WHY?? the low FODMAP diet
Thanksgiving 2009 (I was not pregnant)
Ever since I got married in May of 2009, I’ve had really strange GI issues: mostly, unexplained bloating after a meal that only goes away with time, and frequent urination. I was finally diagnosed with mononucleosis in July of 2009 and the doctor explained that sometimes Mono can upset our whole system and even attack our GI, if it so chooses. Little did I know that I was going to have GI issues from that point forward. For those interested in comparing your symptoms to mine, here are some of the details.
- “Unexplained” bloating. Meaning: trying a gluten free diet didn’t seem to help much, nor did a lactose-free one, nor did it help to avoid certain “IBS triggers” like spicy food or cabbage.
- Even on days when I tried my hardest to eat right, I would end the day with a steel drum for a belly. I often joked that I looked and felt 9 months pregnant after a meal.
- Sometimes a glass of water would speed recovery, but mostly the only remedy was time. I would go to bed bloated and wake up with a flat tummy.
- The strange thing was that I didn’t seem to be passing gas more than any usual person does. The gas would just sit in my belly and not go anywhere. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing. When I would go to a wedding or go out with my husband at night in a cute, tight outfit, I had to spend a lot of energy sucking in my stomach so that I didn’t look pregnant.
- The frequent urination still puzzles me. I think the mono is partially to blame, also hormones (I have a harder time “holding it” during the second half of my cycle when my hormones are a little stronger), and possibly starting sexual activity when I got married could also be a part of it. I haven’t read anything about other people experiencing this symptom at the onset of GI issues… If you have insight, please let me know.
I went to a highly recommended GI doctor to get his opinion. He was, frankly, puzzled. Based off my symptoms and testimony, his guess was that the Mono damaged my vagus nerve and triggered Gastroparesis. (He said he could only guess because the only way to diagnose it was a highly invasive test that he didn’t want to do just yet.) In Gastroparesis, the vagus nerve is damaged and no longer communicates properly to your brain and body about what your stomach should do. The result is that your stomach gets full and your brain doesn’t know to empty it, so it stays full. It stays full until at some point it just decides to empty, unfortunately at that point the food in the stomach has kind-of hardened from sitting in the stomach too long (this is how my GI doctor explained it to me, sorry I’m not a doctor myself, there might be some break down of understanding). When that “hardened” food enters the rest of your GI, your GI kinda freaks out and is like, “What is this? This isn’t normal? What do you expect me to do with this?” And bloating ensues as your GI tries to digest the strange material.
For a while I thought my doctor was right. When I ate, I felt full very quickly and my stomach would often be in pain/discomfort as it sat there full. Sometimes I would ask my husband to massage my stomach so that my body would respond, relax, and pass the food on. I started eating low fiber foods, lots of “mushy” foods that would pass easily (yogurt, smoothies, fruit, soft breads, lots of water), which seemed to help some. But I would still OFTEN get my big bloated pregnant belly at the end of the day. ESPECIALLY after a bag of popcorn.
In June of 2011, we were given the opportunity to travel to South Asia. As you can imagine, I was terrified of what this might mean for my GI. Spicy food, almost no access to yogurt, no control over food (no kitchen, no fridge)… I was scared that those 6 weeks in S. Asia would make my IBS worse.
Granted, while I was in South Asia I did go through the normal pattern of traveler’s issues. The first week I “went” regularly (not quite diarrhea), the second week I got sick and had frequent diarrhea for about 4-5 days, the third week I was constipated, then the fourth through sixth weeks I regulated my constipation with a daily dose of Miralax which kept me feeling ok. I went about once a day on Miralax. (Everyone else on my trip, 30 of us, went through the same exact GI pattern. But the last few weeks they were all constipated. Thank you Miralax! I’m glad I brought you.) At the end of the 6th week there, I started to feel less constipated and starting feeling back to normal. Just in time to leave!
When I got back from South Asia, I went through the normal jet lagg / travelor’s adjustment in which I experienced a lack of regularity BUT I started to notice over time that my previous GI issues were mostly gone! No more major bloating! (Unless I ate a bag of popcorn) No more nausea after a big meal! I felt great!
How could it be that South Asia SOLVED my GI issues???
I started to wonder… hm… why isn’t my condition consistent? For the most part, I enjoyed the break from IBS. Until…
Fast forward to February 2012: I got a stomach bug. After a 24 hour stomach bug worked it’s way through my system, at the end of it all- the BLOAT WAS BACK! I joked that my stomach was playing “jump ball” with my condition. I get Mono, I get the bloat. I go to India and have a traveller’s issue, the bloat goes away. I get a stomach bug, I get the bloat. Maybe someone should give me another stomach bug so that I go back to normal?!
I was so annoyed. I feel like I’ve tried everything and I don’t understand why I am bloated at the end of almost every day!
Fast forward to today… A few weeks ago I was on pinterest and I came across a recipe so I clicked on the original link. I was led to this blog. The author starting talking about how she was on a low FODMAP diet. She explained her symptoms and why she was doing it. I thought, “Oh my gosh, those are my exact symptoms. What is this diet?” (Read ahead for what it is).
So I decided to give it a try for a few days (3 days). I felt a lot better at the end of each day. Bitter-sweet. I’m glad I found something that works for me, but I’m sad of what it’ll cost me — in more ways than one.
I’ve been following the low FODMAP diet for a while now and I’m starting to connect some dots. It’s really working for me. I have a call into the GI doctor to re-visit him, but not until August. I’ll keep you posted.
So… all this is to say: if you notice a lot of low FODMAP recipes on my blog, or on my pinterest site… now you know why! I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes. More to come soon because it’s Saturday and Kyle has started cleaning without me (good man) and needs my help. Happy Easter everyone!
More Info to come soon!