I have IBS. I also have GERD but that’s managed by avoiding certain foods and medication. But IBS? Everything I eat seems to trigger THAT and man, what a pain in the ass – well, stomach – IBS can be to deal with.
As I mentioned, after surgery, I had a lot of time to think. And sit around. And be very aware of my stomach. I feel like crap often and it’s such a drag. I noticed how I would avoid going for a walk because I didn’t feel well. How I would feel depressed because I didn’t feel well (having nothing to do with surgery). In short, IBS was changing the way I lived and I did not like it.
One day I found myself researching IBS copiously online. Blogs, diets, etc. Anything. My goal was to do all I could to improve my symptoms dietwise and as a last resort, try medication my doctor would like me to try. Had I exhausted my options? It seems I had not.
Pre-surgery, I’d tried no dairy (didn’t seem to really make a difference), low fat (generally helpful but ultimately I still ended up sick every few days), and high fiber (OMG how sick that made me)! Using blogs, I found folks had had success with food combining and Paleo. I decided to give each a go in that order.
1. Food combining. Tasty. But I don’t do well emotionally with a ton of carbs so I found on days when I was eating a lot of carbs I was feeling very antsy. Not great. Additionally, while I did feel well for a few days, my symptoms came back on schedule. Food combining may work for some, but it didn’t seem to help me at all.
2. Paleo came next. I was really intrigued because one IBS-having Paleo blogger said she’d cured her GERD with Paleo. I’ll take it! That said, this was really about my IBS and sure enough after 3-4 days, it came back with a vengeance. Paleo is out for IBS (although I may experiment later for GERD, why not?).
I was feeling very discouraged at this point until I read further into that same blog and hit a subsequent post entitled why Paleo did not cure [her] IBS and what she’d found that helped – a low-FODMAP diet. The low-FODMAP diet is largely unknown of in this country, but very popular and successful in Australia and New Zealand. The research behind it was, and continues to be, done at Monash University in Australia. FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides And Polyols. Each of those science-y words are a type of fermentable carbohydrate. The theory is that a very large percentage of people with IBS do not digest these types of carbs well. FODMAPs are everywhere – lactose, wheat, onions and garlic, high fructose corn syrup, various fruits and vegetables, beans and a bunch of other things that are ubiquitous in the American diet.
I was feeling skeptical after so many ‘fails’ but then did a search for low-FODMAP-specific blogs and damn, so many people have had success on this diet, it’s just crazy. I bought a book off Amazon called IBS – Free at Last by one of the few American dieticians who uses this diet with clients and gave it a shot.
The diet is easier than I thought it would be. I have to make most of my food from ‘scratch’ (*many* processed foods have some sort of wheat in them) but I very quickly figured it all out. I had my normal symptoms almost immediately but the dietician author said it can take at least 2 weeks to get better. I chalk up those symptoms to the foods I’d eaten prior to the diet starting. And after a week, I felt good. After two weeks, I feel great. My system acts like a normal person’s! I’m still stunned by how good I feel. I am eating a TON of fiber and produce and my stomach has no problem with it. Due to the short time frame, the jury is still out but by now I should have had at least one bout of IBS (I get it at least once per week) and so far NOTHING.
After you do the full elimination diet, you add back the various FODMAPs in individual food challenges to see which one(s) is the most problematic. Then you can add things back or keep them out. I am thinking of starting the challenge process this week but I’m reluctant due to feeling so non-sick for once. I sort of don’t want to open that door yet.
I’ll keep you posted but for now I am low-FODMAP girl. Bliss!