University FODMAP Diet app as they’ve got a boss Food Guide of the foods you can have and in what quantities. Here’s an example with rough quantities of what I might eat in a day:

Breakfast:

  • 50g rolled oats

  • 100g strawberries

  • 50g almond milk

  • 10g chia seeds

  • 12g powdered peanut butter

  • 100g egg whites

  • 100g strawberries

  • 10g peanut butter

Snack:

  • Almond milk cappuccino

Lunch:

  • Wild salmon

  • 75g broccoli

  • 80g pineapple

  • 100g red pepper

  • 75g green beans

  • 200g pumpkin

  • 100g basmati rice

  • 20g organic ketchup

Dinner:

  • Steak

  • 300g white potatoes

  • 65g zucchini

  • 10g butter

  • 45g broccolini

Snack:

  • 40g rolled oats

  • 50ml almond milk

  • 100g strawberries

  • 10g peanut butter

As you can see, there aren’t heaps of different things i’m using - I rotate these foods every day, the only things I might add are different proteins (White fish, chicken, turkey etc), but the above is essentially what I’m working with each day. I find it really hard to stick to a diet if it’s boring, so herbs, spices and butter have been saving my taste buds and helping me stay on track!

How’s your gut going?

So far I’ve noticed a small change - I’m still getting bloated but not as frequently, my stools are harder more regularly but still not all the time, I have days where it feels like it’s done absolutely nothing, and days where it’s feeling on track. It’s a long term game though - so sticking to it consistently is key. I had a week in Melbourne where I went a little off track (at my sisters hens it was harder to stick to Low FODMAP eating out) so I have been at it for about 2.5 weeks so far. Once my symptoms reduce more, I’ll be re-introducing groups one at a time in small quantities.

Important to note: we shouldn’t stick to a Low FODMAP diet forever, a maximum of 12 weeks is ok, but make sure you’re re-introducing these foods (other than anything you know has a really bad reaction with you).

I’ll check in again once I’ve finished the elimination phase and start on the re-introduction phase! Hope this helped! :)

Soph xx


Wanting to build some lean muscle and shred fat alongside your FODMAP diet? Check out my 8 Week Lean Out programs - gym OR home based available :) x

Struggling with fat loss + building muscle? Try addressing these factors!

Obviously the right nutrition and training programs are super important when it comes achieving your goals - be it fat loss or building muscle. Other than these two things, we need to consider our lifestyle factors that also impact our ability and rate of fat loss.

I’ve written about these lifestyle factors as well as protocols to implement that will help you to improve on them to put you in the optimal position for any body composition goal you have!

1. Diet Adherence

healthy bowl

This is actually the most important factor for any diet or body composition goal. If you’re on a diet you’re unable to stick to… well you’re not going to achieve your goal. Discipline will only take you so far until old habits take over. It’s important to consider what your preferences are for an enjoyable diet. What foods do you want to incorporate, how many meals do you want to eat a day, do you prefer high carb or high fat, are there certain foods you can’t live without, do you need variety across the day or week, do you prefer routine?

For me, I like to have at least 60g of fat in my diet in a day so that I can flavour my food with nut butter, butter and other fat sources - this makes my food a lot more enjoyable and increases my adherence to the diet. Obviously when you start ‘cutting’ phases there mightn’t be as much flexibility when calories are lower, but those times should only be for short periods.

2. Stress

A lot of people think of stress only as highly stressful situations - for instance “I’m really stressed at work with deadlines”, “I’m really stressed about a conversation I have to have with a colleague”, “I’m really stressed about an event I have to host”, “I’m stressed about a Dr’s appointment I have” etc.. 

People actually underestimate the amount of stress they’re under, because they think these situations are the only ones that create stress responses in the body. We also adjust to the amount of stress we’re under and it kind of becomes the ‘norm’. What we don’t realise is that the smallest things can cause a stress response in our body. Stress is basically anything that makes a change in our body. Things like changes in temperature, allergies, intolerances, inflammation, emotional, physical or physiological stress! 

Our Autonomic Nervous System regulates our states, broken into our parasympathetic state known as rest, digest and recovery  and our sympathetic state known as our fight or flight response. We do need some stress in our lives - without stress, there are no adaptations (muscle growth, fat loss) but most people have TOO much stress which leads to the problem. 

How stress affects fat loss:

beach meditation

Over production and constant cortisol in the bloodstream can lead to:

  • Lowered immunity

  • Excess inflammation

  • Down regulation of gut health

  • Lower testosterone and increased estrogen

  • Decreased brain function

  • Reduction of key neurotransmitters, such as Gaba (our ability to be calm), Dopamine (our drive and motivation) and Serotonin (our feel good hormone - the precursor to melatonin which is the hormone that helps us get to sleep).

Now that we feel shit and our sleep has been affected our leptin levels drop (satiety) and our grhelin goes up (hunger) which is going to make us struggle to stick to any diet no matter how enjoyable it is!

Elevated stress levels can also create a resistance to catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) which are required to break down fat cells and pull the contents out, and then mobilise is to the mitochondria where it’s utilised as energy - constant stress prevents our catecholamines from working effectively and can decrease our ability to pull out free fatty acids from fat cells to use as energy, aka impart our ability to burn fat.

soph active life

Stress and fat storage also correlates with an accumulation of fat around our belly - so people who say they have trouble reducing fat around their abdomen could definitely look at implementing de-stressing protocols to assist this.

Finally, our thyroid which is our key regulator of our metabolic rate slows down - not what we want when we’re trying to lose fat!

All of this puts us in a terrible position for our bodies to be focussing on losing fat.

So what can I do to de-stress?

In order to mitigate the effects of stress, we need to include more activities that put us into the parasympathetic state (Rest, digest + recover).

My favourite things are:

  • Meditation (I use the Waking Up app by Sam Harris)

  • yoga and stretching

  • reading a book

  • listen to music

  • playing with pets

  • listening to podcasts

  • taking a bath

  • going for a walk

  • journaling 

  • calling a friend

Schedule in a few of these each day to help bring your stress levels down and make sure it’s something you’ll actually stick to in order to see the benefits.

3. Sleep

We need sleep for recovery and repairing, it’s particularly vital to those who work out as when we’re asleep is when we are most anabolic, creating the most regeneration of our muscle tissue.

Bad sleep leads to increased cortisol, decreased leptin + increased ghrelin = we are more likely to over eat.

beauty sleep

Poor sleep can also temporarily lead to issues with our insulin sensitivity, which can stop us from utilising carbs as effectively, which can potentially decrease our body ability to lose fat (this doesn’t impact us if we are in a deficit). But it can certainly make it harder to stay in a deficit if we’re craving more sweet things and feel hungrier.

Improving sleep:

In order to improve our sleep, we need to make sure we have a set sleep and wake cycle.

  • Implementing a bed time routine can assist with this as it will signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep

  • Get into bed 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep

  • Sleep before 11pm - after midnight we can miss out on a large amount of physical repair according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the 10:00pm - 2:00am window is considered the best repair + physical adaptation window

  • Cut out stimulants before 3pm (coffee) - as they increase the stress chemicals and decrease your ability to relax

  • Set your room up to be as dark as possible = better secretion of melatonin (the brain thinks it’s day time and decreases melatonin produced due to exposure to electronic devices which helps us get to sleep). Start using blue light goggles or apps (like f.lux + iPhone night mode) to avoid blue light exposure for proper melatonin secretion

  • Ensure your room is well ventilated - fresh oxygen intake + cold temperatures optimise melatonin production

  • Chamomile and lavender aromatherapy will improve gaba sensitivity to allow our body to enter relaxation state

  • Stop working 2 hours before bed

  • Avoid consuming food 2 hours before bed as digestive system will need to focus on digesting food not resting

4. NEAT - Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

walking

NEAT = Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis which is basically just incidental exercise - fidgeting, steps, movement are all considered incidental activity.

There have been some studies showing individuals that got under 7,300 daily steps drives up ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel full, which is why my minimum daily steps will always be 10,000!

The more time we spend dieting, the more our bodies try to conserve our energy by moving less, so it will actually stop us from fidgeting, walking etc.. it will be harder to be as motivated or energised to do so. So make sure you’re getting up frequently, getting your daily steps in and ensuring incidental activity occurs even in the depths of your deficit!


Squad goals

Joint the squad and get some badass results with me and my girls! I’ve got gym or home based training programs as well as nutrition programs! Check them out below :)

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Hey fam,

I’ve been chatting a bit about doing a ‘Reset Diet’ over on my Instagram (@sophactivelife) so I’ve put together the diet I’ll be following to reset my body post Christmas + New Year and I want YOU to follow along with me. But first, I want to talk a little bit about nutrition and explain my reasons for Resetting.

vegetables

Our food is primarily made up of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) which I talk about a lot, and the importance of knowing how much of each you’re getting in your daily diet. Our food is also comprised of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which play a huge role in our body when it comes to our health! Without the micronutrients, our bodies cannot convert the macro’s consumed into energy - ever heard of the saying ‘you are what you eat’?… try ‘you are what you digest, absorb and assimilate’. For this reason, it’s vital to be choosing foods that are abundant in micronutrients that make you feel good! Remember, someone may feel fantastic eating broccoli, another person may have an intolerance. Broccoli is considered a ‘healthy’ food with plenty of micronutrients, however if it makes you feel crap, then avoid it and choose something else!

What you want to be including in your diet as per the Reset Diet I’ve provided are a lot of vegetables, meat, fresh fruit, herbs, spices and whole grains (which sadly didn’t get a gig this time around as we’re also focussing on reducing inflammation and water retention).

sophie allen abs

On that note, this Reset isn’t about losing heaps of fat, shredding, starving yourself or ‘detoxing’, it’s about making healthy choices that make us FEEL energised. Starting our day on the right foot, getting enough sleep and recovery, fuelling our body with whole foods so we can crush our day and most importantly getting off on the right foot to smash 2019 after what might have been an over-indulgent Christmas and New Year period. Reducing carb intake will help with any inflammation and water retention that can occur from eating processed foods, alcohol and poor sleep. Sufficient protein will help us feel full and increase satiety levels and getting enough good fats in will help with keeping our hormones happy.

Other than the health benefits, there are also mental benefits that come from Resetting. I find when I don’t have short term goals, I don’t feel like I’m working towards anything and lose track. This is my first challenge of the year, and once I get into the routine of eating whole foods again I get the ball rolling and continuing on becomes much easier. People love a New Year resolution, because it’s a fresh start! Same goes for your nutrition. We get a fresh start, we feel good, we’re more likely to stick to it, start seeing results (whether that’s fat loss, improved energy, better sleep, better workouts, bigger muscles - you name it). Consider yourself RESET!

Sounds pretty good right? Are you ready to Reset? Let’s do dis!

The Reset Diet will give you an insight into how I like to program nutrition for my clients. Check out my Training and Nutrition Bundles below for gym OR home trainers and join my squad today! More products available here.

Love Soph xx

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