Journey to the Center of Low FODMAP

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last updated this blog! Fall is always a very busy time of year for me, so it’s easy for me let things like this slip through the cracks of life. However, last week I realized that I have been on the FODMAP diet for over 6 months! And I realized that I’ve never detailed my journey with IBS.

I have always heard stories from my mom about how, as an infant, I appeared to have digestive problems. I was always getting sick, I had colic, I had inconsistent bowel movements, etc. I distinctly remember as a little kid feeling nauseous frequently, and always having to go to the bathroom. This continued throughout childhood and adolescence, with my parents concluding that I probably was lactose intolerant and no further follow up was needed.

Here I am, a concerned baby, no doubt worrying about my next meal!

Cut to my adult years, I decided to start asking doctors about my ongoing digestive problems. I have had some doctors appear supportive yet clueless (“Oh, you poor thing! Going to the bathroom 5 times a day?? You should eat less fiber.”), and some doctors who clearly lost their zest for the profession years ago (“You probably have IBS. What do you want me to do about it? Just eat more fiber.”). Due to the medical system in the states, I could not seek out a GI on my own with the insurance that I had; I needed a referral. Since my doctors were insistent that referring me to a GI would be pointless and a time-waster for all involved (a particularly jerky doctor told me that one), I never went.

I decided to take more control of my health, and got better insurance. But I put off going to the GI, the last doctor’s words (“time waster” and “annoyance” specifically) had really gotten to me and I thought my digestive problems were silly and something I should just deal with. In April of this year, I experienced debilitating stomach pain in my lower right abdomen. This went on for several days, with no relief from any bathroom experience. My stomach was bloated and distended, and I would get sharp, stabbing pains on and off all day long. After experiencing this for 3 days, I went to the ER, assuming I had an appendicitis. 8 hours and x-rays, CT scans, and a physical exam later, the ER doctor determined that I was “blocked” and needed an enema and some laxatives. This was his conclusion, despite saying my x-ray and CT scans were clear and showed no blockage. You make sense of that one, I’m still puzzled….

He also suggested I go to a GI. This was his only accurate medical advice; I turned down the enema and the laxatives and left armed with a proper referral to the GI.

Going to the GI, I was nervous. For one thing, the words POINTLESS! and TIME-WASTER! were running through my head. I was also nervous to find out if there was something actually wrong with me. My GI listened to all of my symptoms, went over the ER report, and ordered some blood tests for celiac. When we talked about the stomach pain that sent me to the ER, her theory was that I had inflammation and tenderness caused by a bout of constipation several days before my hospital visit. My GI believed I had IBS, and that I wouldn’t need to take medication to manage it. She didn’t want to scope me unless it was necessary. She suggested that I try the FODMAP diet for 8 weeks, and see how I feel. For once, I felt relieved that someone listened to me and appeared to take my symptoms seriously!

Going on this diet has been one of the best things I’ve done for my health. During the 8 week elimination process, I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my stomach. I wasn’t bloated, I didn’t have this gross “heavy” feeling, nausea was a thing of the past, and my heartburn stopped. I still used the restroom frequently, but my bowels weren’t variable anymore. It has been so helpful for me, but it has had its ups and downs:

Recipe experimentation, decreased physical symptoms, learning more about my health, feeling connected to my body in a way I hadn’t experienced before, trying all kinds of new food, finding a supportive IBS/FODMAP online network

typical FODMAP breakfast for me: Gluten Free oat smoothie bowl, topped with natural peanut butter

Having to explain why the FODMAP diet works. Everyone assumes I have celiac disease and as long as something is gluten free, I can have it. Or that I have a wheat allergy. Or that garlic and onion are probably fine, there’s probably just gluten mixed somewhere in there. UGH! That has been hard to explain that it’s not celiac, that many people with IBS have difficulty digesting certain carbs, etc. Other lows have been bad recipes, crying over pizza, and throwing a temper tantrum about hot dogs. Not my finest moments, for sure!!

I have a major sweet tooth…giving up forbidden foods was hard! This pastry shop is one of my favorite “cheat” places

If you read this blog and are new to this diet, have hope! Stay focused, find your motivation (mine was realizing my pants no longer cut off my circulation), and find recipes that you like and you can make. There are so many on the internet, not to mention, a few on this blog! Also know that FODMAP may reduce symptoms, but not eliminate them entirely. It is best to go through this diet with a GI, dietician, or nutritionist monitoring you. It would be very hard to try to do on your own without someone’s help or guidance.

My next step in this diet is to visit a dietician. When I reintroduced foods back into my diet, I didn’t do it properly, and as a result, I have no idea what triggers me. I’ve been experiencing more symptoms lately, including bloating, change in bowel movements, and nausea. I’m also experiencing headaches and fatigue, a lot. I’m looking forward to this next step, and to follow the advice of a dietican.

I’d love to hear from other readers about their FODMAP experiences! What have been the best and most challenging things about this diet?

Changing your diet and lifestyle is hard work! Keep trying and remember that YOU ARE AWESOME!


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