Registered Dietitian Lee Martin talks about the low FODMAP Diet

Introduction

For the past few months I had the pleasure of getting to know, via social medias and through his blog, Lee Martin a Registered Dietitian from London. He is also a researcher of the Low FODMAP Diet and author of the book Re-challenging & Reintroducing FODMAPs – A self-help guide to the entire reintroduction phase of the low FODMAP diet.

Lee and his girlfriend Mel are currently (March 2016) travelling around the world and when I found out that they were going to come to the Gold Coast, where I live, I was very thrilled and asked them to meet up.

It was great to spend a few hours with them and talk about the low FODMAP diet and Lee’s research work on the diet at King’s College London.

Lee is so knowledgeable on the low FODMAP diet, so I have asked him if he was interested in writing a guest blog for my site, and here it is, I hope you will find it as useful as I did. 

A Dietitian’s adventure into the world of FODMAPs

Authored by Lee Martin (RD)

I’m so glad Larah and I made contact and when she suggested I do a guest post on her blog all about my involvement with FODMAPs I was happy to oblige. My journey with the low FODMAP diet has been a busy one. Taking a second to look back, it has been an interesting journey.

Back where it all started

When I used to see IBS patients before the low FODMAP diet existed it was difficult to find the right treatment approach to help. Thankfully the team at King’s College London (King’s) and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London were pioneering the low FODMAP diet in 2010 after its success in research and clinical practice in Australia at Monash University. The team at King’s also started researching the diet in the UK and developed training courses so dietitians could be taught how to implement the low FODMAP diet with their patients.
In 2012 I completed the accredited FODMAP training course at Kings College London. King’s has now trained over 700 dietitians from the UK and all over Europe on how to implement the low FODMAP diet. After completing the training I set up a specialist IBS & FODMAP clinic in the NHS department I worked in. Learning about the science behind the diet and its correct implementation from the training was quite straightforward. What I soon learned from my patients however, was that the practical application of actually doing the diet was a lot harder.

Two Dietitians Do The Low FODMAP diet

I had been providing low FODMAP advice for a few months and it was during clinic that one patient in particular just kept coming out with loads of brilliant practical tips on doing the diet. I thought ‘I should know this’ and figured the only way to find out if something works practically is to do it yourself. So I talked my girlfriend Mel (a paediatric dietitian) into doing the diet for 8 weeks and we documented everything on our blog ‘Two Dietitians do the low FODMAP diet’.
The first week was by far the hardest as we had to get used to learning what foods we could or could not eat. This meant changing our shopping and cooking habits along with creating new menus of foods we were going to eat. Basically we had to prepare what we were going to eat for the week, as the hardest part of the low FODMAP diet is finding foods to eat when you are out and about. At some point in time it seems everyone got together and decided that all meals have to have onion and garlic in them and all bread has to contain wheat, making eating in restaurants and finding a quick lunch very difficult on a low FODMAP diet! Once we got used to the food restrictions it was actually a relatively easy diet to follow as there is still lots of choice and thanks to the explosion in free-from food products we could find alternatives to foods we would usually eat. We were lucky to commit to doing the diet together, but I can imagine it would be much harder if living with others eating a ‘normal’ diet at the same time. We are dietitians of course which also helped but even we made a classic mistake in the first week when we bought a can of grape juice and half way through drinking it realised it was 40% apple juice.
Our experiences of doing the low FODMAP diet for 8 weeks as well as reintroducing foods can be found on our website www.rmdietetic.com There is also lots of information on the science behind the low FODMAP diet as well as recipes, practical tips and links to further resources.
Researching the low FODMAP diet
In 2014 I took up an academic role at King’s College London University working within the FODMAP team researching and developing the low FODMAP diet for treating IBS. While I was there I updated all of their low FODMAP dietary resources. These included a booklet explaining what the low FODMAP diet is and how do it with a detailed list of foods either high, low or moderate in FODMAPs as well as all the FODMAP ingredients that are added to foods. A second booklet was produced which listed loads of shop bought food products that were suitable for a low FODMAP diet. This involved me going to supermarkets, health food shops and looking on companies websites to check the ingredients lists of hundreds of foods to see if they were low FODMAP or not. The final booklet was an instruction book on reintroducing FODMAPs. These booklets are only available to registered dietitians to buy to use with their patients and clients.
During my time at King’s I was excited to lead on a research study which was the first ever long term study looking at the low FODMAP diet in the UK. Most research on the low FODMAP diet has only looked at the restriction (or elimination) phase of the diet over a short time period i.e. 2-6 weeks. In fact the most robust evidence for the efficacy of the low FODMAP diet comes from two studies, one completed over 3 weeks (by Monash) and the other lasting 4 weeks (by King’s). My study was the first to show that the vast majority of people do reintroduce FODMAPs after starting a low FODMAP diet and continue to have relief of their IBS symptoms a year later by following a modified low FODMAP diet. You can read more about what a modified long term low FODMAP is and more on the research study including the abstract on my blog here.

Around the world in 80 low FODMAP dishes

I unfortunately had to leave my FODMAP research role at Kings. My girlfriend and I had decided a few years ago to save money for a trip around the world and in September 2015 we left the UK on a trip of a lifetime visiting 19 different countries. In each country we visited we tried to follow a low FODMAP diet for a week so we could learn more about the difficulties of following a low FODMAP diet when travelling. We also learnt loads of practical ways you can overcome these difficulties and still manage to follow a low FODMAP diet even when in a foreign country. We have just spent 6 months in Asia so you can imagine how hard it is to follow a low FODMAP diet, even for a week, in places like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines. Personally I don’t think anyone should try to follow the low FODMAP restriction diet when on holiday or especially when travelling, it is not worth the effort. You can however follow a modified low FODMAP diet and I have put some practical tips and information on the blog in a travel section for each of the countries we travel through to help people achieve this.

Re-challenging and Reintroducing FODMAPs

A self-help guide to the entire reintroduction phase of the Low FODMAP diet

Three phases of the low FODMAP diet

The low FODMAP diet has been a revelation in helping reduce the symptoms of IBS. There is now an abundance of information available on the restriction (or elimination) phase of the low FODMAP diet but little to help with the more challenging reintroduction phase. Most of the information on how to reintroduce FODMAPs is only available to registered dietitians and researchers and although nothing can better the professional advice from a dietitian, not everyone has access to dietetic services. That’s why I am used my dietetic skills, research knowledge and my own practical experience to create the first ever book dedicated to Reintroducing FODMAPs.
I wrote the book ‘Re-challenging and Reintroducing FODMAPs – A self-help guide to the entire reintroduction phase of the Low FODMAP diet’ during my first couple of months travelling. It was great fun to write a book on something I am so passionate about and hopefully will help many people. Larah has created a really informative post on her blog which discusses reintroducing and uses information from the book which you should check out. For more information on the Reintroducing FODMAPs book which is available on Kindle and paperback format as well as lots of more information on the reintroduction phase take a peek at the books website www.reintroducingfodmaps.com

Continuing the FODMAP travels
My travelling even brought me to Australia where I met up with Larah! It was so much fun and Larah is such a lovely and driven person I really hope to come back to Australia to meet her again. I still have a few months left to travel South and Central America so keep an eye on the blog for some low FODMAP travel tips from these countries. As for my next low FODMAP adventure we will have to wait and see….

About Lee

Lee Martin is a FODMAP trained registered dietitian (RD) from the UK. In 2014 Lee took up an academic role at King’s College London where he worked with the FODMAPs team researching the low FODMAP diet. Lee has specialised in the FODMAP reintroduction process and has written a best practice guide that walks you through the re-challenging and reintroduction process. Lee and his partner are currently travelling around the world and talking about their low FODMAP experiences. You can see what Lee discusses on his website or follow him on Twitter.

About Larah Brook

I have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, but it took a longtime to get a diagnosis, since then I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which has changed my life for the better. This is my story and experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet.