Dr. Barter interviews Mollie Tunitsky of FitFabFODMAP about the Low FODMAP diet, who should be following it and why.
Intro [00:00:03] Welcome to the Fearless Health podcast with host Dr. Ann-Marie Barter. Dr. Barter is on a mission to help people achieve their health and wellness goals and help men and women live their best lives fearlessly. Dr. Barter is the founder of Alternative Family Medicine and Chiropractic in Denver and Longmont, Colorado.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:00:24] Thank you so much for joining us here at Fearless Health podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Ann-Marie Barter, and I’m so excited today. I have a special guest, Mollie Tunitsky and she is a passionate chef, baker and a food blogger who believes that we all have the power to enjoy food and live a healthy, fulfilling life. After many painful years of misdiagnosed stomach issues, discomfort at restaurants and being told to avoid this and stay away from that, Mollie’s Journey for Health and Wellness has led her to a low FODMAP diet by making smart, simple modifications to her diet. Mollie transformed at meal time from an anxiety inducing affair to the most enjoyable part of her day. Cooking became fun again as Mollie challenged herself to create a and resourceful while making new recipes that would would not result in digestive issues. Today, Mollie lives a less restricted lifestyle and has discovered new FODMAP safe foods. She loves to eat and eat and reincorporate into her recipes. She Mollie lives a fit thab lifestyle with her husband in Houston, Texas. Thank you so much for joining us here today. So I am so curious about this because a lot of folks have heard about the low FODMAP diet. But you know, they they generally have the issue that it’s complicated. So I’d love to hear your story first and foremost of how you got into this.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:01:52] Sure. So you’re right, the FODMAP diet, I heard about it a few years ago, so I had a stomach issues, IBS issues ever since college. I came to Houston from from school, started a job and all of it. I went to different GI doctors and they said, Oh, you’re stressed, it’s anxiety. It’s this, it’s that. And I really wasn’t stressed or anxious. I was feeling that way by having doctors tell me. They’re stressed and anxious, but I finally was referred to a GI doctor who said, Have you heard of the FODMAP diet? And I had it, and I remember he scribbled it on a piece of paper and he said, Go home, Google it, and then let’s talk and I’ll have you meet with my dietitian. So I came home typed in FODMAP diet, which five or so years ago, there wasn’t nearly as much information on. But what I read was that it was a diet for most often people with IBS. It’s common with diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and I could just check off the box that those were all me. So I met with my doctor’s dietitian and we went through the FODMAP diet, the elimination part of it. And within a week, I started feeling better and I just could not believe it. And I just want to just shout to the rooftops that I was starting to feel better. And that and I always like to cook. But on the FODMAP diet, it takes a little bit more time and effort, which we can touch on to. But with that being said, I started cooking and writing my recipes up and I started my blog just out of the need to reach a community. So that’s kind of how the diet found me, and I found my diet
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:03:54] makes a big difference, especially when you’re having those GI issues. You can’t do a lot and you’re afraid to eat and you’re afraid to do certain things going out to restaurants. So what did the elimination diet into the FODMAP diet look like?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:04:08] I mean, so that’s a great question. So basically what I did with the help of my dietitian, I kept a journal of everything I was eating for about a week, and then I went back with my dietitian and I thought I was going to ace this. But it’s funny because these healthy FODMAP, these healthy FODMAP foods I was eating were actually high FODMAP items, for example, and Apple is high FODMAPs. So by swapping that with strawberries, I was now in the safe zone. So it was a huge learning curve for me because I thought I was just going to breeze through it. But the ironic part was I was probably almost doing a disservice by eating so healthy because I was eating a lot of trigger foods. So I kept a journal and for two to six weeks I stayed on the elimination track, which is where you only eat low-FODMAP foods. And that’s when I saw a huge difference in the bloating gas, and for me, I had a lot of diarrhea that came with it too, so I noticed a huge difference in that. And then after the elimination was when I was able to really challenge or reintroduce some of these higher FODMAP foods. So it’s it is a slow process, and I think that can be overwhelming for people. But if you for me, I wanted to do it correctly and really find out what foods were my trigger and triggers, and that’s really the best way to do it is slowly bringing back the foods in one group at a time.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:05:52] What foods were you surprised about that were high FODMAP foods that were really creating an effects?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:06:02] Oh, that’s such a good question. I was I knew I had a dairy problem, so that didn’t surprise me. I was shocked by garlic and onion. I had a huge, huge reaction to that, and that was the quickest. Difference I noticed with my body and garlic in onion are in everything you look at ingredients for a pasta sauce or you go out to eat, it’s in chicken and burgers and fish and roasted vegetables. I mean, it goes on and on. And so eliminating garlic was huge for me, and it’s so funny because now I can’t even use on the FODMAP diet. You can use garlic infused oil. But I so eked out by garlic that I don’t even I don’t miss it at all so that I notice that right away.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:07:01] That’s great. Yeah. And so do you have were there any other foods you were surprised about or were those the main ones? So garlic and onions and apples? It sounds like we’re the ones for you.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:07:13] So I would say, you know, it was these healthy foods that I was. It’s like whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta and all these whole grains, whole wheat, which are healthy for the average person. But if you have trouble digesting some of these carbohydrates, it can really do a disservice to your gut. So that was a big change. It was. It’s really about making these simple swaps that make a really big difference to your gut.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:07:48] And do you have tips for how to do that easily?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:07:54] I will for me, when he when people say, Oh, this is too hard, it’s too overwhelming. In the back of my head, what I give advice for myself and for other people is if you’ve been feeling sick for so long and are really ready for a change in this day can help by not introducing medications or pills or, you know, that’s expensive on its own and just making that change in your diet and give it a week or two weeks. It really makes a difference. That’s my biggest tip is you really have nothing to lose. You really don’t. Besides feeling better, and that’s what really was my push to do it.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:08:41] And I personally, in my practice, when I give this, I get a lot of resistance on what do I eat? These are all the healthy foods that I eat all the time. And do you have tips for potentially even just going to the grocery store because a lot of people don’t like to change what they’re eating at all they like to stick to? Well, I have, you know, I have onions with this, I have avocado with this. I definitely want to have alcohol with that. So do you have any tips for what to do? You know, potentially in a grocery store to make this easier?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:09:17] Well, and I think being patient is the number one tip in a grocery store because you really have to read food labels because there’s a lot of trigger words and labels that have onion powder, garlic powder or artificial sweeteners that are trigger some for people on the FODMAP diet. And I would also say, go when you have the time, not when you’re rushed. There’s a great app from the founders of the FODMAP diet. It’s the Monash University FODMAP app, and I love it. I still use it to this day. It has a green, yellow and red light for almost all foods. So let’s say you’re looking at all the Konno. You type an avocado and you can see if it’s low, moderate or high FODMAP and the serving size of it. So in the beginning, yes, it takes extra time looking at each item. But then once you get the hang of it, you’re not spending as much time and you’re more confident in your choices. And like you said, I know it’s it’s hard for people to make the change, and I think the goal and people misunderstand with the diet is it’s not that you can’t have avocado forever, but it’s let’s try eliminating it, bringing it back in and seeing if that is safe for you. Because just because I can’t have garlic doesn’t mean that the next person can’t, because you may be able to handle it better than I can. So I think that’s it’s not a cookie cutter diet where you can just say, eliminate this forever because you’ll be missing some really great foods that are healthy and good for you. So I think that’s important to keep in mind that it’s not permanent.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:11:06] I think that’s a really great point because I put people on elimination diets and here all the time and I have found a very large subset of people want me to tell them exactly what to eat and when or exactly what they’re allergic to and why. And they’re like, Well, aren’t aren’t I allergic to this food? I’m like, Well, I’m not sure. Well, aren’t a lot of people, maybe, but everybody is so individualized that I mean, I think that that’s a really important point, that it’s not that you have to avoid this forever. And then you’re going to start to see because your systems running so clean on exactly what foods bloat you on, what changes your bowels on how you feel. And it’s so individualized. There is even running food sensitivity tests. I feel like there is no no one food that I’m like, it’s going to be this one. It’s absolutely going to be that one. I mean, through the years in practice, it’s just it’s constantly changing, right? And I mean, that’s obviously what you’ve seen as well. That’s really cool.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:12:05] Awesome. Yeah. And I think I think that’s important, too.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:12:09] And how long do you recommend people do this for? Do the elimination for?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:12:15] So it’s good to give it a good two to six week window. I wrote a beginner’s guide to the low FODMAP diet, and in it I say give it seven days at a minimum. But the longer you can committing to it like you just said, the cleaner your gut will be in, the easier you’ll be able to see a reaction. It’ll be more obvious to you, and with that being said, so important to keep a food journal. And it might sound silly to write down eight oatmeal experience gas or just a little note, but when you look back, you can see a pattern easier as well.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:12:54] That’s great because in here we definitely make people do that. And I’ve when you actually go back through and you talk to somebody about it, they’re actually unaware what created gas. Or we forget these things because we like the way that food tasted or made us feel for some reason, and there could even be a nostalgic component to it. And so people don’t, when you put it next to each other and you’re like, Yeah, every morning I had oatmeal. Wow. I got bloated every single day with oatmeal or. And now I can see what I was doing to me. So I mean, I think that that is such a critical piece of really becoming aware because we’ve been told for so long that this food or that food is healthy. And yeah, it is. But maybe not for you right now.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:13:43] And that’s the biggest takeaway is that, yes, these are healthy foods, and no, we’re not saying you can eat broccoli ever again or you can’t have an apple ever again. But let’s find out what triggers you. And it’s I think it gives you some of that confidence back that that at least that’s how I felt. I felt like I had a handle on my symptoms.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:14:08] Very good. So. Always, when I change someone’s diet, an interesting question that comes up is how do I prevent myself from backsliding? How do I prevent myself from not tripping up on this diet? Do you have any recommendations on that and especially what you had been through and how you start?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:14:32] That’s a tough one, I think. Yes, I think working with a dietitian or that kept me accountable as well as working. And if you can’t. If there isn’t someone that specializes in the FODMAP diet, just having a partner or friend that you can talk to and reach out to and say, OK, I’m doing this, will you hold me accountable for it? I think that’s the the biggest takeaway. And also, when you start seeing results, it’s a lot easier to stay with it because when that bloating and gas or constipation and diarrhea starts getting better, you want to keep it up. You don’t want to go backwards. So I feel like that’s the biggest encouragement that you can find.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:15:22] So tell me what you think on this, because I think eating at a restaurant on a low FODMAP diet is tricky just because you don’t know what they’re cooking things in the oils. I mean, just like you said, onions and garlic are just pervasive in restaurants, for sure. Do you have do you have any tips or tricks to eating in restaurants? Will somebody is doing the elimination FODMAP diet or did you just feel like avoiding it altogether is ideal?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:15:51] No. I mean, you want to live your life. I feel like if you don’t go out to eat and don’t keep up your normal lifestyle, you’ll start to resent it. For me, in the beginning, I had a lot of anxiety about not being that person at a dinner party, or I didn’t want to make a scene, so I still do this. I call restaurants ahead of time and say, I’m coming in. I have a garlic and onion allergy. For me, that’s my biggest problem. If for someone else, it could be gluten or dairy or what other triggers you have. And I call ahead and see what’s available that way. When I go in, I know, OK, this is what I can eat. I already know what the menu looks like, and I don’t have that anxiety that comes with it. And it just it takes some of the, you know, it’s like a blind date where you haven’t met the person you’re meeting. It kind of takes that fear away.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:16:50] That’s good, that’s actually a really great tip. Yeah, that’s a really great tip to take that anxiety out of it. Was there anything else that helped take the anxiety out of it or did you feel like just knowing what was on the menu really was? Did the trick?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:17:04] Knowing what’s on the menu and also having an idea of I’ve learned that chicken is almost always premeditated, you know, having confidence in what you can typically eat. Sea food is usually safer because it’s not marinated. So usually, like fish or shrimp burgers can be typically safe. Grilled items are usually more salt pepper. So I think it’s, you know, being more confident and having an idea of what can work. So if you have a waiter that isn’t as confident, you can steer them in a direction of what you usually can eat. And I also always have snacks in my bag because there’s nothing worse when there’s a bread basket than you can eat. So I try to always have something in my bag, and I have opened up a granola bar at the table and or a little clementine or orange, because when it’s not fun, when everyone’s eating in, you can’t. So I think it’s also being confident and in and being able to eat out and not feel like a sore thumb. And when you start getting the hang of it, it becomes easier.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:18:17] You know, it’s interesting. You know, living in Colorado, everybody now adheres to all these dietary choices. But about 20 years ago was when I actually started paleo or was having gut problems and I lived in Texas. You’re in Houston, right? And people thought I was so crazy. And so that’s a really good tip to have snacks with you in the bag or whatnot because I felt like I couldn’t eat out because it was all about the low fat time and heavy breads and everything was sandwiches and pizza, and that it just was in for a college student. You know, I was poor, and so I had to do most of my cooking at home because it was just such a big bread era at that time. And so that definitely hurt my stomach at the time. Back then, so definitely paleo, so I can really relate that that’s a really great tip, especially if it’s a menu, as it may be friendly for the diet that you’re doing.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:19:16] Any other made, like you said, I go ahead. Oh, no, I was just going to say, I think it also depends where you are, you know, you’re in Colorado and I was there last summer and I found it a lot easier compared to Houston, where it’s more health conscious. Not that. I mean, Houston, we have amazing food. Don’t get me wrong, but it can be harder if you have a diet sensitivity. So if you’re in a state or a city that’s friendlier like California, New York, Colorado, Seattle, it it’s it depends. Some places you have an easier go around, right?
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:19:54] Any other comments on low-FODMAP that we didn’t touch on? That’s really important to bring up.
Mollie Tunitsky [00:20:05] I think it’s just important to I found it so fascinating that I believe it’s three out of five people with IBS symptoms who go on the diet find relief. So I always say that to people who, you know, after years and years of complaining and having stomach issues, I tell them, like, you have nothing to lose besides changing a few things. And I really find that it has empowered me more so because before I was seeing doctors and and having different, you know, muscle spasm medications or probiotics and nothing was working. And I think that can really be that can be anxiety producing, right? And so I I it’s not the FODMAP diet. It’s not a diet for you to be on your entire life. Like you mentioned, it’s a modified version of the FODMAP diet where you start out low and then you can bring back foods. So I just like to reiterate that it’s not. The elimination phase is only for a short, short amount of time. You don’t ever want to live in a state of elimination. The goal is to bring back the foods that you love and the ones that are triggers for you making adjustments. So I think that’s important to reiterate.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:21:25] Mm-Hmm. And I I’ve seen in my practice we see a lot of gut and Dallas use. I would say most patients coming in, you know, starting even in their teens generally are having symptoms of IBS pretty early. It’s a pretty early situation. I see people living on laxatives, living on things to stop them up, you know, or they are just alternating between diarrhea and constipation all the time, a really struggling to have a mat about movement. So you really generally see the bowels disrupted. I would say in about, you know, at least 80 percent of the patients that present into my office. And I’ve just seen gut issues be very, very common issue. And so I think if you’re having these things or you know, you’re told that you know, you’ve you’ve kind of been pushed around which most of these patients have just like your experience. I mean, it’s important to maybe try to investigate something short term to see how you feel. I mean, you really don’t have anything to lose, right? So thank you so much. Anything else that I missed that I didn’t ask?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:22:35] Let me think. I don’t think so, I just think it’s it’s important to realize is there is not to give up on your gut health and be your own advocate because that was the biggest message for me. I knew something was wrong and I knew I wanted to find the solution, and I just hope it helps as many people as it did for me. Yeah.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:22:57] Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you?
Mollie Tunitsky [00:23:05] Yes, I would love that, so I have I’m on Instagram Fit, Fab FODMAP, and I also wrote the low FODMAP diet for beginners. And it’s a great guide for if you want to start out the diet and also recipes. It has over 100 recipes of five ingredients or less. So I think for people that are just starting out, the last thing you want to do is be in your kitchen all day when you’re trying something new. So they’re pretty easy and delicious, I have to say. So, yeah, I’d love to hear from anyone that just needs an ally or a cheerleader. I get it. I’ve been there.
Dr. Ann-Marie [00:23:46] Thank you so much, Mollie, for joining us today. That was great. Thanks for all those tips. I was really, really helpful. If you like what we’re doing here at Fearless Health podcast, please go down and write us five stars. We really appreciate it. Thanks for joining us. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed learning with us today, please give us a five star review. Comment like and share our podcast with your friends and family. As always, if you’d like to learn more information about today’s guest, please head over to fearlesshealthpodcast.com for links to their site and other educational resources.