Our latest 5 Minutes With A Skinfoodie with the incredible Sarah Brittain, of The Fodmap Free Life, has us feeling all sorts of inspired after her helping us understand more about living with Sjogrens Syndrome & the FODMAP free diet. 

After experiencing re-occurring swollen glands, Sarah was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome at just eight years old. Starting in intermediate school, her stomach pains and even holding food down became an ongoing issue and after visiting countless doctors and having endless tests without any real conclusions, she sought out an alternative practitioner. Sarah was placed on a highly strict gluten free, dairy free and sugar free diet for a few months after which, she noticed an undeniable improvement in her stomach issues. 

She began to introduce some foods slowly back into her diet successfully. A few years later she started reintroducing dairy but remained Gluten free, with what she calls "manageable stomach issues". 

After just over a year of working, her intense stomach pains unfortunately started again and her concerns about her health began to grow again. Working was becoming near impossible, given that she couldn’t stand up straight and was in and out of hospital. 

With a new string of tests underway, Sarah's doctors suggested trying a Low FODMAP diet with guidance from a dietitian. She's now in a place where she credits the Low FODMAP diet with "changing her life’’. 

Her decision to take control and responsibility of her own health is beyond inspiring -  she moved away from eating heavily processed foods and focused on eating foods close to their natural state which she says was a turning point and it ignited her passion for creating Sarah friendly options. This lead to the creation of her Blog & Instagram; @thefodmapfreelife(thefodmapfreelife.com) - a place to share her ongoing health journey with the hope of inspiring people and showing them that living with health issues doesn’t have to be a limit on life and eating well!

For people who don’t understand your condition, what’s the best way you explain it?
I have Sjogren’s syndrome, Sjögren’s (“SHOW-grins”) is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Along with symptoms of extensive dryness (in eyes and mouth), other serious complications include profound fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies, and lymphomas.

After some serious digestive issues my gastroenterologist recommended I start a low FODMAP diet with help from a dietician. It was a game changer, and I’m currently still following this way of eating.

I guess being diagnosed at such a young age you must have become quite resilient to it all, but do you ever have days you struggle with it, and if so what is that helps turn your day around?
Yes! Sometimes it can be really hard, especially if I’ve just had a doctor’s appointment (with zero answers). I think it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling, accept it and move forward. I try and do something nice for myself- a bit of yoga, a walk or meeting a friend for coffee, you know those sorts of things that can boost anyone's mood..

I don’t mean to sound cheesy but I believe your outlook and attitude can have a big impact on how you manage these obstacles.

Can you please explain to us what a FODMAP free diet entails?
Usually the low FODMAP diet is advised for someone suffering from IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). FODMAPs are a combination of short chain carbohydrates found in some foods that some people have difficulty digesting.

FODMAP is an acronym and stands for:







The FODMAP types are excess fructose for example apples, pears, high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, soy milk and milk products. Fructans which is onions and garlics Galacto-oligosaccharides which is your legume family and Polyols, sugar alcohols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt). So basically, the whole idea of the FODMAP diet is to cut out all those food groups for a period of 2-8 weeks and then slowly reintroduce the different foods to see if your body reacts to each one.

Then you know, what food groups work for you and what don’t or how much of a certain food group you can handle, and that way you can alter your diet accordingly. It’s not a case of eliminating all high FODMAP foods forever, it’s about finding out your triggers and tolerances of various foods and working this into your diet.

For more info on FODMAP, feel free to visit Sarah's blog at http://www.thefodmapfreelife.com/fodmap/ 

Do you ever find it hard to come up with new recipes with your diet? Or ever have days where you crave something you can’t have?
Yes, I often think I’m just eating the same thing over and over like great another salad Bowl for lunch! But at the same time I’m always getting inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. Same goes for if I see something that’s say not gluten free I just make it gluten free, I find it easy these days to adapt recipes to fit in with my diet.

What led you to create your blog? 
I started my Instagram before my blog as a place to keep me inspired and to share with other people what I was doing. Then because I saw people were interested in that I created the blog to share my recipes with others and  make it a nice community vibe - because I was so young when I first started being low FODMAP it wasn't hugely common and there wasn’t as much accessibility to source recipes.

Being so strict and aware with your inner health, does this translate to your outer health - in terms of hair, skin, physical health? What do you feel is most important to you?

To me my inner health is the most important, I totally agree that when you’re feeling good on the inside, that reflects on your physical appearance too.

Do you follow a skin care routine? Or does it change dependent on your what your skin needs each day?
Well, I’m one of those people who are always searching for a natural glow. *Laughs*

Basically what I want is to never wear makeup, so I really just want my skin to just be glowing no matter what it takes. What I have been using religiously for the last several weeks has been the Skinfood Coconut & Nut Oil, which is amazing! It feels sooo good, is cold-pressed and is organic which I love.  

Do you think that the FODMAP would benefit those who don’t necessarily need it for medical benefits?
There’s always speculation around what is and isn’t good for you, so would I recommend it to the average person? No, because it’s such a restriction on food groups and to get enough nutrients you need to be eating a variety for foods groups.

It’s important to remember you’re not eliminating all high FODMAP foods forever, just a period of time to work out your own tolerances. An example is chickpeas, a FODMAP friendly amount is ¼ cup so I still eat them. I try to eat as much variety I can in my diet while still keeping it Sarah friendly.

So short answer no, it’s just too restricting to be a healthy normal diet. It needs to be what works for your body!


What’s your favourite food?
Savoury favourite food would certainly be tacos. They’re just soooo good!

And sweet I can’t go past banana cake or chocolate - FODMAP friendly of course!

On that note.. read below for Sarah's delicious Banana Bread recipe:

"Banana bread is an absolute favourite in our household so as soon as we have a few bananas that are a bit ripe my sis is begging me to make it. So I love experiment with different recipes - this one was a goodie!"


What you need:

 3/4 cup gluten free flour

1/2 cup almond meal

1/4 cup ground flaxseed or LSA

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

3 banana’s

3 eggs, lightly whisked

1/3 cup Ceres Organic rice malt syrup

1/4 cup rice bran oil

2 tsp vanilla extract


What to do:

Preheat the oven to 160°C

In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients and set aside

In another mixing bowl mash bananas, add remaining wet ingredients and mix well

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients bowl and combine thoroughly

Pour mixture into a greased loaf tin

Place into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through (a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean when its cooked)

Let the loaf sit and cool before slicing

For more about Sarah's journey & recipes check out her blog --> www.thefodmapfreelife.com


Disclaimer: Please remember, Sarah is not a qualified health professional. All opinions and information expressed on this blog post and on Sarah's blog, The FODMAP free life, is based on her own research, thoughts and life experiences. Please consult an appropriate health professional before making changes to your diet, health or other areas.