FODMAPs, Fitness & Food Freedom

Leigh Merotto, RD, shares her expertise on gut health, fitness, and nutrition in this in-depth Q&A interview on FODMAPs, active living and more

FODMAPs, Fitness & Food Freedom

Q&A with Leigh Merotto, RD, MHSc on Active Living & Gut Health

An Exclusive Interview on Conquering Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Enhancing Fitness through Nutrition

Join us in an enlightening conversation with Leigh Merotto, a seasoned Registered Dietitian and Coach who specializes in gut health, fitness, and nutrition. Leigh shares her journey from battling personal health issues, including IBS, to empowering hundreds with science-backed nutritional strategies.

Learn how Leigh’s whole-body approach and dedication to evidence-based methods help active individuals enhance their exercise performance and achieve long-term relief from gut symptoms. Read on to uncover Leigh's insights into the complexities of gut health, her transformative Gut Harmony Method™, and practical advice for maintaining a vibrant, plant-rich diet even with FODMAP sensitivities.

Let’s get into our Q&A.

Tell us about your background and what led you to specialize in gut health, fitness, and nutrition.

I'm a Registered Dietitian and Coach dedicated to empowering active individuals to break free from IBS and gut symptoms and enhance fitness and exercise performance with whole-body, science-based strategies! I am based in Canada but work with clients virtually and have a community across the world.

Like many of your readers, I’ve been there too! A few years ago, I experienced IBS symptoms (bloating, constipation, fatigue, and pain) without a clear cause. I also had skin problems and a very irregular period. For a long time, I felt I couldn’t do anything right as I was "eating healthy" and trying to follow advice from different nutritionists and "health gurus." I even tried juice cleanses, herbal detoxes, and restrictive diets. But my health left me frustrated, uncomfortable, and losing faith in my body.

There was a lack of support and guidance from my healthcare team. I was told to try birth control, medications, pills—you name it. I thought more food restrictions, “superfoods,” regular “cleanses,” and taking more supplements were what I really needed. Then I realized, when it came to nutrition and health, I needed to let go of the fears and focus on nourishing, whole foods and adding diversity to my diet. I stopped listening to anything that was ‘pseudo-science.’

“I needed to let go of the fears and focus on nourishing, whole foods and adding diversity to my diet”

Receiving my degrees in nutrition, taking extensive courses and training, and learning from my own past mistakes, I began to find sustainable relief from IBS/digestive concerns, improve exercise performance, and balance my hormones. Then, I became a Registered Dietitian and began to work privately with clients to help them do the same around six years ago! Since then, I’ve worked with over 300 clients with IBS and 1,000 clients privately.

A little more about my education...

To become a Registered Dietitian (RD) in Ontario, I earned a Master of Health Science (MHSc) degree in Nutrition Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). During my master's program, I completed a rigorous dietetic internship to meet the competencies required for eligibility to write the CDRE, a national board exam, which granted me a license to practice dietetics in Canada. I'm regulated by the College of Dietitians Ontario, which mandates ongoing education, adherence to practice standards, and staying updated on the latest research and information in nutrition and health. 

Specializing in gastrointestinal (gut) health and IBS keeps me immersed in the latest developments in the field, which is constantly changing! I'm committed to continuous learning, regularly engaging with new journal articles, attending conferences and workshops, and contributing to my blog. This ensures that I can provide the best support to my clients and community with the most up-to-date knowledge and insights!

What are some of the common concerns that patients come to you with?

I currently work with the following conditions:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) & the Low FODMAP Diet
  • Gut dysbiosis & SIBO
  • Digestive Health: Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, GERD/reflux
  • Eating for Energy, Vibrancy, and Balanced Mood
  • Sports Nutrition: Endurance training (running, triathlons) & weight training
  • Body composition change: fat loss, muscle gain

As we know, IBS and gut issues are complex and can impact many areas of one’s life. New clients often come to me struggling with:

  • Persistent symptoms like pain, bloating, fatigue, and irregular bowel movements and wanting to finally take back control of their life
  • Wondering what caused their IBS symptoms, as they’ve been brushed off by the medical system, and how to finally address the underlying symptom drivers to achieve long-term relief
  • Symptoms and fatigue holding them back from exercising, traveling, and socializing
  • Working with multiple professionals without success
  • Trying restrictive diets like low FODMAP, gluten-free, and sugar-free on their own, without much or sustainable relief

We get them on a personalized plan to address their underlying symptom drivers, lower inflammation, rebalance their microbiome, and give them the tools and strategies so they can reclaim their life and live actively with confidence!

Could you share more on how you help your patients manage gut symptoms, boost fitness, and live well with IBS?

As a Dietitian and Coach, I take an integrative approach, including multiple aspects of diet and lifestyle therapies to support our treatment plan, not only eating habits and food choices but also meal hygiene, stress management, mindfulness, activity, sleep hygiene, evidence-based supplements, and beyond.

With IBS, there are common underlying symptom drivers, which I aim to support my clients in managing to find lasting freedom from IBS and gut symptoms.

“I aim to support my clients in managing to find lasting freedom from IBS and gut symptoms.”

In my Gut Harmony Method™ Coaching program, we work together to:

  • Lay the foundation for gut health (with nutrition, lifestyle & eating habits)
  • Determine individual food & lifestyle triggers
  • Optimize the gut-brain connection
  • Build a resilient, healthy gut microbiome
  • Lower inflammation and restore gut health
  • Support workouts/exercise without gut flare-ups

My clients receive high-touch support throughout their journey with regular check-in sessions, food journal reviews, messaging support, and comprehensive resources so they can go from A to Z with their IBS and gut symptoms and find long-term freedom!

Our readers would love to know your advice on how to manage FODMAP intolerances while maintaining a diverse, plant-filled diet. What are some strategies and tools you'd share? How does FODZYME play a role?

Put simply, a diversity of plant foods in the diet has been shown to help improve gut microbiome diversity, which researchers agree is key to gut health! However, I know that many of you living with a digestive disorder like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are often hesitant to include more of them, not knowing how your gut will react. But avoiding them is not the answer, as having minimal plant diversity in your diet can actually harm your gut microbiome in the long term (which can make symptoms worse).

Here are some starter tips to include more plants for those with digestive issues and FODMAP intolerances:

  • Start off slow: Try adding in 2-3 new plant-based foods each week and slowly work up to a more plant-forward diet. This helps your gut microbes learn to tolerate the increase in fiber and prebiotics.
  • Hydrate: Make sure to hydrate well when including more plant-based foods, as we need enough water to help fiber move through the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Focus on low FODMAP foods: You may wish to focus on low FODMAP plant-based foods to help minimize symptoms while improving your intake of fiber, polyphenols, and prebiotics.
  • Consider FODZYME: For those with fructan and/or GOS intolerances, FODZYME has been a gamechanger. I typically have clients try it out after we completed the FODMAP challenges and they’ve identified these groups as being an issue for them, so they can use it as a tool when eating out and they’re unable to adjust portions! This helps my clients and community get more plants in their diet without fear. 
  • Work with a specialized gut health Dietitian: This is key! If you have worry or anxiety around adding new foods and have found yourself with a very restricted diet, please seek support. I have seen many new clients come to me after only eating a small handful of foods for several months or years, and I often suspect this has made their gut health worse over time. Be sure to reach out to a Dietitian!

Learn more about my Gut Harmony Method™ Program & how to apply.

What are the top tips you'd share on how to develop a healthy, positive relationship with food when managing digestive issues?

Great question! Unfortunately, disordered eating and eating disorders are more common in those with GI conditions. In my practice, I encourage clients to focus on gut health holistically and remember that our digestive system is influenced by much more than simply what we eat. How we eat (i.e., mindful eating, meal spacing), as well as stress management, sleep hygiene, hydration, bowel routine, pelvic floor health, and movement also influence our GI function and microbiome. Keeping this in mind can be especially helpful, as many people with IBS and gut issues often blame the food or something they ate first if they have a flare-up.

“Our digestive system is influenced by much more than simply what we eat."

Some additional tips I have to support a healthy, positive relationship with food include:

  • Do a social media detox: Influencers, celebrities, and TikTok stars share a lot of inaccurate and scary information about gut health online. Choose to unfollow or take social media breaks. Follow trusted health professionals like Registered Dietitians and those with actual credentials behind their names. Look out for red flags like promoting all-or-nothing advice, focusing on supplements first, or promoting highly restrictive diets.
  • Don’t Restrict Randomly: Keep in mind that GI symptoms can show up to 24 hours after you consume a certain food that you may be intolerant to, so just removing a food that you had right before a flare-up may be unnecessary. I always recommend focusing on creating healthy diet patterns and lifestyle habits, while potentially using the low FODMAP process as a tool, but don’t make cutting out foods or random restriction the basis of your plan, because it will often do more harm than good.
  • Work With a Dietitian: Rather than guessing or trying to eliminate foods from your diet randomly, work with a specialized gut health Dietitian so that you can strategically identify triggers and tolerance levels while supporting a balanced diet and a healthy relationship with food. Sadly, I have heard many GI doctors tell clients to go low FODMAP without referring them to a Dietitian, so please, reach out for support!
What are common misconceptions or myths out there that you'd like to set straight when it comes to gut health for athletes?

We’ve all been there, and if you’ve skipped a workout because of stomach pain, bloating, or painful gas, you are not the only one! I hear this a lot from new clients, unfortunately. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Although this is a complex issue and addressing your symptoms to a good baseline is key, if you are struggling to work out at all or simply complete your full desired training schedule due to your IBS, GERD symptoms, and/or a sensitive gut, there may be a few reasons why!

This includes eating the wrong types and combination of nutrients too close to a workout (too much fat & fiber), having a very high FODMAP meal the night before a morning workout, or poorly planning your intra-workout carbs.

“Fueling properly before your training/workouts does matter and can help prevent or minimize gut flare-ups."

Planning out your macros, portions, and timing can help you feel energized during your workouts, support stable blood sugars, and optimize muscle output. You will also help to minimize gut symptoms that can flare up during training (as moderate-to-high-intensity activity causes an increase in cortisol, which slows down digestion).

Working out and staying active is a game changer for our health—we feel better, sleep better, and perform better as humans. Further, it’s amazing for our gut health! If you’d like more support as an active individual with a sensitive gut, check out my Pre & Post Workout For a Happy Gut Mini Course.

Could you share a few of your favorite gut-friendly meals and snacks for training?

My top sports are weightlifting and running. For weightlifting, I can often get away with a bit more flexibility, but with running, I need to be more strategic! Endurance training can often trigger a flare-up due to increased risk of dehydration, blood sugar swings, pelvic floor instability (with running), as well as reduced GI absorption.

I often do my AM shorter runs fasted, but make sure to hydrate well before. The night before, I aim to eat dinner a bit earlier and have a lower FODMAP and lower-fat meal such as tofu, brown rice, and some vegetables like spinach, carrots, broccoli, or spaghetti squash.

For pre-workout snacks, I have these around 75-90 minutes before (optimal time before training) and focus on low fat, some protein, and higher carbs. I like rice cakes with PB2 spread or instant oats with a low FODMAP protein powder and some blueberries. If I’m going on a longer run, I will definitely up the carbs and also take along some intra-workout nutrition such as low FODMAP gels, pitted dates, or banana puree.

What can those expect when working with a registered dietitian like yourself?

I care deeply about my clients' success. Recognizing that IBS is a true medical condition with underlying symptom drivers—dysbiosis, abnormal motility, low-grade inflammation, and gut-brain dysfunction—means it can be addressed and managed, potentially cured, with the right therapies from diet, lifestyle, and personalized supplementation!

Progress is possible, but it also requires correct steps and not a bunch of info you string together online. When you work with a specialized Dietitian and coach who can provide you with the right roadmap, you can expect to:

  • In a few short weeks, have great energy allowing you to implement better habits and enjoy life without fatigue
  • In a couple of months, enjoy meals, social events, and workouts again (without fear of pain, bloating, or irregular bowel movements happening at inconvenient times)
  • By the end of the year, have clarity on your symptom triggers and confidently enjoy days symptom-free

Learn more about working together, check out my IBS & Gut Health Coaching Program.

Is there anything more you'd like to share with readers about gut health, your practice, or resources for them to check out?

Having worked in the IBS and gut space community for a long time, I know that many of you may feel defeated or losing hope in your journey as a result of not getting relief and/or feeling brushed off by the medical system. I want to remind you that your symptoms are valid and do not need to be normalized or told there is nothing you can do.

Advocating for yourself, as well as seeking expert support, is essential. If you have been dealing with persistent symptoms, I urge you to reach out so you can receive a proper diagnosis and, from there, find a personalized plan so you are no longer at the mercy of your symptoms. You deserve a life full of joy and living, not a life where you have to hold back because of your IBS, fatigue, and gut symptoms. ❤️

Where can readers find you on the web?

Check out my website to learn more about my coaching, courses, meal plans, freebies, and blog at

For IBS, gut health, and fitness tips, connect with me @leighmerotto_rd on Instagram!

And that's a wrap!

Thank you, Leigh, for sharing your personal story and expertise with our readers.