Understanding The Traffic Light System And How It Can Help With Your IBS

18 March 2022

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you are probably all too familiar with what the symptoms can be like. Whilst there is no actual cure as of yet for this illness, there are a few ways to prevent feeling ill or bloated after meals. You could try natural ways such as exercising more or even stomach massages, to aid in better digestion. But, also you could try modifying your diet. Sticking to a low FODMAP diet is something you can discuss with your doctor or medical professional. Finding out what type of IBS you have can help you figure out which foods you need to avoid and which ones will be nice to your gut. In this article, we will be tackling how the traffic light system works for certain food groups and how, if used correctly, you can avoid dreaded FODMAP stacking

What Is The Traffic Light System?

If you aren’t new to the world of IBS, we are sure you know how what you eat can affect your stomach, causing flare-ups and making you have to run to the bathroom more often. Even sticking to low FODMAP meals that have been created or approved by a low FODMAP trained dietitian can help but even 3 meals a day eating low fodmap approved recipes can cause stacking.  

Once you understand the traffic light system, putting IBS-friendly meals together becomes so much easier. Basically, it’s a bit of a mathematical process…

Fructose, Lactose, Mannitol, Sorbitol, GOS, and Fructan are all short-chain carbohydrates. In each meal, every ingredient has to be added up into each individual short-chain carbohydrate and if once added together, this exceeds the allowance then the meal will no longer be considered a low FODMAP meal and therefore, could increase IBS symptoms. 

What Do The Traffic Lights Colours Mean?

With apps like the Monash FODMAP diet app, there are typically two sets of traffic lights that are visible for every food or food group. The large traffic light will be on the right, and this will provide you with all the information you need about the FODMAP rating of said food, taking into account the average portion or serving size. So, what do the larger traffic lights mean?

In short, a large red traffic light means that the food has a very high FODMAP rating and therefore, should be eaten in moderation or completely avoided. If there is a larger amber traffic light, that indicates that your meal will be moderate on the FODMAP scale and if it’s green, then it’s lower. 

However, on the Monash app, you may also see smaller traffic lights that will be directly underneath each food. These traffic lights provide you with an easy and efficient guide on how each food’s FODMAP rating might change at different serving sizes. For example, if you are only having one slice of Gluten-Free low fodmap bread, instead of two, then this serving will have a much lower FODMAP rating. Book a free discovery call with our nutrition coach to start living your life again.

Other Ways To Prevent FODMAP Stacking

On top of watching your portion size and looking at what food groups fall into each traffic light category, there are also a few other things you can do to prevent stacking. Stacking happens no matter what you eat, but keeping your FODMAP intake low is extremely important. Other ways to prevent stacking include, filling up on FODMAP-free foods, such as carrots, cucumbers, and bananas. You can enjoy all of this guilt-free without the fear of stacking, plus, all of these healthy options are ideal for midday snacking. 

You can also include a variety of three or more food groups in each one of your meals. When it comes to breakfast, lunch and dinner, if you have more than one food group present, and are careful when it comes to what traffic light these groups fall under, then you will have less of a chance of combining foods with the same FODMAP rating. This not only prevents stacking, but also allows you to have more variety when it comes to preparing what you are going to eat for the day. If you are looking for more IBS-friendly food inspiration, we have a whole recipe page that can help you at mealtime.

Finally, also think about timing. Instead of having three large meals in the day, consider spacing out your food times and having snacks throughout the day, instead of something heavier. Allowing more time in between your breakfast, lunch, and dinner gives your body more time to digest, preventing signs of bloating and other common IBS symptoms. 

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