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3 Reasons to Keep A Food Journal

Did you know it can take up to 48 hours for a food to trigger symptoms in your large intestine? Often, when the trigger and the reaction are too far apart your brain can’t connect them. This can make pinpointing food sensitivities really difficult. So how do you figure out what’s causing your flare-ups? One handy tool is a food journal.

coffee and croissant on table with text overlay: 3 reasons to keep a food journal

Photo via: Julia_Sudnitskaya – iStock

Food journals are an inexpensive and helpful tool to help you get your IBS symptoms under control. Still not convinced it’s right for you? Check out these 3 reasons to keep a food journal.

1. You’ll Complete the Elimination Phase Faster

Did you know you can move on from the elimination phase once your symptoms have been stable for 7 days?

If you aren’t paying attention, you might not notice when your symptoms have stabilized. This means you may spend a few extra days (or weeks) in the elimination phase without any benefit.

When you’re monitoring your bowel movements, you’ll know exactly when your symptoms have leveled out. This will help you transition to the re-challenge phase as soon as possible.

2. It Will Help Your Healthcare Team

Another reason food journaling is so important, is that it gives your healthcare team a full picture of your symptoms. By writing down everything that goes into and comes out of your body, your doctors and dietitian will have an accurate record of the frequency of your bowel movements, the Bristol Stool Scale score, notes on any pain or mucous, etc. no matter how much time has passed between appointments.

Aside from providing evidence on your symptoms, your journal can help your dietitian look for non-FODMAP triggers like general gut irritants or possible allergies that may also cause symptoms. It will also give them an idea of your FODMAP threshold (the amount of FODMAPs that fit in your body without causing symptoms). This can help them tailor your re-challenge and re-introduction phases so you get the best results.

A journal can also help your doctor decide if a symptom management plan is working for you. Your notes will clearly show what your symptoms were like before and after medication or treatment changes. This will help your doctor tailor your symptom management program and will give you an accurate symptom history if you switch doctors later.

3. It Will Help You Find Triggers

A final reason you should consider food journaling is that it can help you quickly identify food triggers.

I have IBS-M which means I suffer from both constipation and diarrhea, as well as abdominal pain and bloating. Before I started the Low FODMAP Diet it felt like my symptoms played rock paper scissors each morning to see who got dibs on my intestines. I learned through my food journal that I react differently to each FODMAP group, and that my symptoms depended on the food choices I made.

I also learned that my reaction time changes from group to group. In fact, depending on the FODMAP I’ve eaten, my reaction time varies from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

These inconsistencies make it easy to blame the wrong foods for our symptoms. For example, if I ate wheat (a Fructan) yesterday, I might blame my sudden symptoms on my breakfast – whether it included high FODMAP triggers or not.

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By tracking absolutely everything that goes into and comes out of your body, you’ll have weeks of data to refer to when looking for triggers. Your journal can give you special insight by allowing you to track back several days and find foods that may have left you with an intestinal hangover.

How to Use a Food Journal

The first thing you need to know about food journaling on the Low FODMAP Diet is that the purpose of the journal is to record what you eat and your bowel movements. It’s not meant to hold you accountable or to judge your current diet. If the journal inspires you to make better dietary decisions, that’s great. Talk to your dietitian about making those changes once you’ve completed the program.

The second thing you need to know is that everything matters. Your mealtime, portion size, how you were feeling before you ate, etc. Make sure you’re specific about the brands you are using, including any specific flavours. Make a note of ingredients you aren’t sure about so you can ask your dietitian and track any symptoms for your records.

The final thing you need to know is that IBS is a complicated and confusing disorder. Your symptoms can also be impacted by stress, sleep quality, illness, daily exercise, etc. Use this journal to learn about how your body and environment interact, not to blame or judge yourself.

Remember, the Low FODMAP Diet is one of many tools that work together to keep your IBS symptoms in check. You need to know upfront that sometimes you’ll have symptoms no matter what you eat, so don’t be discouraged if you still have some symptoms.

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Final Thoughts

Food journaling on the Low FODMAP Diet is an important tool for many reasons. It can help you move out of the elimination phase faster, provide accurate information to your healthcare team, and help you make connections brain may not be able to make on its own. Use this information to get the most out of the low FODMAP program, and get your IBS symptoms under control. If you want to keep this article, you can PIN IT for later.

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© 2017 Amy Agur – The FODMAP Formula

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