The Low Fod Map What? Part 1 – My Story
For many of you that may have been following my Instagram or blog for quite sometime, you will know about all of my digestive issues, attempts at self diagnosis and numerous visits to the doctors. For those of you that are new here, I will give you a quick summary and then explain what Low Fod Map is.
I have always been a fussy eater, this fact is the whole pretense of my blog but as I grew up, I changed. I started to try different foods, I gained not only a love for eating everything but also for cooking. I became very health conscious, some may say too much but I have my reasons… Anyway, I taught myself to love salad, vegetables, fruits and steer clear of too much cheese, chocolate and sugar. This seemed to work whilst I was at university, I lost weight and felt healthier in general (I was one of those sickly children, never too poorly but always got the cold when it went around…), although I always experienced a yo-yo affect with my weight and eating habits.
When I was 21 I graduated university and my lifestyle and diet changed. I started working a full time job which progressively became
more and more stressful… I bought a car and stopped walking as much, entered a mostly happy but somewhat stressful at times relationship and moved back home with my stress inducing mother. It has been documented and discovered on numerous occasions that stress is one of the greatest psychological triggers for IBS and digestive is
sues. I experienced this first hand. When something happened that made me uneasy, I felt my stomach clench and shooting pains throughout. My bowel movements changed and I noticed persistent bloating which was something that was new to me. Around this time, I also started eating out so much more for my blog and due to it being one of the best and easiest ways to socialise when you are no longer living in a campus university environment. I went through binge, restrict cycles and my weight fluctuated constantly.
Then, I went on holiday to Bratislava… I tried to stay the healthiest I could on this trip… chose salads and raw cakes rather than anything heavy of traditional but I also made the mistake of drinking the water. Whatever the trigger was, I got poorly… very, very poorly for a few days and I think this made my digestive issues a million times worse. I went to the doctors for months, took samples, had blood tests and the only notable thing was my ferritin (iron levels) were low.
I switched jobs, I went to a less stressful job, started taking Iron tablets and read all about the low fod map diet. The low fod map what?! You may ask… Well the FODMAPs is an acronym (abbreviation) referring to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are complex names for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people, like myself. It is basically a short term elimination diet to help you find if food is causing your digestive issues and which food group(s) this may be. At first I dabbled, I kept a food diary and eliminated a few things, for a few days and then just ate whatever. I did it wrong, I found out nothing and gave up… So I went back to the doctors for more tests, still aneamic, low white blood cells, ECG taken and came back normal, ultrasound normal, referred for an endoscopy (after being asked by my new doctor if I could be pregnant because my symptoms sounded like a woman who he once treated who was pregnant…. well after over a year of this I should have hoped the baby would have been born… but no.. I was definitely not with child).
Anyway, months later my endoscopy came back normal and at this point I had decided to end things with my ex and book a trip to the other side of the world with no definitive end date. My stresses lifted but my problems did not. I knew that I had to take action myself. So I started the low fod map diet again, properly this time. I cut out everything that could be a trigger and kept a detailed food, bloating and er movements diary. I am not going to lie, this was hard, almost torturous. I am a foodie, I spent years training my fussy self to try and like nearly everything and I found a passion, this blog became my passion and my end goal is to open a cafe/restaurant one day. To then be so restricted felt slightly heartbreaking. I know I sound melodramatic but imagine an athlete who could no longer compete or a singer who’s voice faded. There are far worse things in life but for me at that time, this was hard.
After a few weeks, I got into the swing of things, I noticed a huge difference, I beat the bloat, I felt myself again, my iron levels were the highest they had been in a very long time and I was not worrying about constant bloating and having an upset stomach. I finally started to lose the weight that would not shift for nearly a year but I did worry at the rate I was losing as it became very easy to under eat when you cannot eat very much of what you like. However, the low fod map diet is an elimination diet… not a permanent solution. Due to my time pressures with going away at the end of January, I knew I had start reintroducing foods to find potential triggers.
First up, Dairy. The best way to reintroduce is so try a little bit each day for 3 days… increasing the amount each day and seeing if you react. If you react on the first day then stop, you know you are intolerant to this food. If you can make it till the end without reacting, well done, you can eat this but you have to re elimination for the duration of the test phase. You then spend three or four days completely low fod map again as a washout period. So this is what I did, first day; 60g yoghurt, I felt fine but I did notice that although I had lost weight, my stomach looked slightly less defined than the previous week. The next day I had 180g of yoghurt and had a bit of a stomach twinge but nothing serious. The final day I went all out, 260g then a milky fudge hot chocolate with cream and a milky matcha latte. The twinges got worse. My stomach ballooned up and felt like a solid ball attached to me. I had still eaten a reasonable amount of calories but the swelling was back. The next day it was pretty upset and stayed swollen for a few more days. I felt disheartened. I loved dairy, growing up I drank 2 glasses of milk per day and chocolate was my favourite thing. The thought of no more dairy sucked. On the brightside, I had found a trigger, woohoo but I knew I had to carry on as there could be more.
After a few days washout period, I decided to try my first test of fructans. Fructans fall into different catergoies that all need to be treated and tested separately. This time I decided to try wheat. So basically I had white bread and cornflakes each day for three days and upped my amount on each. I was fine! Slightly constipated but my stomach did not swell. Relief! I could eat something! Albeit I was never a huge bread fan.. carbs and all that.. but I knew that when I went travelling I would not starve!
This gave me hope, so after my next washout I moved onto the fructans found in garlic and onion. I tested these whilst out on a food review but unfortunately, I did cross contaminate with a few other potential triggers, so I continued this over a few days with a spag bol I made with onion and garlic and increased the amount I ate each day. My stomach remained swollen and actually got worse. I was bloated each day. I took a day off for my xmas party and ate everything, to which I knew I would be ill and I drank for the first time in 5 months (and the last time in another while). I felt horrendous. I avoided the cheat meal pizza I ordered for everyone and just ate porridge but then made the mistake of eating lamb sheesh kabob, pilau rice and chicken tikka. This was full of garlic and onions and I really suffered the next day. My stomach was huge, I felt nauseous and incredibly disheartened. I was reacting to so much! A life without onions, garlic and dairy?! What?! How would I be a food blogger?! How would I eat out when I go travelling?! Will I just have to suffer or starve?! Mellow dramatic I know…
So I started the washout again, this time with less drive than before but I knew I needed to try and figure out more triggers before I leave…….
End of Part 1 <3xx